Release Date ~ August 16, 2007 (Audio: March 31, 2008)
Razorbill ~ Penguin
Audiobook purchased from Audible
St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...
Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.
So I FINALLY jumped on the VA bandwagon - I feel like I'm the last person to have read it! I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Bloodlines last summer for review and decided to give it a shot - much to my surprise, I totally fell in love and it wasn't until I read Bloodlines that I actually had a desire to read VA!
I can totally see what all the fuss is about - I'm not a huge fan of vampires or paranormal books in general, but I really love that VA doesn't feel like every other vampire book out there. And a pretty awesome, strong lead female definitely helps too!
- This isn't your standard YA vampire fare:
I love that Richelle incorporated her own twists on vampires and different elements. To be honest, the vampires in the VA world very rarely felt like traditional vampires - or even vampires at all - for most of this first book. They just seemed so normal and, well, more like fancy humans. Especially since Rose is a dhampir. And I LOVE the magic aspect to it.
- Great blend of paranormal and contemporary:
I also love that this one isn't overloaded with paranormal events and elements; there's a distinct contemporary feel to it, similar in the way that a lot of the characters go through very real, very familiar struggles. It definitely makes them easier to relate to, it's just more exciting than any of the highschool drama I ever witnessed haha.
- Rose is a very different sort of main character:
I think in YA, we kind of get used to reading about the misfit characters - ones who aren't entirely confident, or just don't feel like they fit in. In some ways, Rose definitely is a misfit and there are times when her confidence is a bit lacking... but overall, she isn't like that. She's very confident about herself, overall, and often does find ways to fit in and roll with the punches. It's nice to live vicariously through characters like her at times. And while there were a few times where I could easily see how immature and young she was (which isn't a bad thing, it's factual) I also know that there's plenty of room for improvement in that area too (seeing as there are a whole bunch of books in the series).
- Strong female friendships:
I know that there are some special reasons why Lissa and Rose are bonded together, but I find it so heartening to read about two characters who can be so close as friends. Too often I feel like the good friends take the backseat in books, or turn out to be jerks. But these two such depths of loyalty and mutual concern for each other, something which I wish we saw more of in YA books.
But at the same time, I could definitely tell that this book was really more of a set up for later books because it lacked a lot of the excitement and action I was highly anticipating after hearing so much about these books. And there were too many times when people just felt far too oblivious to what was going on around them. I definitely have the impression that I'll love the later books though.
Lastly, I also don't feel like I missed out by reading Bloodlines & The Golden Lily first. Yes, I am definitely spoiled for some things - but honestly, I never would have read VA without Bloodlines. And I didn't find Bloodlines confusing without having read VA, but I believe I'm in the minority on that one.
Thoughts on the audio:The other bit that might have taken away from my experience was the audio and narration itself. I didn't love the narrator, but I did get used to her voice. The problem was when she switched to different voices for other characters - Lissa and Mia were just far too annoying, and I really can't stand the Dimitri voice. My sister told me at one point that it reminded her of an old Russian lady, and after that I just couldn't picture anything else.