Published: August 16th 2007 by Penguin
Format: Paperback, 332 pages
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Only a true best friend can protect you from your immortal enemies...
Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth's magic. Her best friend Rose Hathaway us a Dhampir: a guardian whose blood is a powerful blend of vampire and human. Rose's life is dedicated to protecting Lissa from the dangerous Strigoi - the fiercest vampires, who will stop at nothing to make Lissa one of them.
After two hers of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladmimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger ... and Strigoi are always close by.
I bought a boxed set of the new pretty editions of the series to celebrate the release of the movie. I want to point out that blurb I’ve used, which appears in the movie re-cover edition, is misleading and sometimes outright wrong. It’s a very disappointing blurb 🙁
Anyways, we’ve all just finished the first book, and here’s what we had to say:
1. What was your experience reading Vampire Academy for the first time? How did you get into it, and what did you think about it?
Belle: I discovered Vampire Academy when I went on the hunt for anything vampire-related in the giddy days after my second binge of the Twilight books in a matter of weeks. I found the first four books in the series at KMart and they were cheap so I bought them all – and proceeded to read them within a few days. I was immediately addicted to the fast-paced story, interesting mythology, and especially the kick-butt Rose and swoon-worthing Dimitri and the sizzling chemistry they had together. I reread them a couple of times after that, but it’s been a few years since I’ve revisited them and I’m curious to see if they live up to my memories.
Shaheen: My story is very similar! I read Twilight for the first time right around the time Breaking Dawn came out – I read a book a day and finished them all in the first 4 days of my uni holidays. So I hit the bookstores looking for similar reads, and I found Vampire Academy. I think I also bought the first four books together, binge read them, and then had to wait for books 5 and 6 to come out.
Bree: I’m a little different, because I only read them for the first time really recently – about a year ago! I was seeing soooo much Sydrian stuff with the release of, I think it was the 3rd Bloodlines novel (does anyone remember those graphics that some blogs had that were counting down to the release with one fact each day, mostly about Marcus and the Alchemists? They annoyed the heck out of me but I can’t deny that it kind of worked) that I finally decided to go and start at the beginning with VA and see what the fuss was about. To be honest, I’d always actively avoided them before that because the covers are atrocious and the name of the first one/series is just terribly lame, lol. I was really surprised when I was hooked so quickly by the first novel and I think I read all of them in about 5 days. I loved Rose a lot and was always shipping the eventual pairing with Dimitri. Unlike just about everyone else, Adrian never did a thing for me! I was always all about the Rose & Dimitri love and even though Lissa pissed me off an awful lot, I still really appreciated that friendship and what they’d do for it.
2. What did you think of it upon rereading it?
Belle: I totally saw the actors from the movie as well, which drove me nuts because I think most of them were totally miscast. So that made it a little less enjoyable for me. And I noticed a lot of little things that bugged me which I didn’t register the first time around – like, there was a tone of slut-shaming to the whole “blood whore” talk and the treatment of Rose’s “promiscuity” that made me uncomfortable, and the whole Rose/Dimitri dynamic felt a little creepier to me this time for some reason. But I still quite enjoyed it overall.
Shaheen: I still liked it!! It was good to get back to where it all started, but it’s really weird to read the book knowing how everything changes, especially by the time you get through the Bloodlines books as well.
Bree: I still really liked it as well. I wasn’t as invested in the story this time around because it’s different when you already know everything that happens but I still found it to be a really enjoyable re-read. I still liked Rose, although I agree with what Shaheen says below, it’s quite obvious how much she grows by Last Sacrifice when you go back and re-read Vampire Academy. She’s quite obviously much younger here, more immature and impetuous. She does manage to acquire more control as the series goes on. Even though I’d only read them a year ago, it was surprising the little things I’d forgotten. I also haven’t seen the movie yet which I think was good. I still had ‘my’ version of the characters, rather than the movie’s.
3. What was your reaction to the characters and did it change from the first time you read it?
Shaheen: I loved Lissa and Christian! Seeing them again was awesome. Before I began, I was convinced that I love Rose. I remember that my review of the first two Bloodlines books are heavily focussed on how much I don’t like Sydney. So it surprised me to find that I kind of disliked Rose upon re-reading VA. I remember Rose as the Rose from Last Sacrifice, but Rose in VA is extremely selfish and impetuous. She’s brash, she doesn’t really care about anyone else, and she treats Lissa like she’s really dumb or something.
Belle: I remember LOVING Rose too and I didn’t like her as much on the reread. I still liked her and I think she is such a great antidote to the Bella Swans of the world, but she could really be a bit of a bitch at times. That’s kind of what’s great about her too, though. Lissa I have never particularly loved and I still felt the same this time around. The time in her head has always been my least favourite aspect of these novels, although I can see why it’s important. I was surprised by how little Dimitri was in this novel. It’s great that the romance isn’t the central plotline, but it struck me that as a reader you don’t really get to know him properly here.
Bree: I still liked Rose a lot – she is a great antidote for the TSTL heroines and she works hard to hone her skills. The one thing that did bug me about her (and did the first time too) is how hot she thinks she is, she reminds us basically every 5 minutes that she’s super hot with the breasts/hips etc that all the guys love and I was like ok Rose, we get it. You’re hot. Everyone thinks you’re hot. I liked Lissa more this time around, the first time I got why she was so high strung but I think because I’ve read the rest of the books now and I know how her story arc goes I was a bit more tolerant of just how crazy spirit tends to make her. I understand Rose’s motivation in protecting her from certain things, such as Ms Karp turning Strigoi by choice as well. And I do think her and Christian are perfectly suited.
4. What did you think of the relationships in the novel – Rose and Dimitri, Rose and Lissa etc?
Shaheen: I really liked Dimitri, but this time around I was disappointed at how obvious he makes his feelings for Rose. Not that I blame him, but he’s her TEACHER. I think I’m getting older and seeing things in a new light! Also, Rose treats Lissa like a child. There’s a lot of love there, but very little respect (I feel). Rose basically makes decisions for Lissa and is completely over-protective. I felt uncomfortable with how Rose kept important details about her powers and her past from Lissa to “protect” her. It makes me realise that a lot of the hate surrounding Lissa (to do with how she’s “weak” or “useless” or a “bitch”) probably has to do with how Rose thinks of her.
Belle: I feel exactly the same, Shaheen, regarding the Rose/Dimitri relationship. When just a few years ago I swooned at the “don’t cut your hair” and the “you’re so beautiful, it hurts sometimes” lines, and the prolonged physical contact during training sessions, and oh yes THE LUST CHARM SCENE, this time I felt more creeped out than anything. Maybe it is the fact I’m that little bit older now, but I couldn’t see past the fact that he is her teacher, in a position of power and authority over her, and it just felt off. Like, OK, even if you’re attracted to her, don’t let it show so much dude. It’s just not appropriate on any level. I feel like such an old lady right now but I can’t help it haha. It’s disappointing because I have always loved the chemistry between Rose and Dimitri, so I’m hoping as the series goes on I’ll enjoy it more once again. But it just struck me as really wrong at this point and it made it hard for me to get behind them as a couple, which is a shame.
I also totally agree about the way Rose treats Lissa. She was driving me nuts with how overprotective she was. I can understand where she’s coming from, but yes, there’s not enough respect there.
Bree: Okay I’m going to strike out alone here! To be honest, I wasn’t any more bothered by Rose/Dimitri than I was reading it for the first time, barely at all. And I’m not actually sure why that is. Because chances are that age gap in any other book would probably put me off. Perhaps it’s because I like Dimitri? I do feel as though he does his best, although he can’t hide his feelings, to not act on them as much. He does when he’s under the spell, but he’s not in control of himself there. The rest of the time I think he’s focused on actually trying to help her be the best guardian she can be, because he’s experienced what happens when a guardian fails, although he wasn’t the one on duty at the time. Sometimes you do just fall for someone who isn’t perhaps the best choice, but it happens anyway. I’m not sure why I feel that his authority over her is perhaps less than if it had been someone like Guardian Alto. Perhaps it’s his attitude. He doesn’t really play the teacher card and at times it’s almost like he’s a rather strict personal trainer. I think it’s also because he listens to her. A lot of others would’ve dismissed her when she felt Lissa was in danger, in fact several times they try to before Dimitri advocates for her. I agree with Belle – the reader doesn’t learn as much about him as a person as they could. We learn about his family and also that he lost his first charge and that he likes cowboy jackets and novels and bad 80s music. But more about Dimitri the person, separate from the guardian, might’ve been nice. Rose’s attraction at first is about how hot he is, how godlike but I think that moment on the way to the mall, where they experience that connection about what they’d want if turned Strigoi is where I started to really get why they are into each other, moreso than their looks and fighting ability.
5. Do you think you’d feel differently about the book if you read it for the first time now?
Shaheen: I think I’d like it less. When I read the first time I was caught up in Rose’s story, but there’s actually a lot in this book that’s just plain wrong. Rose taking Lissa away from the school is the STUPIDEST decision she could have made, the furor over the blood-drinking seems juvenile now, as do her interactions with Mia. It’s also not obvious from reading this book that things are going to get as awesome, and as dark, as they eventually do. Finally, I read this book with the movie’s tone in mind – many folk defend the movie by saying the first book is lighter than the others. And yes, it is, but it’s no where near as light as the tone of the movie. The book still carries a lot of gravitas despite some juvenile seeming scenes.
Belle: I feel the same. As cheesy as it sounds, I think I’ve grown a lot as a reader (and a person) the last few years, and I think the things that bugged me when I read it this time would have REALLY bugged me if I was only reading it for the first time now, without the pre-established affection for the series. In fact, I’m afraid if I read it for the first time now it would probably make me really mad. Eek! As it is, I think these books will always hold a special place in my heart, and so even though I didn’t enjoy it as much on this reread, I still had fun. I’m really interested in how I’ll feel about the rest of the series now.
Bree: This one is hard for me, because I read it so recently. The writing honestly isn’t the best – the story is great but the execution is often a little lacking at some times. There’s a bit of a simplicity about this one at times, which could be explained away by Rose being the narrator and she’s only 17 and relatively conversational in her telling but there’s some infodumping and rehashing at times that kind of got on my nerves this time around. If I read it again for the first time, I’d probably still enjoy it a lot – it is probably the weakest in the series though and for me the first book is kind of just a way to get further into the story.
6. Things that struck us upon rereading:
- Slut shaming
- The ickiness of the Dimitri/Rose dynamic 🙁
Tune in next time to see what we all had to say about Frost Bite 🙂