I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
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. (source)
Vampire Academy is perfectly suited for its target group - teenage girls - and, to be totally honest, probably not too many other readers. I was fine with this, however, because not only am I not too far off from the target age group (I'm turning 23 in December), but after reading Taking Lives, I needed something light-hearted and mindless to distract me for a bit. And this was just what I needed
In Richelle Mead's world, there are two types of vampires: Moroi and Strigoi. Moroi are the relatively harmless ones - they don't kill intentionally, and they only feed from humans who are addicted to being bitten by vampires. The Strigoi are the scary ones - they have no morals and absolutely no problem with killing anyone, human or Moroi. In addition, there are the dhampirs, who are half-human, half-vampire and serve as guardians to the Moroi. The narrator of Vampire Academy is a dhampir named Rose, and she's currently training in hopes of becoming the guardian for her best friend, a Moroi princess named Lissa.
The world building in this story doesn't get too much more complicated than that. Mead touches on a couple of vampire taboos, such as "blood whores," who are dhampirs who allow vampires to bite them during sex, and we get the vague idea that things aren't very politically stable in the vampire world. The current vampire queen, Tatiana, isn't very well-liked (at least, not by Rose and Lissa), there's apparently a shortage of guardians, and, oh yeah, there are those Strigoi running around wreaking havoc. But you really don't see too much of that - the only encounter that Rose ever has with a Strigoi doesn't come until the very end of the book, and other than that they're simply talked about when convenient. There's a much greater focus on typical boarding school story problems, like who's popular, who's sleeping with who, and, of course, Rose's crush on her older and "super hot" instructor, Dimitri, who is, of course, Russian and thus apparently has an adorable accent. Swoon.
I felt that much of the book was predictable and parts in the beginning and middle did drag -- but I flew through the last third of the book. There were plot twists that genuinely surprised me. Looking back, I'm not sure if they were actually all that brilliant, or if I'd simply become so accustomed to knowing what was coming next that they blind-sided me since their outcomes weren't as obvious. Regardless, I really liked the ending and it left me wanting to continue with the series - so, yay!
Ultimately, if you read this book fully acknowledging that it is a YA vampire story set in a boarding school and you accept that it's going to follow the prescribed patterns for that type of story, I don't think you'll be disappointed. This book is pretty much exactly what it looks like, and if you accept that and you're fine with that, I think you'll like it. It's a good distraction, if not terribly sophisticated. If you're looking for something brilliant, original, and expertly-written, look elsewhere. But if you need to satisfy your inner teenage girl, look no further - Vampire Academy will do the trick.