Friday, September 27, 2013

Something resembling a review of Vampire Academy

As I said in my last post I have been reading all those books that I always meant to read but never got around to. One such book is Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead and I have to say that everyone that has ever read this book has let me down. A number of people suggested that I read it but none of them informed me that it was about two awesome female best friends with a soul bond. Had someone told me I probably would have given Vampire Academy a chance long ago.

You’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but I do, all the time. There are a lot of books out there and I have to use some kind of system to help me decide which one is worthy of my time. Plus I figure if the publishers have good taste with the cover, they might have good taste with what’s inside.

One of the main reasons I avoided reading Vampire Academy was the cover… it looks like something I made when I first started using photoshop because it’s super cool to use two non-complementary fonts. I am perfectly willing to admit that I had very little taste when I was 18, but it’s not like anyone hired me to create a book cover.

Then there’s the title, Vampire Academy, it’s like they used a bot to create a title what was most likely to appeal to teenage girls. Not that there is anything wrong with teenage girls taste, but there is something wrong with publisher that desperately try to latch on to a fad with anything they can find.

Beyond that, I figured Vampire Academy would be just another romantic vampire fantasy where a creepy much older dude – that looks 17 – stalks a teenage girl. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good trashy supernatural romance occasionally but there is only so much I can handle in one year ya know? And most of the books I read that were published in the wake of Twilight’s popularity were pretty terrible.

So Vampire Academy fell by the wayside and I ignored the few people that tried to tell me it was worth my time. Of course, as I said above, those people failed to inform me of the fabulous female relationship at the heart of this story but we all make mistakes I guess.

In light of the upcoming movie release I thought, it’s time to give Vampire Academy a shot. To be honest I thought I’d be able to come on here and rant about dangerous romantic representations and problematic female characters… that’s not really what happens.

Vampire Academy is the story of Rose Hathaway a Dhampir and the Moroi princess she is sworn to protect, Lissa Dragomir. The girls have been on the run for two years when they are finally caught by a team of guardians and dragged back to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their future guardians.

Lissa is no ordinary Moroi and her relationship with Rose is not ordinary either, they are bonded together in a way that is usually only seen in myths and legends. Rose and Lissa’s friendship is tested as they negotiate the politics and drama of St Vladimir’s Academy, as well as potential romances. But behind it all a secret remains a terrifying threat. Rose is determined to protect Lissa from whatever threat they encounter but how do you protect someone from themselves?

This book isn’t perfect, the structure of the vampire world is complex and difficult to follow at times. Key information is often withheld for the sake of suspense, which occasionally makes it hard to get a handle on the world of St Vladimir’s Academy. Rose Hathaway is a fantastically intriguing female lead but the way she talks about other female characters is seeped in internalized misogyny.

That said, at the heart of this story is one of the best female friendships I have seen in this genre. It’s the kind of deep, co-dependent relationship that if the characters were male would undoubtedly result in a large slash following.

It’s just so nice to see a relationship between two well-rounded female characters at the heart of YA story involving vampires. While there are the obligatory heterosexual romances, they are secondary to the bond between Lissa and Rose, in fact the purpose of the romances is complicate the relationship between Lissa and Rose.

If you’re not a fan of vampires or stories set in high school then this probably isn’t the book for you. But if you enjoy YA and you’re looking for a supernatural story that doesn’t have a creepy (and seriously problematic) vampire/human romance at the heart of it, then I suggest giving Vampire Academy a shot.

It’s a little confusing to begin with, because you’re thrust into the middle of the story but push through the confusion. I promise, all the information is in there it just takes a little while to come out.  (As a warning there is a lot of talk about sex – and sexual acts, there also is drinking, quasi drug use and most of the character are underage).

Vampire Academy is a perfect example of why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Despite the way that it’s marketed it’s actually an engaging supernatural drama with wonderful female characters and a beautiful female friendship at its heart.

This book gets my tick of approval, not that it means anything but whatever, it’s my blog so you all have to pretend to care what I think.