Last year got a little hairy when I had to write almost all my reviews for the year in the last three weeks of December. It wasn’t much fun, so I promised myself that this year I would get back on track. Unless I’m traveling, I will not finish my next book until I’ve reviewed the previous one. That way, I should only ever have one review to catch up on. I hope.
I’m starting this year off with Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines (2011). It’s the first book in a six book series. Not only that, but there is a related series of six books (The Vampire Academy Series) that I’ve already read. It’s ridiculous how many of these books I’ve read, and will read. A part of me is disappointed that I even started this next series, but they’re like crack. I can’t put them down.
Richelle Mead has set up a world very much like ours today except for the vampires. In fact, there are three different types: Strigoi are nasty, immortal killers who drink blood and only come out at night. The Moroi are thin and beautiful; they rule the vampire kingdom. Moroi drink blood from willing humans, but they do not kill. Finally, there are Dhampirs. These are half-Moroi and half-human. They are fast and athletic but do not have other powers. They are often used as bodyguards for the Moroi.
The only humans really aware of what’s going on in this world of vampires are known as the Alchemists. Alchemists have long been disgusted by the vampire lifestyle, but they assist in keeping the vampire politics stable and their lives quiet, so the rest of the world doesn’t find out about them. Alchemists have no special powers, although they are all given a golden tattoo on their cheek infused with vampire blood. This keeps them healthier and forces them to stay quiet about what they know.
The Vampire Academy series was all about a Dhampir called Rose, her love interest Dmitri, another Dhampir, and her classmate Lissa, a Moroi. An incredible amount of stuff happens in those six books, and at some point the reader is introduced to Sydney, an Alchemist. This next series of books begins right after the end of The Vampire Academy Series, but it’s all about Sydney.
Sydney is sent to Palm Springs with Lissa’s younger sister, Jill Mastrano. Jill’s been attacked because Lissa has become queen, and Jill is integral to Lissa keeping the throne. They are trying to hide her in plain sight in a boarding high school. Sydney is going undercover and will be Jill’s roommate in order to keep an eye on her. They are joined by the Dhampir Eddie Castile as a bodyguard, and Adrian, another Moroi. They pretend they’re all brothers and sisters for the school.
I had a little trouble getting into this book compared to the Vampire Academy. Rose is a very fun character. She’s intuitive and aggressive and often reacts without thinking. I also loved the relationship between Rose and Dmitri (even though I was still a little disturbed at the age difference and student/teacher dynamic). On the other hand, Sydney is bookish and repressed. She has to deal with an overbearing asshole of a father as well as a horrible Alchemist leader in the Palm Springs area, but she just isn’t as kick-ass. For the first part of the book, I felt like I was just reading a play by play on high school classes. Why do I care what classes Sydney goes to when she’s just going to high school for show?
There were also a number of questions I had as I read things that didn’t quite make sense. Why was Sydney drawing so much attention to herself at school? In fact, why would you put a tattoo of a secret society on your cheek? There are so many more discrete places for a tattoo. Why would Sydney be Jill’s roommate in the first place? Sydney can’t fight, and Eddie is halfway across campus most of the time–not the ideal situation for a bodyguard.
I think this first book was really setting up the rest of the series. There was some life and death excitement at the end, but not too much happened. Sydney uncovers a plot involving vampire blood, and they stop a killer–both of which are unrelated to their original mission of keeping Jill safe. Even though these books are far from perfect, I’m pretty sure I’ll finish out this series. I am curious where the next books will go.
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