Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

by Richelle Mead
August 23, 2011
Purchased my copy on release day
Grade: A-

Synopsis from Publisher:  The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy.

When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.

Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.

I spent two days just staring at this book’s cover and consciously picking up other books to read because I couldn’t make myself start reading.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Vampire Academy and have read those books an embarrassing number of times, but the whole idea of a new series with a new protagonist suddenly was worrying me!  I love Rose to pieces (as idiotic as she is sometimes), and my ability to love Sydney was strongly in doubt.

But a friend finally goaded me into starting, and once I did, I was not putting that book down until it was over.  I think I can definitely say that Richelle Mead has still got that ability to draw the reader into her action-packed plots and just not let go.

My total missing of Rose and her oh-so-unique point of view still exists, but I did really begin to enjoy seeing situations through Sydney’s eyes.  It’s interesting that Mead continues to tell these stories from an outsider’s viewpoint.  First Rose as a dhampir girl who ends up working her way to the inside of Moroi society then Sydney who’d be happiest if she never had to deal with Moroi society - or her own Alchemists ever again, but who knows a lot of facts about them and still very little about who these people actually are.

Her less than sophisticated views of how society - and teenage society in particular - were always funny, but Mead writes with a compassion that keeps Sydney from being the butt of the joke and also allows her to grow as her relationships with the Moroi in her charge and her new associates develop and deepen.  I really enjoyed getting to know this incredibly smart character as she struggled to figure out how to take her training that taught her to always keep her distance and use it to actually be able to interact with people - vampires, humans, and dhampirs - on a personal level.  She started that process when working with Rose, but a few days and a defined mission is much easier to deal with than the messy situation of actually living with people.

The secondary characters also made me glee with delight.  I absolutely adore Eddie Castile and when he showed up, I seriously yelled in excitement.  I was so upset that his storyline kind of dropped out of sight at the end of the Vampire Academy books and getting to see him again made my day.  The guardians are my favourite part of this world, and watching Eddie attempt to perform his duty with the restrictions put on him by the setting was excellent.

Jill’s character wasn't as well developed in this book as she could have been.  It’s difficult to say how without being excessively spoilery, but I’d really like to see her grow up a little.  She’s only 15, true, but there were times when I felt like she was acting much, much younger.  While she's been through a lot in the past month of book-time, I felt like the Jill of Bloodlines acted like a completely different Jill than the spunky, ready to fight, enthusiastic girl of Vampire Academy.  She tends to be overly whiny but seemingly madly attractive to boys since at least three completely fall for her.  It's difficult to tell if her regression and whining are supposed to be because of her situation and the events of the past month or if they're her actual personality.  If it's explicitly determined to be the first in later books, I could see myself starting to love her again - and I really hopes that happens!  I loved VA!Jill and was really looking forward to her role in this new series.

And then we come to Adrian.  I’ll fully admit I’m not as big of an Adrian fan as some - many - readers, and I wasn’t thrilled to find out he was playing a major role in the new series.  I really hated a lot of his actions in the last few VA books - trying to coerce Rose into a relationship, not giving her a chance to mourn Dimitri, expecting her to monitor his ‘vices’ (yes, I have Rose-tinted glasses), but during Bloodlines, he did seem to develop more of his own character.  Instead of being defined by his relationship to Rose, and to some extent, Lissa and his magic, Adrian starts to come into his own as a person.  His associations with Jill and Sydney in particular were touching, often hilarious, and intriguing to watch.

It’s hard to say anything about Mead’s plots - she’s very, very good at writing an action-packed story that pulls you along, and I really enjoyed that this book was more of a detective story than VA’s ‘go out and hunt down the bad guys.’  Much of the plot relies on Sydney’s abilities to put pieces of information together.  I guessed a few of the side plots right off the bat, but upon reconsidering it, I think that at least one of them was meant to be obvious to readers of VA.  (You guys probably know which one.  Ahem.)  It’s difficult to compare the plot of Bloodlines with the later Vampire Academy books.  The plot is maybe a bit more simplistic than I was expecting, but then Mead’s still setting up her world - compare the plot of Vampire Academy with Last Sacrifice or Blood Promise.  You need the earlier, simpler plots to be able to have enough background information to understand the later ones.

So yes, go read Bloodlines!  And don’t waste two days like I did flailing over missing Rose.  If you haven’t read the Vampire Academy series, I’d suggest to read those books first.  You could start with Bloodlines, but without the background information on the world and characters, I think you’ll get more out of it if you’ve read VA first - also VA is an excellent series that deserves as many readers as possible.

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