Written By: Richelle MeadGrade: A+
The highly awaited sequel in the Vampire Academy series, Blood Promise, has been well worth the wait. This series just keeps on getting better and Blood Promise doesn’t hold anything back. It takes us in to another world than we are used to. Most of the book is set in Russia , but more importantly it is how close our heroine brushes with death and how the lines of love and monstrosity blur her vision. Yet we are still able to visit parts of that old world, although it’s different, distant, and troubling both for those that inhabit it and those that are so far away from it.
First of all, a little background for those who aren’t familiar with the series. Our protagonist Rose is a tough, full of attitude dhampir who protects her best friend, Lissa, with no hesitation. In Mead’s world of vampires there are good, bad, and partial vampires. Moroi are good vampires who tap in to their elemental magic, but only for defense, not for sport. Strigoi are vampires turned evil who willingly kill for fun; they are monstrous creatures who only know evil ways and no longer hold the person that the individual used to be. In Mead’s world, turning Strigoi is worse than dying, because not only is your soul gone, but all humanity is lost. Dhampir’s are half vampires, bred when a moroi and human get together. Dhampir’s existence depends on Moroi. So many dhampirs become guardians, essentially body guards for Moroi, fighting off Strigoi if necessary. Dhampirs who don’t become guardians usually become what is known as “blood whores.” They supply blood to moroi and many essentially become hookers to moroi men who rarely see them as anything more.
Rose has sworn to protect Lissa, who is a royal and now the only living one left in her family. A few years ago Lissa’s family all died in a fatal car crash. Rose would have died too, but Lissa healed her and brought her back from the dead, making Rose “shadow kissed”. The two of them formed a bond because of this. Rose can instantly feel what Lissa feels and even when they are apart can slip in to her head and she sees things through Lissa’s eyes. Lissa is a spirit user, a nearly unheard element that is both extremely powerful and dangerous, taking a constant toll on the user. Lissa suffered with depression and suicidal thoughts in the past. Now she seems to be able to keep the demons at bay, but only by transferring this darkness to Rose. Adrian, another royal spirit user, alchoholic, and womanizer who has an undying affection for Rose, says he sees constant darkness and shadows whenever he sees Rose’s aura. Centuries ago, this same thing caused the shadow kissed to go crazy and eventually commit suicide.
Rose has always brushed Adrian off, not wanting to fall for his flirtation and allure. Not like this resisting was ever much of a problem, she was in love with her mentor, Dimitri. Their love was forbidden though and they constantly fought against it. Dimitri was one of the toughest and most strict guardians out there and wanted to put duty first. He was her teacher and their relationship wouldn’t be accepted, but more importantly they were both going to be Lissa’s guardians after Lissa and Rose graduated. If they let their guards down they would be more focused on each other than Lissa. Moroi always came first, especially if the Moroi was Lissa. Rose never knew any differently. Soon enough things spiral out of control. Strigoi had been working with humans and they lead an attack on the school, which is a charmed and extremely guarded place that Strigoi were never able to get in to before. A massive battle ensued and many strigoi were slaughtered, many by Rose, Dimitri, as well as other instructors. Many strigoi were also killed or taken prisoner. Rose helped lead a rescue mission where most were saved, but Dimitri was not. He was turned in to a strigoi.
Rose can’t cope with Dimitri being gone from her life, but worse is that she can’t handle him being a strigoi. He once said that he would rather be dead than strigoi. Rose drops out of school, abandons Lissa and the rest of friends, and sets off for his home country of Russia to keep her promise and kill the man she still loves so that they both can have some sense of peace. As Rose has forgotten the actual name of his village this proves to be a challenge. After plenty of failed attempts at getting information from locals she runs in to an Alchemist named Sydney who helps clean up and conceal the world of vampirism. Sydney unwillingly takes Rose to the village where she wakes up in Dimitri’s families’ house one day. They are so kind and warm to her that she uses them as a last connection to the Dimitri she knew. When she realizes they don’t know what happened to him, she realizes it’s up to her to tell them the truth.
After a while Rose decides to abort her mission, thinking she could just stay with his family and be happy with them. She realizes she doesn’t belong though and she won’t be able to rest until she does what she set out to do. She goes with a group of teen vigilantes who seek out strigoi to kill in the city. Rose realizes if he’s anywhere around there, Dimitri would be in the city, where there’s more prey and it’s easier to blend. They become a slaying machine, actually causing fear in the strigoi community. Eventually, Rose finally comes across Dimitri and she tries to kill him, but hesitates. The next thing she knows she ends up waking up in a modern, classy dungeon. There are several bolted doors locking her in, not to mention all of the strigoi that are on guard. Everything is unbreakable, not even leaving Rose with a weapon.
Dimitri wants to turn Rose in to a strigoi too so they can live forever together and takeover anyone or anything that they desire. Rose refuses, but she is so happy to see Dimitri again. She recognizes the evil in him, but she also can’t deny those glimpses of the old Dimitri that she sees. She stays strong for a while and tries to think of a way to escape, but soon gets restless as this seems impossible. Eventually Dimitri gets the best of her. Rose gives in to her desires and he bites her, making everyone else in the world float away from the passion and pure ecstasy that she is feeling now. As their nightly passion and blood transferal becomes a habit, Rose gets weaker and weaker. She is physically very weak from how much blood she is losing and it’s fogging her mentally. She stops seeing Dimitri as a monster and what she does notice she ignores. Still, a very fundamental part of her won’t let her agree to be turned strigoi. Dimitri wants her to choose this so they can be together, but he tells her she is running out of time. If she doesn’t choose the “right” choice, than he will choose for her. Meanwhile, she can sense that Lissa is in more trouble than ever, exerting reckless behavior because of a secret spirit user that is deceiving her towards her own death.
The transition we see in Dimitri is one of the most striking things about the book. We see an entirely different being, one that is rough, violent, possessive, and impossibly strong. The passion and desire for Rose is even greater than it was before, taking over everything else. We get the most thrilling aspects of vampires; the blissful bite, the irresistible and thrilling allure, and a mix between lust and love and danger and bliss. Here it is even a bit stronger than most bad boy love interests in recent vampire literature. In the Vampire Academy series strigoi even repulse the dead. Evil is so ingrained in them that they don’t have any type of capacity for anything else. Vampires in general are thought about this way to an extent, but in this series it just seems like the creature is just so far removed, not just by killing, not even because they do it for fun. It’s something so fundamentally wrong and shameful that Dimitri seems all the more evil and forcing Rose in to this life all the more wrong. This keeps on drawing the reader back and forth, letting them get caught up in all of the thrilling aspects and yet so appalled by the way they are sucking the strength, mind, and humanity out of Rose.
Dimitri isn’t the only vampire who’s a little rough around the edges. A lot of the book is focused on Adrian and his character is developed a lot past the questionable intentions that he has shown in the past. The way he talks to Rose and visits her in her dreams does have that same powerful, alluring, and thrilling vampire aspect. He actually proves himself as a very caring friend first, putting his selfish desires aside. Adrian also shows a bit of personal strength and dignity, giving Rose the hint that she shouldn’t take him for granted. Lissa goes through some changes as well. She is acting recklessly and there is a growing darkness in her. Yet in the end with Roses and Adrian ’s helps she overpowers this and grows because of it.
There are a lot of different characters introduced such as a couple who is bonded, one who is shadow kissed like Rose. Rose’s adventure led by this blood promise is very different than the normal academy conflicts and storylines that we are used to, even though many of those included battles with strigoi and battling darkness that weren’t typically common for the average academy student. The entire book is a constant struggle for Rose, trying to figure out what she is going to do and how she is going to do it. In a completely new atmosphere and with quite a dilemma, we go on this unknown journey with Rose. Still we are not detached from the other characters we have come to love or the academy life we are used to in the series. Mead uses Rose and Lissa’s bond to keep us connected to what Lissa is going through. We get the same thing with Adrian through him visiting her dreams and even to an extent by the eventual absence of him in her dreams. Between the mentalities of these different characters and what is going on with them, we get a good balance.
In a book called ‘Blood Promise’ it shouldn’t be any surprise that there is plenty of bloodshed. First of all we have the continuous blood sucking by the passionate, yet animalistic vampire bite. Plenty of strigoi are tortured and slaughtered as well. Our protagonist is banged up pretty badly, by the far superior speed and strength of these vampires. Even though Lissa is seemingly safe back at the academy her life is in danger as well. Blood Promise is a completely gripping book. Once you pick it up it’s extremely hard to put down. It’s exhilarating and really plays the dark themes of vampires against that of a tragic love story turned to a test of one’s strength and character. The characters are developed even further than they already were before and everyone serves a purpose. Even if they didn’t it wouldn’t matter, because Rose’s world and everyone in it becomes part of the reader’s world. We care for them. Their storylines and characterizations are so vivid and sincere that they live up to this and even surprise us at times. Blood Promise is all around good story telling that is rich, genuine, and completely addictive. It managed to improve on the already stellar series and the next book is set up perfectly. It places tension and horror on the continuation of the Vampire Academy in ‘Spirit Bound.’