Written By: Richelle Mead
Two great Vampire Academy novels in one year; Richelle Mead is on a roll. As the series go along, it just gets better. I’m really not sure which is my favorite of the series, but the newest addition, Spirit Bound, certainly adds to the intrigue that the series has already built. There’s plenty of action and enticing characters, including our fierce protagonist, Rose, and her truly undying love.
Rose is back at the vampire academy, St. Vladimir’s after splitting to hunt down her undead boyfriend/former instructor, Dimitri. When they were on a rescue mission he was turned in to a strigoi: an evil natured vampire who is essentially a monster, holding no shred of humanity. He was as good as dead to the rest of the moroi and dhampir community as it is when anyone turns. Rose couldn’t help but remember him saying that he would rather be dead than a strigoi. So she went on a mission to track him down and grant him that wish. After he weakened her so much that she almost agreed to turning, she managed to fight him and staked him as he fell down a cliff. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to kill the powerful and unrelenting Dimitri. Since she refused to be turned and live eternity by his side, he has formed a mission of his own; to kill Rose. He begins sending her notes. Rather than love notes they are more like a death promise. While she’s at school she’s protected, but it’s clear that Dimitri has spies everywhere and the second she leaves this protection he’ll kill her. Rose is one of the most accomplished students, killing countless strigoi herself, something few others her age can say. Dimitri is the one who taught her. He knows all of her moves. Is she really a match for him? She aces her exit exams even though they were made harder to be a challenge regardless of her skill level and makes unbelievable records, scoring higher than anyone ever has before. Maybe she does have a chance against the man who taught it all to her after all.
Despite everything, Rose refuses to give up on him. She heard that is was possible to turn a strigoi back to its original form, something thought to be impossible. Rose isn’t sure how much she should trust this considering the source, Victor Dashkov. Victor kidnapped her best friend, Lissa, since she controls the rare element, spirit, and has healing powers that begin healing his terminal disease. Rose has to know though so she devises a plan with Lissa to free Victor from prison, despite him being her kidnapper. The problem is they don’t even know which prison he is in or where. It changes locations throughout the year and is top secret. A little detective work and breaking and entering is no big deal for Rose though. She nearly gets caught by one of the guards, Mikhail. He also lost a lover who turned strigoi and lets Rose off the hook, knowing that if he had the chance he would do the same thing.
A few things go wrong along the way, but they manage to compel themselves in to the prison where Victor is. They start a fight and take out a few of the guards. This is nothing compared to the number of guards they end up fighting by the time they get out of there, with them shooting at the tires of their get-away car. Victor is skeptical but calls his brother, who knows about the strigoi resurrection. He tells them that it is possible to bring one back. They can’t be burned or decapitated though, they have to be staked with a silver stake. The staking can only be done by a spirit user-a moroi. The moroi are so small in numbers and regarded so highly since without their existence dhampirs, or half-vampires, wouldn’t exist either. That is the reason so many dhampirs like Rose are trained to guard them with their lives. “They come first” is the motto that they live by. After some of the recent attacks there has been some fighting for the moroi to start fighting back and defend themselves. This is still a very controversial issue and as a whole moroi have no idea how to fight, let alone beat a strigoi in a fight and be able to stake them. This has taken dhampirs a lifetime of training to achieve. Lissa is determined that she is going to do this for Rose. Rose refuses, knowing it would put her in great danger. They don’t have much more time to deliberate as Dimitri shows up and proves that he meant what he said. Rose knows it’s time to end this; she has to kill him already. When it comes down to it she can’t and lets him go. This isn’t the end of things. Rose only regrets her moment of weakness more when Lissa and their friend Christian are captured by Dimitri. Rose knows they are only bait for her, but she refuses to let them die because she couldn’t kill her vile ex-boyfriend.
It’s really amazing how much happened throughout this book. Reflecting on it now it almost seems like multiple books even though it’s the average length of books in the series. It just doesn’t waste any time. Immediately we are getting death threats and plotting towards a jail break. Pretty early on the high tension events that were clearly changing major things in our characters’ world occurred. So many of these events seem like they are momentous enough to be the climax yet are only the start of things. There are multiple deaths, a birth, scheming and danger, and fatal accusations that could end everything. I don’t want to get in to too many details because there are so many shocking moments, constantly taking us in a new revelation. Once you pick up the book you won’t want to put it down; it’s impossible not to get caught up in this intriguing world of love and loyalty, life and death conspiring, and vampire politics.
I really enjoyed the dark-natured, alluring Dimitri in the last book. Rose still remains hung up on him despite everything he has put her through, tormenting and time and time again trying to kill her or turn her against her will. He goes through a lot of stages through this book, but none of them are conducive to loving her again. She agreed to give Adrian, bad boy moroi royalty, a chance. She assumed he was just a player and brushed him off at first. He refused to take no for an answer, continually flirting with Rose and even walking her dreams, attempting to get her to act on her true desires. He proved to be a loyal friend, always there for her despite how she treated him. Rose gives him a shot and is surprised with how smoothly their relationship has been running. They work together despite the notion that a moroi and dhampir relationship can never really last. Morois always tend to leave, leaving the dhampir with the illegitimate child and forced to become a house mom. Even though Rose is still chasing after a dream with Dimitri, it’s hard for her to picture her life without Adrian.
I, for one, have been for the Adrian relationship from the beginning. Dimitri is strong, handsome, and held Rose’s forbidden love. Still, I liked him as a character but never loved him as a character, at least as the love interest for a girl as in control as Rose. I actually liked him most as a strigoi. He was mysterious, powerful, and irresistible. The love he suppressed in life, he embraced in the afterlife; his dark and romantic side constantly rivaling each other. Still, this Dimitri was never an option for Rose; this wasn’t the man she loved and she could never compromise herself in to giving herself over to him. Adrian on the other hand always exerted this overwhelmingly alluring quality, partially from being a spirit user and partially because he felt an instant connection with Rose. His snarky wise cracks, sexual draw, and cool demeanor made me yearn for Rose to be with him from the beginning. Now they finally are and the two have some great moments together. Although, it was a confused and spur of the moment gesture, the two become overwhelmed with their desires and when they realize they don’t have protection Rose offers her neck to Adrian, the next best thing to sex. This is a huge taboo, as most female dhampirs just turn in to blood whores, which is Rose’s nightmare. Still, that moment is full of ecstasy for the two of them. They’re great together but with thoughts of Dimitri still lingering, they seem to always be at risk of falling apart, which I really hope doesn’t happen. They are my two favorite characters and they both have a charge and electric energy that really compliments the other.
Especially towards the end, the sequence of events that unravels is truly shocking. It means life or death for our heroine. We are sure she will get out of it though, she always does. We are just waiting for that part, not even realizing the possibility that it might never come. Rose being involved with the mess at hand isn’t even the whole distress, the fact that it happened at all changes so much in this world we are experiencing. I was a little disappointed in how abruptly things ended. It was a cliff hanger as most of the books in the series are so I shouldn’t be too surprised. Still, I could hardly believe the book was really over. I was still waiting for some sort of resolution or tying things up even if they ended in underlying suspense of things to come. We don’t get that though. I think what really had me in such awe was the last line. Don’t worry I won’t ruin it for anybody, but essentially it takes the worst possible outcome, which we don’t believe will ever really happen in the first place, and turns it in to something morbidly worse, forcing us to consider the possibility that Rose might very well be doomed.