Friday, July 29, 2011
We all know strange things have been going on with vampires recently. Authors and filmmakers have been twisting mythology, setting new rules and boundaries for the most fabulous of all monsters. Vamps seem to take on all sorts of different guises – the ones who can walk around just like you or me in the sunshine, don’t have any hassles at all with crossing moving water and might even dine out on garlic bread with their pizza. Some have fangs, some don’t; others wear crucifixes as a fashion statement. But the common link is blood. Drinking it, that is. Other than that, it seems writers can do whatever they want with the once feared and gruesome bloodsucker… but should they?
American author, Richelle Mead has delved a little deeper into the basic vampire myth, drawing from Romanian Folklore; it’s this that makes her Vampire Academy series that bit different to everything else out there right now.
The series contains six books, with Vampire Academy being the first. It’s there we meet Rose Hathaway, who narrates the series, and her best friend Vasilisa (Lissa) Dragomir. Rose is a Dhampir, a vampire/human hybrid. Dhampirs have enhanced strength, suffer none of the weaknesses of actual vampires (heck, they don’t even need to drink blood) and quite often, serve as bodyguards – called guardians – to the real vamps. Those real vampires fall into two groups, which is where the Romanian Folklore kicks in.
There’s the Moroi and the Strigoi. Moroi are actually living, breathing creatures and while they need blood, they never kill to obtain it. In fact, there’s always lots of willing humans or Dhampirs ready and willing to bend a neck and get a quick endorphin rush in return. Sunlight doesn’t kill Moroi, but it does weaken them, and while their strength and senses are heightened compared to humans, they still die natural deaths. Moroi also each possess an ‘element’ of magic. Typically, this is either Earth, Fire or Water. But occasionally, a Spirit user pops up amongst the Moroi – and this causes all sorts of problems for both the users themselves, those around them, and those who want to capture and use the Spirit user’s unique gift.
Then there’s the Strigoi. These guys are your typical bad-arse vampires, of the undead variety. They’re evil and they’re bloodthirsty and can be killed by all the usual methods – sunlight, decapitation, stake through the heart (as long as it’s pure silver) and fire. Moroi and Dhampirs can and are turned throughout the series into Strigoi – whether it be by force, or occasionally, by choice.
In book one, we learn that Rose is not only Lissa’s best friend, but once she’s finished her training at St Vladimir’s, wants nothing more than to be Lissa’s guardian for life. Lissa is the last member remaining member of the Dragomir bloodline, a Moroi royal family. The two girls share an unusual one-way psychic bond which enables Rose to be able to see through Lissa’s eyes and read her mind. It gives the reader an interesting insight – although all the books in Vampire Academy are told from Rose’s point of view, sometimes we get a sneak peak at what’s going on with Lissa. And sometimes – that information is a little hot and heavy.
Yes, both the girls have love interests. Lissa with the dark and handsome Christian; a fellow royal Moroi. Rose’s love interest is not so straight forward, and the backdrop of the entire series. She falls for Dimitri, a world famous guardian, stronger, more lethal and feared by the Strigoi than any other Dhampir. He also happens to be Rose’s instructor and teacher. Yep, you guessed it – even in a world of vampires, this is a big no-no.
Rose, Dimitri, Lissa and a whole gang of supporting characters (some of whom are going on to ‘Bloodlines’, Mead’s next series) become entangled in all manner of sticky situations throughout the six books. There’s love, lust, loss and heartache entwined with plenty of action for our kick-arse heroine. Rose is a strong protagonist, a girl who grows into a woman with strong values and is willing to fight and kill for what she believes in, no matter how high the cost to her own heart.
So should authors like Richelle Mead play with vampire lore and rewrite the myth? Well, yeah. Everything old becomes new again… right? I think this series works most of the time. It can be a little repetitive and sometimes feels formulated, but on a whole I think those who can’t get enough of the modern day vampire and like a bit of lovin’ with their bloodsuckers will enjoy Mead’s spin on an old folktale.
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
Bk 1 – Vampire Academy, ISBN – 978-1-59514-174-3
Bk 2 – Frostbite, ISBN – 978-1-59514-175-0
Bk 3 – Shadow Kiss, ISBN – 978-1-59514-197-2
Bk 4 – Blood Promise, ISBN – 978-1-921518-29-4
Bk 5 – Spirit Bound, ISBN – 978-1-921518-86-7
Bk 6 – Last Sacrifice, ISBN – 978-1-921518-90-4