I’ve rewritten the beginning of this post about three times due to my mixed feelings for the paranormal romance series Vampire Academy. When I read the first book, I went ‘meh.’ Read it a second time and started to enjoy it to the point where I wanted the next book. But after book two, I realized I couldn’t delude myself anymore.
I hate this series.
The only thing I can give Richelle Mead credit for is that it isn’t misogynistic or sexist. But that’s giving credit to the author as a person instead of her writing. This series does not deserve its rave reviews due to being riddled with cheesy dialogue, unlikable characters, one-dimensional characters, and contrivances.
*shudders* God is this series contrived.
When I get around to reading the first book again, I want to do a complete review but for the time being I will comment on the biggest contrivance I’ve spotted so far since it will take the most time and space: Rose and Dimitri’s romance. Again to Richelle Mead’s credit, it is not an abusive or dysfunctional relationship like certain other supernatural pairings that will not be mentioned (*cough* Edward and Bella *cough*), but it is highly contrived and just plain boring.
The two meet when a group of guardians have come to take Rose and Lissa back to Vampire Academy. Thinking Dimitri is an enemy out to do Lissa harm, she attacks him. Because she hasn’t put her limited guardian knowledge to use in two years, he makes her look like an idiot instead of harming her. He comments on her bravery, but that’s the only interaction they get during the plane ride home. Upon returning to Vampire Academy, Rose is read the riot act by Headmistress Kirova for taking Lissa away. Kirova wants to banish Rose for her crime, but Dimitri announces that he knows Rose and Lissa have a bond. According to the stories, the best guardians have bonds with their Moroi charges as “wild” and “disrespectful” as Rose is. Rose is angry at being told to her face what she is, and when Kirova tells her that Dimitri is going to be Lissa’s guardian from now on, she calls him “cheap foreign labor.” After this blatantly racist comment (which she herself admits to being highly hypocritical being that she is half Turkish half Scottish), Dimitri volunteers to give her private lessons so she can catch up. His reasoning is that female guardians are very rare and the bond that she has with Lissa.
…I’m sorry. I don’t care how rare female guardians are or how strong the bond between her and Lissa is. If you’re a twenty-four-year-old guy and you let a seventeen-year-old obnoxious, arrogant, vain, bratty bitch get away with calling you cheap foreign labor (he never so much as brings it up again), then you need to turn in your balls. You don’t deserve them.
Above all, their mentor-student relationship solidifies the fact that their relationship is built on bullshit instead of emotional and physical chemistry. Even after being humiliated by a teacher for her lack of guardian responsibility and knowledge, Rose still acts flippant and arrogant toward Dimitri.
“You’re strong and fast by nature. You just need to keep yourself trained. Didn’t you play any sports while you were gone?”
“Sure,” I shrugged. “Now and then.”
“You didn’t join any teams?”
“Too much work. If I’d wanted to practice that much, I’d have stayed here.”
He gave me an exasperated look. “You’ll never be able to really protect the princess if you don’t hone your skills. You’ll always be lacking.”
“I’ll be able to protect her,” I said fiercely.
So Rose didn’t even bother to hone the limited skills she had for two years because doing so would be “Too much work.” And then she has the nerve to say that she’ll be able to protect Lissa from Strigoi who are many times stronger and faster than she is. If I were Dimitri, I’d knock her on her pretentious ass, proclaim what a God-awful mistake I’d made in offering to be her teacher, and send her packing. Instead he tells her she needs to work hard for her guardian position and hopes that she will be worthy of it. Then he walks away.
Not only does this scene fail to establish any chemistry between the two, it completely pisses on what Dimitri’s character is supposed to be. Mead has established him as fiercely loyal and utterly dedicated to his guardian responsibilities, yet in a few bits of dialogue Rose has revealed herself to be the antithesis of guardian material, fighting potential and bond be damned. If he can’t see that, then he’s as undeserving of guardian status as Rose is.
During their second training session scene, the only piece of credit I can give him is refusing to let Rose go to bed an hour earlier when she whines about how tired she is. She questions him about how he got to be Lissa’s guardian, and he replies that they needed extras on campus. Oh, and the Zeklos lord he was assigned to was killed on another guardian’s watch.
Hmm. That’s something that can definitely help form a connection later. And I’ll forgive Mead for not expanding on it now since there is no chemistry or connection between these two at the moment other than Rose’s infatuation with Dimitri’s “godly good looks.”
During their third training session, Rose asks why he’s making her run so much. Dimitri in turn asks what she would do if a Strigoi attacked her and Lissa at the mall. After stating that she would kill it with weapons she can’t use and materials that may not be available, he tells her that she would run.
Okay, I’m getting a little off subject here, but this is yet another contrivance I can’t ignore. Rose is being trained to build up her running stamina, but what about Lissa? Dhampirs like Rose are supposed to have better strength and endurance from their human genes so that makes it all the more important for a Moroi like Lissa to build up strength. Even worse is that she doesn’t even have a gym class (Mead shows her schedule in the beginning of the book) or any extra physical activities. Do they expect Rose to carry her while being chased by Strigoi? What’s worse is that this is yet another pissing on Dimitri’s character. Just read this exchange:
“My job is to get you ready to defend the princess and fight dark creatures, right?”
“So tell me this: suppose you manage to kidnap her again and take her off to the mall. While you’re there, a Strigoi comes at you. What will you do?”
His answer is “you run.” Not you both run. You run. As in Rose alone runs. Which does make some sense if you get the opportunity to divert the Strigoi away from the Moroi charge, but what if there are two Strigoi? Three? One guardian won’t be able to divert them all. They would have to run if they’re out numbered but if only the guardian has the stamina to do so then it completely defeats the purpose of being a fucking guardian in the first place!
Anyway, Dimitri runs with her and at the end of twelve laps, Rose shaves two minutes off her best time and gloats.
“Looks like I could get as far as The Limited before the Strigoi got me at the mall. Not sure how Lissa would do.”
Not sure how Lissa would do. Meaning that Mead was at least subconsciously aware of this contrivance. How sad and ironic. But Dimitri’s reply is a contrivance that is even more disgusting.
“If she was with you, she’d be okay.”
I don’t know how the hell he could think such a thing. There is absolutely no reason for Dimitri to be impressed by Rose. He heard her call him cheap foreign labor despite seeing his six molnija marks (tattoos that tally how many Strigoi he’s killed), he heard her boasts of being able to protect Lissa despite being too lazy to hone her skills for two whole years, and just now he heard her boast that she would kill a Strigoi with weapons and materials she doesn’t even know how to use. Her display of ignorance and arrogance far outweighs her determination and strength. Dimitri’s respect for her makes absolutely no sense.
After a dead fox is dropped on Lissa’s pillow and the motive and culprit remains a mystery, Rose demands that Dimitri teach her how to fight instead of run, but Dimitri just tells her that she’s late for practice. Later, Rose gets hot and heavy with a Moroi royal named Jesse, but they are interrupted by Dimitri who scares Jesse away. He sees Rose in her bra and the two share a long look before he snaps at her to get dressed. Dimitri expresses disgust at Rose’s promiscuous behavior as it reflects people’s views on dhampir women. Rose then demands if Dimitri is calling her a slut.
“I heard the stories you guys tell. I’ve heard stories about you.”
So in large part, he is calling her a slut. I would call him an asshole if he didn’t overhear Rose carelessly flirting with practically every boy in sight when she came back to the Academy, and the fact that she is one: a major slut. Mead tries to smokescreen this with virginity, but it doesn’t fly from what the audience has seen of Rose. And if even a part of Dimitri believes she’s a slut, there is no way in hell he could respect her as a person or a guardian. He ogled her in her bra, but that’s a physical attraction, as in not an emotional connection. Mead tries to make up for it when Dimitri confesses that he and Ivan, the deceased Zeklos lord, were good friends.
“I was the top student in my school. I paid attention to everything in my classes, but in the end it wasn’t enough. That’s how it is in this life. One slip, one distraction…” He sighed. “And it’s too late.”
I’m sorry but this makes no sense. He’s talking as if Ivan died on his watch, not another guardian’s. I can see him blaming himself for not being there (he was on leave when Ivan was killed), but to say “in the end it wasn’t enough,” is not sensible self-blame, it’s contrived. Rose then makes the ‘big discovery’ that Dimitri hasn’t gotten over Ivan’s death and misses him a lot. It makes sense for her to feel sympathy, but I’m still waiting for something that will build an emotional connection, Mead. You’re wasting a golden opportunity here!
After finishing his lecture on the fatality of distractions, Dimitri says that he will teach Rose advanced combat techniques if he can trust her not to let distractions get the better of her.
You know, now that I think about it, Dimitri seems to be offering praise and advanced training only after Rose does stupid and irresponsible things. Think about it: when does he offer to train her? After she calls him cheap foreign labor and mouths off to every authority she can find. When does he tell her he hopes she will be worthy of guardianship? After he learns she never practiced during her two year absence due to laziness. When does he tell her that Lissa would be okay if she was with Rose? After she boasts that she would kill Strigoi with weapons she doesn’t even know how to wield. When does he offer to teach her advanced combat techniques? After he sees her behaving like the slut that she is. What a great teacher.
Mead, you’re really pissing on your lead guy here.
The next training session I’m just going to summarize in one sentence: Rose and Dimitri spar, Dimitri ends up on top of her, they share a long look. The end. Okay, that was two sentences, but I couldn’t resist.
Finally during the fifth training session, I actually *gasp* start to feel somewhat of a connection between these two. We learn that Rose resents her mother for all but abandoning her for a career as a guardian, but says that being raised by dhampir “blood whores” would have been worse. Dimitri in turn tells Rose a bit about his life growing up in a dhampir commune. He denounces the rumors of dhampir communes being ‘blood whore territory’ and claims that whatever people may say, dhampirs greatly value family and love. When Rose discovers that Dimitri beat up his royal Moroi father for abusing his mother, she realizes that his strong reaction to her and Jesse is partly because he saw Jesse as another spoiled, pretentious royal thinking his status made it okay for him to take advantage of dhampir girls.
But interesting as this is, it still pisses on Dimitri’s character (and when I say character I mean the character that Mead is trying to make him out to be) to tell Rose things this personal when his respect for her is so contrived. Mead only makes things worse when Rose tries to explain away the false rumors that she had sex with Jesse and Ralf and allowed them to drink her blood.
“I know it’s not true,” he interrupted.
His immediate, certain answer surprised me, and I stupidly found myself questioning it. “Yeah, but how do you–?”
“Because I know you,” he replied firmly. “I know your character. I know you’re going to be a great guardian.”
….he saw her act like a slut. He knows she’s a slut. He all but called her a slut. Yet he refuses point-blank to believe rumors that could very well be true for all he knows. And he does know her character, how flippant and careless she is about flaunting her sexuality, and her incredibly irresponsible behavior as a novice guardian.
“You understand your responsibilities better than guardians twice your age.”
If that’s true, then be afraid for the Moroi. Be very, very afraid.
Some time later, Rose and a few other guardians including Dimitri go on a shopping trip with several Moroi royal girls. They have somewhat of a connecting moment when, during a conversation, they both say that they would want someone to kill them if God forbid they were ever forced to become evil Strigoi, but because of everything Mead has done (or hasn’t done) so far, it doesn’t have the impact that it should. Especially since afterward she reminds us that the real attraction between them is purely physical and any emotional connection is contrived. Rose buys a strapless clingy black dress and asks Dimitri if wearing it will endanger her reputation.
When he spoke, I could barely hear him. “You’ll endanger the school.”
When they get back to the Academy, Rose walks on a bench to look cool and badass but ends up falling and breaking her ankle. When she wakes up she finds Dimitri watching over her. He gives her a get well present, they hug, and lastly share a long “look.” If anything I respect Mead for this since she hasn’t insulted my intelligence like so many other times before. Here she sticks to her guns about the true nature of their relationship.
To summarize their last three scenes in the book, Prince Victor Dashkov puts a compulsion spell on Rose’s necklace to make the attraction between her and Dimitri all but irresistible. Before they are about to have sex, Dimitri gains enough sense to destroy the necklace. They both realize Victor has kidnapped Lissa and rescue her. Dimitri wants to report on exactly what happened, knowing he will undoubtedly be fired but feels he deserves it. Rose insists it isn’t a big deal, but Dimitri counters that it is due to her minor status and her innocence. After all that, he spins some really, really stupid bullshit, claiming that their sexual encounter was only due to the necklace and that he isn’t at all interested in her that way. That he would lie to her like this after an entire book full of sexual tension speaks volumes of his respect for her intelligence. In turn, Rose should know instantly that he’s lying, but believes him like an idiot. Only when Victor Dashkov himself informs her that the spell would not have worked unless there were feelings to begin with does she realize he was lying. In the end, Dimitri reveals the real reason that they can’t be together.
“…you and I will be Lissa’s guardians someday. I need to protect her at all costs. If a pack of Strigoi come, I need to throw my body between them and her…If I let myself love you, I won’t throw myself in front of her. I’ll throw myself in front of you.”
Guardian duty is the reason they can’t be together. Which would make sense if Mead hadn’t pissed on Dimitri’s values so many times by letting Rose get away with so much bullshit.
The sad part is Mead had everything she needed to create two three-dimensional, compelling, likable characters along with an interesting relationship. Here’s what she should have done:
Instead of being a stoic, responsibility fanatic as a teenager, Dimitri should have been more like Rose: very talented but arrogant, self-assured, and promiscuous. He and Ivan Zeklos are still best friends, but carefree and believe that they can take on anything together. Their recklessness escalates to the point where they actually go looking for Strigoi to kill just to prove how tough they are and to thumb their noses at all of the teachers who preached caution. Ivan dies, and Dimitri is so wracked with guilt that he runs away. He spends a year on his own and almost becomes a Strigoi himself when his pain and anger grows so great, he almost kills a human he’s feeding on. He contemplates suicide, but then stumbles across a Moroi family under attack by Strigoi. He kills them, and decides to become a guardian again. His self-loathing and guilt remain, but he realizes that running away was the coward’s way out and that there is still a lot of good he can do.
The Rose in my version is still very bitchy and arrogant, but she didn’t slack off at all during her two year absence. She trained herself every day to hone the skills she already had. At first Dimitri agrees to train her only because he believes someone like her could become Strigoi if she ever snaps like he did. She really tests his temper and patience, but she slowly grows on him, and he becomes attracted to her against his will. He still retains a bit of a rebellious streak when he secretly takes Lissa on as an apprentice as well. Moroi are forbidden to be trained in combat, but he believes it’s idiotic to leave Lissa completely defenseless. He and Lissa bond too and Lissa begins to see him as an older brother figure (her own brother, Andre, was killed in a car crash along with her parents). Also in my version, it takes at least two if not three books for Rose and Dimitri to fall in love. Rose slowly matures and grows as a person, and Dimitri grows to admire and respect her. But at the end of the second or third book after professing their love to each other, they agree that they can’t be together. They both care deeply for Lissa and agree that her life and their duty to her as her guardians is more important than their love. This would also make the audience feel conflicted as well since they care about Dimitri’s relationship with Rose and Lissa.
But alas, it is not to be. The real romance is contrived, sucky, and just plain boring. It gets no better in the second book and I have no expectations for the last four that I have yet to read. And romance aside, I am not yet done with the first book. Eventually I will do a full review and point out every problem I can spot. Stay tuned!