by Richelle Mead
Here’s why I normally love Richelle Mead. Her books always contain:
- Strong, kick-ass heroines
- Fun action sequences
- Completely immersive urban fantasy
- Snarky humor
- Strong emotional story arcs
- Cute, cute boys.
Always, that is, except in the case of her most recent book, Bloodlines, a new spin-off series from her Vampire Academy books. I’ve read all thirteen of the author’s previous novels, including her adult urban fantasy series Dark Swan and Georgina Kincaid, and I’m sorry to say that I’ve never before had such a hard time getting into one of Richelle Mead’s books.
Sydney, the main character in Bloodlines, was never all that interesting to me in VA–but if anything, she’s even harder to connect with here. Sydney has been maneuvered into a protector/big sister situation with Jill, who has to go in hiding while her sister Queen Vasilissa tries to affect certain changes in court law. The problem starts with the fact that this is a very similar dynamic to the Rose Hathaway/Lissa relationship, and the parallel only serves to remind us how much more interesting and kick-ass Rose was as a heroine. If the shadow of Rose wasn’t enough, particularly in how she affects Adrian, she even makes an appearance a few times in person, as if Bloodlines could not stand on its own merits without her.
And I’m not sure that it actually can. Sydney is placed in the thankless position of being a stick-in-the-mud “mom” figure, constantly chiding Jill for this and Adrian for that. She’s also fearful, afraid to take action, cowed by her father and by the authority figure Keith, has severe image problems (she thinks as a size 2, she’s too fat compared to the thin vamps around her), she has no social skills (she has no clue when boys are hitting on her), she is “confused” by why other kids hate her for always volunteering the right answers in class, and if that weren’t enough, she’s also kind of a racist. Yep, she’s terribly suspicious and fearful of vampires and magic in general, which is a pretty big problem when you’re totally surrounded by both those things. There are steps taken to show a certain amount of growth and development in her character, but honestly she became so tiresome and uninteresting to me that I really wasn’t all that convinced by it. Certainly not enough to care about what happened to her one way or the next.
Other problems included a self-centered, whiny Jill (if you thought Lissa was annoying, wait until you spend time with her sister!), three boys who are into Jill (although why there’s even one is beyond me), a mopey Adrian (it’s incredibly disappointing to see so little meaningful time spent with one of my favorite characters, although he’s technically always there), a villain that’s all too easy to spot, and above all, supremely uninteresting plots and subplots. Have we really resorted to juvenile “Oh noes, where is Jill? She’s been sneaking out to see her boyfriend!” and “Let’s switch Jill’s P.E. period so she doesn’t get burned by the unfriendly sun!” and “Sweet heaven, will Jill get to participate in the fashion show???” type plots in Vampire Academy world? Really?
While I did enjoy the small amount of time spent on Sydney’s Alchemy skills and the mysterious business of the magic tattoos, there wasn’t enough magic, action, emotional arcs, strong characters, or plot development, so this book felt very off the mark to me. I will keep reading the series in the hope that it will get better, but this first installment is much less thrilling than it should have been.
I am normally such a fan of this author’s books, because even when they aren’t perfect, they’ve always had the elements I mentioned above–and I’ve always found them to be entertaining and fun. But sadly, I can’t say that I found Bloodlines to be either one of those things. A big, big disappointment to me, in every conceivable way.
Release Date: August 23, 2011
Rated 2. 5 out of 5 stars
30-Second Synopsis: In this spinoff of the popular Vampire Academy series, Alchemist Sydney must protect pretty, pretty princess Jill from those who might do her harm. Unfortunately, Sydney isn’t equipped with very many defenses, magical or otherwise, so the book is unfortunately a major disappointment from a well-respected author.
Regardless of my feelings about the book, though, my thanks go out to Flannery over at The Readventurer for loaning me her ARC!