by Richelle Mead
First line: "I felt her fear before I heard her screams."
In the first book of this series, Lissa Dragomir and Rose Hathaway return to St. Vladimir's Academy after a two-year absence. I love the way this book drops you into the middle of the story.
The Vampire Academy series features several different subtypes of vampires. Vampirism is passed on genetically. Moroi tend to be slender and somewhat fragile. They can survive in sunlight, although it does make them very weak. They have to drink human blood every couple of days in order to keep up their strength, but they don't kill in order to do so. Each Moroi has an elemental affinity and is able to wield magic. Dhampirs, on the other hand, are half-human, half-vampire. Dhampirs have unusual strength, but they can only bear children by Moroi, and their offspring will always be dhampir. Most male dhampirs swear fealty to a particular Moroi and protect them as bodyguards. Many female dhampirs take on work as "blood whores" trading sexual services, and donating blood to Moroi for the high that it gives them. Dhampirs are treated by their Moroi counterparts as trusted servants as best, and second class citizens at worst. Finally, the Strigoi are former Moroi who have gone to the dark side. They are immortal, enjoy killing humans, harassing Moroi, and are recognizable by their pale skin and red-rimmed eyes.
Unbeknownst to anyone else, Moroi princess Lissa actually has the very rare elemental ability of "Spirit" allowing her to share a one-way psychic link with her best friend Rose, the dhampir that Lissa hopes will be assigned as her bodyguard when she graduates. Lissa's affinity for Spirit gives her the power to heal and use compulsion, but also subjects her to deep depressions. Sarcastic, funny, dhampir Rose's loyalties are torn between her needy friend Lissa and hunky Dimitri, her fight instructor. Rose is also covering up the fact that she's experiencing mild withdrawals from the high she got when provided blood (a deeply shameful activity) to her friend Lissa while they were on the run. In the meantime, Lissa is stealing her arch-rival Mia's boyfriend Andrew for the social prestige, even though she'd rather be with moody Christian. When Lissa is kidnapped by powerful Moroi politician Victor (who hopes to cash in on her healing abilities) Rose must use her psychic ability to save Lissa.
Mead's trinity of vampire races, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and her inventive return to the Romanian and Russian roots of vampire lore gives us a fresh take on the genre. Rose is a strong character who is struggling to balance duty and friendship. Part high-school intrigue, part kick-ass adventure, I'm enjoying this whole series.
I borrowed this book from the library.