8 Rated Books

Book Review: Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

Title: Shadow Kiss

Author: Richelle Mead

Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy

Stand alone or series: Book 3 of the Vampire Academy series.

Why did I read this book: As if our recent Richelle-A-Palooza is any indicator, I’m a huge fan Richelle’s. I love her characters, her fast moving plots, and this young adult vampire series is ever so much more fulfilling–and dare I say honest–than many others out there right now. I loved Vampire Academy, loved Frostbite even more, and could not wait to get my greedy paws on Shadow Kiss.

Summary: (from RichelleMead.com)
It’s springtime at St. Vladimir’s Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn’t been feeling quite right. She’s having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all…might be seeing ghosts. As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose’s forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line–and choose between the two people she loves most.

Review:

First a caveat–I’ll break out the review into spoiler-free and spoiler-ridden sections–I’ll advise before divulging any spoilers that deal with Shadow Kiss. Also, please note that since this is book 3 of a series, spoilers from the first two books will be necessarily discussed here. If you have not read the first two books and do not wish to be spoiled, please look away!

I discovered Shadow Kiss in my local Borders, one of the few that sneaked out early onto shelves before its release date. Immediately, I snatched up the book and ran home, eager to dive right back into the drama and action that is St. Vladimir’s. A few hours later, I had finished the book…and was in a complete state of shock. Speechless. In part, I think this is why I waited a week to post my review–giving the implications of the novel to really sink in.

Shadow Kiss begins with Rose and the other Dhampir students at St. Vladimir’s ready to undertake their six-week training exercise as Guardians to their assigned Moroi counterparts. Shortly after the devastating events of Frostbite, Rose (and Eddie and Christian) are still trying to come to terms with everything they suffered through together at the hands of the Strigoi, and with Mason’s death. So, when Rose starts seeing Mason’s ghost on campus, she tries to shake it off as a product of her guilt and her own stress.

Meanwhile, things are falling apart for Rose as she is not assigned Lissa as her Moroi to guard–instead she must follow Christian, Lissa’s boyfriend and Rose’s rival, while Eddie is assigned to Lissa. Also, Lissa learns from Dimitri that Victor Dashkov is getting prepared to stand trial, and neither Lissa nor Rose will be called to testify. Moody, incredibly stressed out, seeing ghosts, and just being the impulsive and anger-prone person she is, Rose lashes out angrily at everyone–from Dimitri for his inability to get her to the trial to testify, to teachers and Guardians for their assigning her to Christian instead of Lissa. When Rose’s visions of ghosts start to grow stronger, interfering with her training examination and later off campus, Rose realizes that something far more sinister than stress is at play, and will change Rose forever.

Shadow Kiss is the longest of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books, and also the most complex in terms of plots and subplots. Although I feel there is a degree of predictability with Ms. Mead’s novels, there was a particular twist to this story that took me completely off guard (more on that in a bit). As always, despite any qualms I may have with predictability in terms of plot, this book is so well written and engaging that all is forgiven. As one author dear to my heart stated, it’s not really about the ending–it’s about the journey.

And, as in all of Richelle Mead’s books, it is the characters that are the true draw, and their layered, complex relationships. Rose Hathaway is undeniably frustrating, immature, and infuriating at times. She is loud-mouthed and passionate, and some of her actions in this book made me want to reach out and shake her by the throat. And yet, she is completely believable as a seventeen year old girl, forced to live in the literal shadow of her vulnerable best friend, hiding a serious relationship, and grappling with issues of life and death that no seventeen year old girl should have to grapple with. It is because of Rose’s strange combination of toughness and vulnerability that makes her so endearing as a heroine, despite some of her too-stupid-to-live moments. Her relationship with Lissa is seriously examined here–it’s been a long time coming, considering how Lissa almost takes Rose for granted as a safety net–both in terms of their remarkable bond, as Guardian and Moroi and in terms of where they stand as best friends. Then, there’s the burgeoning romance with Dimitri, which goes to a whole new level in this book. Although it certainly seems that Rose acts immaturely at times, she has grown over the course of these three books and this is reflected in her serious bond with Dimitri. It’s a powerful thing to read, almost brutal in its honesty, especially considering this is a young adult novel–and I mean this in the very best way. Not everything is sunshine and unicorns for Rosemarie, which is an invaluable message, especially to younger readers (I cannot help but compare Rose’s actions and consequences here against the blah Bella of the Twilight books, where everything is so prettily and tidily tied up in a pretty bow).

Shadow Kiss is another wonderful entry in the series, the best book so far in terms of depth, character development, and emotional investment. I’m certain some fans of the series will be put off by the ending (heck, I was, sort of)–but it is what it is. This is another winner by Richelle Mead, and book 4 cannot come soon enough!

Notable Quotes/Parts: I love this passage, showing the nature of the relationship between Lissa and Rose.

“There you are. What happened? You missed dinner.”

I’d completely forgotten. “Sorry…got carried away with some guardian stuff. It’s a long story.”

She’d changed for dinner. Her hair was still pulled up, and she now wore a form-fitting dress made out of silver raw silk. She looked beautiful. She looked royal. I thought about Victor’s words and wondered if she really could be the power for change he swore she was. Looking like she did now, so glamorous and self-composed, I could imagine people following her anywhere. I certainly would, but then, I was biased.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked with a small smile.

I couldn’t tell her that I’d just seen the man who frightened her the most. I couldn’t tell her that while she’d been out living it up, I’d been off watching her back in the shadows, like I would always do.

Instead, I returned her smile. “I like the dress.”

Additional Thoughts: Which brings me to the TWIST!

***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** (To read, highlight the following seemingly blank section)

The twist–Dimitri becomes a Strigoi. And good god is it cruel, and heartbreaking, and I admit I was a huge, HUGE mess about it all. Just when Rose and Dimitri finally say screw it, are together and are blissfully happy for a few moments together, decide to work with different Moroi so they can be together…it’s all coldly taken away.

I don’t know how to feel about it–part of me thinks it brutally sadistic and unnecessary of Ms. Mead to turn Dimitri into a Strigoi. And yet…it forces Rose to grow up, to become her own person, to leave St. Vlad’s and the protection in living her life for Lissa. I love this book for this particular twist, but I hate it too because DAMMIT I want Rose and Dimitri to be together. It’s been a while since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a book (since the last Harry Potter book), which is both a good and bad thing.

If anyone wants to discuss (weep, rage, rant, hold hands and hug for comfort, etc) the ending, please do so in the comments, but make sure to note if you discuss anything spoilery!

***END SPOILERS***

Rating: 8 Excellent…although it is quite close to a 9 in my book. I loved it.

Reading Next: Silent in the Grave by Diana Raybourn

11 Comments

  • Ana
    November 17, 2008 at 12:32 am

    SPOILERS!!!!

    *holds Thea’s hand and sobs hysterically*

    I CAN NOT believe it. Dude, I am heartbroken.

  • Karen Mahoney
    November 17, 2008 at 3:19 am

    *** SPOILERS *** SPOILERS ***

    Just read it… stayed up most of the night to finish. Omg… *cries* *wails*

    I don’t know what I think about it yet.I know how I FEEL about it, but do I think it was… ‘necessary’? I dunno.

    Huh. Great book, though.

  • Christine
    November 17, 2008 at 5:34 am

    Thanks for marking the spoilers in the review,.. and reminding me that if I haven’t yet read the first two books, I probably shouldn’t be reading the review at all. LOL

    And thanks to Ana and Karen for marking their comments with SPOILERS. I must say I’m so impressed with myself for leaving a comment and not reading ANY of that!!!

    With that being said, two things impress me, Thea. One, that you’ve read and reviewed these three Vampire Academy novels in a relatively short time tells me how much you truly enjoy this series, which I kind of knew already– and reinforces my wish to read these books. Two, that you’ve given the third book an 8 — almost a 9! You’ve convinced me to move them higher on my MUST READ list.

    Maybe I’ll buy them for my daughter for Christmas. And read them before I wrap them? ;p

    …okay, that was a really long winded comment for someone who hasn’t even read Richelle Mead yet. lol Oops. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thea
    November 17, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Christine–*hugs* Hey nice to see you around ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And bravo on your willpower to avoid the spoilerage! (Ana, as you can see, has spoiled herself rotten, LOL)

    I really do recommend this series. It’s smart, it’s so very well written, the characters feel completely real–and what’s best is, it doesn’t condescend. Really, these would be an awesome Christmas gift for either of you! :p I hope you get a chance to read them, I really think you’ll enjoy Rose.

    ****SPOILERS BEGIN HERE!!!!****

    Karen–I know exactly how you feel! I was distraught after reading this book. Kinda angry. Definitely depressed…and I’m holding out for a faint sliver of a chance that Mason was wrong and there is still hope…although I know that is naive and stupid.

    GAAH! I don’t think it was necessary, and I do think it was extremely brutal of Ms. Mead. I really have no idea what to expect for the next book. GAAH!!!! I love it, but I hate it too. It’s been a week and I’m still obsessing over it, LOL.

    Ana–mental tent? *sobs and passes out cookies* :p For old times sake.

  • Karin
    November 17, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    The book sounds fantastic. I think I’ll be reading the whole series.

  • orannia
    November 17, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Hmmm…this book wasn’t about what I thought it was about, which means I have it mixed up with another series….my bad ๐Ÿ™

    Anyway, this book (this series?) sounds very interesting. Unlike Christine, I have absolutely no willpower and I read all the spoilers and all the comments ๐Ÿ™‚ However, like Christine I haven’t read any Richelle Mead books so I’m hopelessly confused by said spoilers ๐Ÿ™‚

    Luckily for me, my library has an available copy so I’ve placed a hold…the book is queue jumping something fierce but…it’s my way of living dangerously (which is slightly worrying ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thea
    November 17, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Karin–I hope you get a chance to read the series! Let us know what you think of it ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s one of my favorite YA series’ still running.

    Orannia :p Hmm there’s also a YA vampire series called the Vampire Diaries, I believe? It’s also supposed to be quite good, although I haven’t tried it.

    Another spoiler fiend, eh? LOL! Well now you really must read the books :p I definitely recommend the Vampire Academy series. Actually, I recommend all of Richelle Mead’s books–I’m a huge fan of her Succubus series as well (starting with Succubus Blues)!

    See, I can be an enabler to your dangerous reading habit ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Tiah
    November 18, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    You know, I was a little upset that this book ended the way it did because I am still not over how Richelle ended Succubus Dreams. I can’t handle two of my favorite series being sad. But now that I have calmed down after a few days, I realize that she just opened up a lot of possibilities for Rose’s story.

    **** POSSIBILE SPOILER ****

    I really didn’t see how Rose and Dimitri would be able to be together the way how the story was going. It would have gotten them killed. But now that this has happened, I think maybe it might work in some weird way. I don’t believe that Rose is strong enough to kill Dimitri both mentally and physically, I just don’t see it. So maybe they can be together, either Rose goes bad, or she stays with Dimitri. I don’t know, it could work!!

    ***END OF SPOILER***

    Richelle Mead definitely knows how to get people talking about her books and getting people on the edge of the seat waiting to pounce on her next one!

  • Anonymous
    November 23, 2008 at 10:44 am

    SPOILER!!!!!!

    i cried! the ending is good but why did that have to happen to demetri? he and rose are meant to be together!

  • Shinelle
    December 6, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    *—-SPOILERS!!—SPOILERS!!—*

    OMFG! i just finished the book…i love it but i hate why she made Dimitri a strigoi *bawling*

    I cannot believe the twist..and now i have to wait another year for the 4th book 2 come out 2 find out what happens?..aw man *runs out of room crying hysterically*

  • Rebekah
    December 20, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    ***spoliers!!! ENTIRE COMMENT***

    Just finished reading it and can’t see the keyboard through my tears- please excuse any misspellings.

    I never cry over books. Never. I can’t go an hour without having a book on hand, so it’s not because I’m a light reader. I guess you can say I’ve become jaded. I have a short list of auto-buy authors, and sometimes I will reread a book by a favored author simply because I can trust their work. And none of them make me cry. None. But this book… I’ve been crying like a b****! lol Seriously, I’m crying right now. And I mean crying as in snot, drool, wailing, running mascara- all that! I hate YA novels, but since I picked up VA two weeks ago I have been hooked. I was telling Hubby when I was in the strongest of the emotional wave, “It’s terrible. It’s horrible. She’s wonderful. I want to have her skill as a writer. I want to be able to evoke this kind of emotion.” It’s all sort of… twisted. Ya know? I hate what happened (and I’m hoping against hope- like with the way S Dreams ended- that there’s a silver lining. That her ties with death will change Dimitri!)
    I guess what makes it worse is that I was so relieved about the ending of Succubus Dreams because I was almost convinced that Seth wouldn’t have the end- well, the end Dimitri had.
    Like so many have said before (all over the internet actually!): I hate this book. I love this book.
    There are no doubts that R. Mead is on my auto-buy list. With both her series. She has knocked me out of my jadedness. In a good way of course!
    Thanks so much for the review. You said so much of the things I think.

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