Title: Blood Promise
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Publication Date: August 2009
Hardcover: 512 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 4 in the ongoing Vampire Academy series
How did I get this book: Review Copy from Publicist
Why did I read this book: I’m kind of a huge fan of Richelle Mead’s, and the Vampire Academy books are amazing – Twilight fans, you really should be reading about Rose and Dimitri, because this is a series that kicks the scrawny, melodramatic Twilight’s butt. On Thursday of last week, we hosted a stop on a Richelle Mead blog tour, and what better way to follow that up than with a review of Blood Promise?
Summary: (from RichelleMead.com)
Rose Hathaway’s life will never be the same.
The recent attack on St. Vladimir’s Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose’s neck, a mark that says she’s killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life’s vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She’ll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?
Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir’s and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?
***IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS NECESSARY SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST THREE BOOKS IN THE SERIES. IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE BOOKS YET, LOOK NO FURTHER! Major spoilers for the first three books ensue, after the break… (And also, if you haven’t read these books yet, for the love of Pete, what are you waiting for!!!!???? Go forth and pick up Vampire Academy. IMMEDIATELY.)***
The last year of Rose Hathaway’s life has been an unimaginable morass of action, filled with danger, responsibility, and emotional highs and lows. After the Strigoi attack on St. Vladimir’s, however, Rose’s life has been irreparably shattered – Dimitri, her friend, mentor, and love of her life has been sentenced to a fate worse than death. He has become Strigoi. Rose is heartbroken but determined, as she and Dimitri have agreed that rather than be sentenced to an eternity as the soulless, murdering existence of the Strigoi, they would rather be staked and killed – and she intends to give Dimitri’s soul the release that he deserves. On the ghostly message from Mason, a good friend who has been killed by Strigoi, that Dimitri has returned to Siberia, Rose drops out of St. Vladimir’s to accomplish her dangerous goal. Not only is Rose truly alone as she tries to find Dimitri, but dropping out of school also means that she’s forsaken her Guardian training, and she’s left her best friend and future charge, Lissa Dragomir, behind – unprotected. While Rose grows ever closer to finding Dimitri, she uses her one-way bond with Lissa to check on her closest friend, and discovers that things are not going so well back in Montana. Lissa’s behavior and emotions are growing ever darker and unstable, but Rose cannot help until she’s finished what she came to Siberia to do – though killing Dimitri may prove harder than she could have imagined.
Oh holy crap, I love this series. Easily my favorite vampire books, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series only keeps getting better with each installment, and Blood Promise is no exception – this is the best book in the series thus far. There is a whole lot of angst and pain in this book, as you can imagine – I definitely was having some Buffy circa season 2 flashbacks, with Dimitri’s 180 from loving, kind boyfriend to murderous monster. The actual plotting of Blood Promise is pretty simplistic. Both plotlines – one involving Rose in her search for Dimitri, the other involving Lissa’s troubles back at school – are well written and the 500 or so pages of this novel fly by, in trademark Richelle Mead style. Also in trademark style, however, is a degree of predictability with the storylines. It’s pretty obvious what’s happening to Lissa (though Lissa, Rose, Adrian, and Christian are thickheadedly ignorant), and it’s also pretty clear by mid-novel exactly which direction Rose and Dimitri’s plotline is headed. Nine times out of ten, predictability is a bad thing in novels, particularly for me as a reader – there’s nothing more infuriating than having a painfully obvious answer that the protagonists are willingly oblivious to. But, for some reason, Richelle Mead’s writing is so addictive, so expertly paced, that the predictability factor is insignificant. I couldn’t separate this book from my hands for a full day, until i had read the entire thing. Some criticisms that the book begins slowly are perhaps warranted as, doubtless, fans are eager to see what happens with Rose and Dimitri nowNowNOW!, but I like that Ms. Mead takes her time easing us back into this world of Dhampirs, Moroi and Strigoi – Rose really has no idea where to find Dimitri, and her adventures looking for him set a nice realistic tone for the book. There’s a lot of emotional buildup so that when these two finally cross paths, the tension is palpable. I loved it.
The best part about Blood Promise, however, lies with Ms. Mead’s characters, with Rose in particular. The physical distance between Lissa and Rose is a good thing here, because it forces the two young women to grow as individuals. Rose can be an abrasive heroine at times because of her glib attitude and her tendency to rush into danger – but she is forced to grow up a lot here in Blood Promise. In many ways, this book is a farewell to Dimitri, as Rose grieves for the love she has lost and comes to terms with what she must do to honor his memory. It’s one thing for Rose to say she will stake Dimitri as she promised she would, but it’s quite another thing to actually do it. Rose undergoes a lot in this book as she struggles with her own traitorous feelings. Blood Promise finally shows how the brash, hotheaded teenager has become a woman, as Rose grows out of her petty, melodramatic problems and faces soul-searching questions. I was incredibly impressed with how much Rose grows up in this book, and can only applaud Ms. Mead for this excellent characterization.
Similarly, Lissa undergoes a change of her own. She’s always struck me as a sweet but self-important character. Not that she’s malicious or lords her Moroi Royal status over Rose – she’s a good person and cares more than anything for her best friend since childhood – but she naturally knows that Rose is here to catch her and protect her no matter what. She’s not willfully snooty, but the idea that Moroi are the most important and atop the vampiric power hierarchy is so ingrained in both Lissa and Rose, her attitude and dependence on Rose is unconscious. But here, in Blood Promise, Lissa finally makes the shocking realization that there is an imbalance in her relationship with Rose, and at least some of that is her own fault. I found myself warming considerably toward Lissa, making the reunion of these two characters all the more sweet.
And, finally, there’s Dimitri himself. I won’t say much because I do not want to spoil – but suffice to say that his transformation is heartbreaking. It would have been so easy for Ms. Mead to have “cheated” with Dimitri – making him a “good” strigoi, or not even a strigoi at all. But she doesn’t do that, and I can only hope that she continues with this realism in the final two books of Rose’s arc. I also want to mention dear Adrian Ivashkov – another Moroi royal, and one who obviously cares very much for Rose. A fellow spirit wielder like Lissa, Adrian has crafted a playboy/scoundrel persona – but we finally get a good close look at him in Blood Promise. And, well, he’s awesome. There are also two notable character additions that merit mention – the first is a mysterious, mobster-like Dhampir named Abe Mazur; the second a human Alchemist named Casey. Both characters are fabulous and welcome additions, and I cannot wait to read more about them.
As much as I loved Blood Promise, I wasn’t crazy about the ending of the book. I’m firmly on Team Adrian now – and I hope Ms. Mead lets Rose let Dimitri go. I don’t want a fairy tale, I don’t want any ridiculous Breaking Dawn-like “Happy” Ending. I want the realism and heartache that Ms. Mead has pumped these books up with thus far (though perhaps this is sales suicide for an author, given that I’m certain there’s a very loud DIMITRI AND ROSE FOREVER contingent out there). Nonetheless, I am excited and wait with bated breath for the next book in the series, Spirit Bound. Dammit, is it May yet?!
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
I was being followed.
It was kind of ironic, considering the way I’d been following others for the last few weeks. At least it wasn’t a Strigoi. I would have already known. A recent effect of being shadow-kissed was the ability to sense the undead—through bouts of nausea, unfortunately. Still, I appreciated my body’s early warning system and was relieved my stalker tonight wasn’t an insanely fast, insanely vicious vampire. I’d fought enough of those recently and kind of wanted a night off.
I had to guess my follower was a dhampir like me, probably one from the club. Admittedly, this person was moving a little less stealthily than I would have expected of a dhampir. Their footsteps were clearly audible against the pavement of the dark side streets I was traveling on, and once, I’d caught a brief glimpse of a shadowy figure. Still, considering my rash actions tonight, a dhampir was the most likely culprit.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: There are a planned eight more books in the Vampire Academy series – two more for Rose’s story, and then six following a different pair of characters. The next title in the series, Spirit Bound, comes out May 18, 2009.
While we wait anxiously for the next chapter in Rose & Dimitri’s story, we’ll be over here, drooling over the gorgeous international covers for the books:
Verdict: I loved Blood Promise, if you couldn’t tell. An absolutely fabulous addition to the Vampire Academy series, and my favorite novel to date (and easily a Notable Read of 2009 for me). I only wish I had the next book. Now. Absofreakinglutely recommended.
Rating: 8 – Awesome (Again, leaning towards a 9)
Reading Next: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
We are giving away ONE copy of Blood Promise to a lucky reader! The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada and will run until Saturday November 14 at 11:59 PM (PST). In order to enter, leave a comment here telling us who your favorite vampire or vampire slayer is (from movies, tv, books, whatever), and why. Good luck!