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Vampire Academy vol 2: Frostbite

Vampire Academy vol 2: Frostbite back

Richelle Mead, Leigh Dragoon & Emma Vieceli


Page 45 Review by Stephen

“What happened?”
“My mother. My mother happened.”

Yowsa – that was intense! I don’t know how much of a kick you lot got from VAMPIRE ACADEMY VOL 1 but this is on another level entirely. The climax is phenomenal, the sequence so shocking that I could not believe what I was reading.

The key is that by now Mead, Dragoon and Vieceli have made it all so personal. They’ve invested so much in the stars’ complex relationships that the reader has too. They’ve defined each individual so well that the twists and turns, as so many break loose, are breath-taking.

This second volume kicks off with a hefty reintroduction to where we find ourselves now, but you’ll need it because the rules are pretty complicated.

Rose Hathaway and Lissa Dragomir share a rare bond born of a long, involved history but socially they couldn't stand further apart. Not only is Rose but a dhampir – half-human, half-vampire and of unknown paternal descent – but Lissa is both a fully-fledged Moroi and of royal line to boot. The Moroi are mortal vampires who need human blood to survive – usually donated voluntarily by dhampirs. They're under constant threat from the ravenous Strigoi vampires who crave Moroi blood not to survive but to increase their immortal power. That makes Lissa a prime target and the Academy's role educating dhampirs to protect her vital. You'd have thought then that Rose's empathic gift of being able to feel what Lissa feels would make her indispensable, but her position at the Academy is purely probationary: she's seen as far too impetuous and ill-disciplined.

Now, just as Rose is about to undertake a graduation test, there’s an attack on a royal household leaving all seven Moroi and their three guardian dhampirs dead. Worse still, the sanctuary’s ward was broken by a silver dagger which the Strigoi can’t even touch meaning that they now have human allies. From a message scrawled in blood on the bathroom mirror Rose and her trainer Dimitri infer that a cell of Strigoi are bent on snuffing out each Royal family making Lissa, the last in her line, a prime target. Back at the academy both the young Moroi and trainee dhampirs are reeling in the wake of the assault. The Moroi are forbidden from using their elemental powers offensively while their guardians there simply aren’t ready. And that’s when Rose’s distant mother turns up, disturbing all sorts of emotional detritus in the resentful teenager’s heart. It’s going to be the worst Christmas ever.

The key words there are “resentful” and “teenage” because the series’ narrator, Rose, still has a lot of growing up to do. Perfect protagonists bore me, and Rose though pretty is far from perfect, struggling with a forbidden love for Dimitri while being pursued by the eminently more suitable, perfectly handsome and selflessly respectful Mason. She’s jealous of Lissa’s relationship with Christian, and thumps before she thinks. Things are further complicated by the arrival of Lissa’s cousin who somehow has access to Lissa’s dreams and believe me when I tell you that so many sub-plots bubbling beneath the surface finally come into full play.

None of which would be half so impressive without Emma Vieceli’s art, so sympathetic both to the script and to the troubled hearts externalised through the most subtle of expressions. There’s a soft vulnerability to Vieceli’s lines which perfectly mirrors the teenagers’ tentative attempts to express themselves and reach out to each other while mindful of – or confused by – the social or personal boundaries. That’s really what this is all about: the relationships. And that’s why the climactic violence, when it finally explodes on the page, it’s so fucking shocking.

My favourite two pages, however, were spent with Rose unwillingly trapped inside Lissa’s head as she’s about to do the nasty with Christian, unable to sever the empathic bond and about to lose her virginity vicariously! The final three panels are exquisitely timed as Rose finally breaks free, physically wrenched, her bruised eye staring out of the frame at the reader:

“That was… unpleasant.”