Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bloodlines - Richelle Mead

Dang. A blog already beat me to this title: Sydney Sage, the Hermione Granger of AlchemistsI’m going to reiterate it anyways, mostly because it is totally fitting for the protagonist of Bloodlines, the first book of a new spin-off series by the fabulous Richelle Mead. And it sounds cool. :D
I originally fell in love with Rose Hathaway in the Vampire Academy (VA) series. Her witty remarks and super badass-ness was refreshing and extremely entertaining. Unfortunately, Rose’s story came to an end with the release of Last Sacrifice in December 2010. But there were still some HUGEE loose ends that weren’t tied, for example: WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO EDDIE, ADRIAN AND JILL??? (I’ll try to keep this as spoiler-free as possible; if you’ve read Last Sacrifice already, you’ll understand ;D)
Imagine the huge torrent of relief VA fans felt when Richelle Mead announced there will be a spin-off series, starring the characters mentioned above, as well as Sydney Sage, the mysterious Alchemist. Bloodlines was released just yesterday, and I wasn’t able to put it down until 1:30 AM this morning. ‘Nuff said. ;)

Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty - a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning...
More info about Bloodlines can be found here,  and (if you’re interested), Vampire Academy here.

Since Sydney is the new narrator of this series, Bloodlines has a slight change of pace. While Rose is impulsive, outspoken and slightly crazy, Sydney is uptight, dry in her humour and, well, geeky. Being raised as an Alchemist, Sydney has very strong beliefs pounded into her DNA; vampires – Moroi AND Strigoi – are unnatural evil creatures of the night and humans must be protected from them. Because of her shenanigans with Rose in VA, Sydney doesn’t particularly want this mission. She’s not even the first choice, but when it comes down to either her little sister signing up eternal service to the Alchemists or being sent in her place, Sydney steps up and goes.

Her social skills are put to the test as she enrols in Amberwood Prep to look out for Jill, and the fact that she’s homeschooled and knows the periodic table backwards and forwards makes her very socially awkward. Still, she manages to make friends. My personal favourite part?

A guy in her class: There’s a silent film festival downtown next week. Do you think you’d want to go?
Sydney: No, I don’t think so. I respect it as an art form but really don’t get much out of watching them.

Guy smooths hair back, groping for thoughts.
Sydney thinking, Why on earth is he asking me about silent films?

Guy: What about Starship 30? It opens Friday. Do you want to see that?
Sydney: I don’t really like sci-fi either.
Guy: Is there any movie out there you want to see?
Sydney: *mentally runs through current entertainment* No. Not really.
*bell rings, Sydney turns to friend as Guy leaves*
Sydney: That was weird. He has bad tastes in movies.
Friend: *gasping in silent laughter* That was hilarious. Sydney, he was asking you out!
Sydney: *replays conversation, puzzled* No, he wasn’t. He was asking me about cinema.

I can’t tell you how hard I laughed over that. She is adorably oblivious.

She may be oblivious in her social skills, but when it comes to doing her job, being responsible and being brave, well, Sydney has it down pat. And she has a lot of baggage. She works so hard and is amazing at everything she does, but always feels like she falls short. Between her demanding and displeasing father, her butthole Alchemist “boss” Keith, Adrian’s childish wallowing, Jill’s emotional adjustment issues, Sydney’s job should be changed from “Guardian” to “The One who Deals with Crap”.

And then there’s the actual plotline. Because, aside from creating amazing characters, Richelle Mead also excels in coming up with mysterious and suspenseful events throughout her books. For one, the students at Amberwood Prep have a strange fascination with illicit tattoos that are too suspiciously like Sydney’s Alchemist tattoo. For another, there are humans and vampires alike being murdered in a distressingly similar way; bitten with slit throats. Is it the evil Strigoi vampires? Or dangerous human vampire hunters? Hmmm...

I also absolutely LOVE the fact that many of the old characters in VA make cameo appearances in Bloodlines. Nothing like a familiar character to brighten your day! Rose, mentions of Sonya Karp and Dimitri Belikov (to many fans’ delight), Lissa Dragomir, and even the cunning old zmey slithers in – Abe Mazur! Yes, a familiar cast of characters indeed... And the book was gripping enough that even the very last line had me squealing. It is an... interesting cliffhanger. Seriously, I think I fell asleep with a worried smile, if that’s possible.

Overall, AMAZING. I loved every moment in this book. It may have something to do with the fact that I already loved Vampire Academy before, so reading about the same world excites me. I highly recommend that readers check out the VA series first. It isn’t NECESSARY for Bloodlines, but it definitely adds an extra layer of depth to Adrian’s emotions in this book. It also explains a few things about Eddie and Jill’s actions. All in all, a gripping book that has me counting down the days and stalking Richelle Mead’s twitter for any news about the second book, The Golden Lily.

- sm:)e

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