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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 acivil 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...*
Bloodlines is the first book in Richelle Mead's latest YA series (also titled 'Bloodlines'), a spin-off series from her popular Vampire Academy novels, but Bloodlines will follow a set of characters who were relatively minor in the first series, specifically Sydney, Adrian, Jill and Eddie.
Generally speaking, none of these characters really appealed to me in the VA series. Sydney, introduced in VA #4, was a character I found particularly irritating; Adrian, who we met in VA #2, was a character I initially liked and then gradually found more and more frustrating as the books went on. Jill and Eddie I was pretty indifferent to. But I enjoy Mead's writing style, her realistic dialogue and her engaging plots, plus I love the VA universe, so I bought Bloodlines yesterday, hoping that those points would make up for the characters.
No kidding, I read this book in 6 hours. And I loved the characters. It's only in retrospect that I've realised how stupid I was, thinking I wouldn't enjoy this series because the character's didn't appeal to me in the previous one. What I didn't take into account was the fact that VA was told in first person from the point of view of someone with little patience for sitting around or holding back her opinion (or anything, for that matter), that character being Rose Hathaway. So of course my opinions of these characters would be coloured by Rose's ideas (a fact which has made me appreciate Mead's writing all the more).
I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I took to Sydney, once I was inside her head and hearing her thoughts and opinions. She's no Rose,
that's for sure. Sydney, first of all, is human, albeit an Alchemist, those being a group of humans charged with keeping the vampire world from spilling over into the human one, and protecting humans from vampires. On a more personal level, Sydney is rational. She isn't prone to making rash decisions like Rose is, and she doesn't often say what she's really thinking about other characters she dislikes. She's also not as confident in herself as Rose is. It was good to see Sydney has concerns readers will find easy to relate to, human concerns, teenage-girl concerns, such as trying to please her dominant father and protect her siblings. She also has issues with her weight, those being that she seems to think she's much larger than she actually is. These added a refreshing extra element to Sydney, and separated her even more from the Rose model returning readers might have been expecting.
Adrian was another pleasant surprise. Towards the end of VA, I found him alternately frustrating and heartbreaking. In Bloodlines, which begins just a month after VA ends, he's still in love with Rose and depressed over how she and Dimitri treated him. I'm no longer heartbroken for him (which might be because I'm not in Rose's head anymore, so I don't have her thoughts on their relationship as a guide), but my frustration has turned into...hope, maybe? As Bloodlines progresses, he begins to find some half-hearted drive and I've been overcome by this need to see him succeed. His character has always vaguely reminded me of Damon (from The Vampire Diaries), but never more so than in Bloodlines. When I finished reading the book last night, I figured my new opinion of Adrian was due to this, considering Damon is my current favourite character. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that's true. Yes, Adrian and Damon both share self-destructive tendencies, they share the same sense of humor, and they're both in love with women who don't want them. But Adrian lacks a purpose that Damon has always had, which makes him seem a little more lost. Seeing Adrian through Sydney's eyes also changed my perception of him, I think. Rose has always considered Adrian a friend, and felt guilty about not being able to love him back. Sydney, though, sees him simply as a spoilt "party boy vampire". They clash often, but the seeds of friendship have been sown. As have the seeds of romance.
The romance in this book is barely there, and what there is of it isn't centred on Sydney or Adrian, but on Jill and a character not part of the main group. Still, the first VA novel didn't have much in the way of romance either really, and that's fine. In fact, I'm glad the romance was put on the backburner in this book; it would have been ridiculous to expect Sydney to hook up with Adrian now, considering Alchemists hate vampires and think that they're evil incarnate. Plus, Adrian has to get over Rose. Their tentative friendship is promising and I'm sure that by the end of the series, Sydney and Adrian will be perfectly happy with each other. If they didn't have to overcome all these obstacles, the end result wouldn't be nearly as satisfying after all.
All in all, this is an excellent read and I'm sure VA readers won't need my encouragement to pick up Bloodlines. The characters are engaging, the plot exciting and the dialogue witty: Mead at her best, to say the very least. The high school element isn't really a large part of the novel either, so older readers shouldn't find themselves frustrated with petty teenage drama. The only disappointing thing about this book for me is that it had to end, but even the ending is a hook. The last line sets up where Book 2 will begin so perfectly that I'm already on the edge of my seat.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
As an extra, this series was, according to Mead, supposed to be told in third person, with each chapter in a different character's point of view. In that version of the book, it was going to begin with Adrian. Seeing as that's all changed now, Mead officially released Adrian's lost chapter just prior to the Bloodlines release. You can read it here.