Blood Promise
by Richelle Mead, fantasy (2010, reissue)
Penguin, £6.99, ISBN 978-0-141-33186-7


Blood Promise is the fourth book in Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series. It goes without saying that you probably would not enjoy this book as much if you plunge straight into this book without having read the previous books first. At any rate, if you are new to the series, I direct you to the review of the first book in the series, Vampire Academy, to get the 101s.

Oh, and this review will contain some unavoidable spoilers for the books that came before this one, so you have better stop reading if you want to read those books anytime soon.

Okay, when we last saw Rose Hathaway and the gang, Dimitri is now officially cool because he had been turned into a Strigoi. Of course, Rose doesn't view it that way, but anyone who has read this series will agree with me, I'm sure, when I say that Rose is not the brightest bulb in the house. At any rate, when the story opens, Rose in her characteristic brilliance has left her best friend Lissa Drogomir. Dipping into her Magic Pocket of Unlimited Funds, she manages to find her way to St Petersburg, Russia, determined to kill Dimitri. You see, Dimitri once said that he'd rather die than to be a Strigoi, and now she's determined to "free" Dimitri. Naturally, Rose has no clear idea what she should do next once she is in St Petersburg, but fortunately, she will meet some allies who will make sure that she doesn't break her fool neck.

Meanwhile, Lissa back in the St Vladimir's Academy is not happy about Queen Tatiana bossing her around, but still, an intriguing new friend shows up to offer some diversion. She and Christian along with Adrian are still continuing their experimentation with spirit magic.

Blood Promise is a more enjoyable book than the last one, I find, because this one is faster paced compared to the previous book which was mostly about teen angst shooting off the charts. The author as usual manages to make me sympathize with a heroine whom I otherwise would cheerfully throttle on a good day. Here, Rose is pretty dumb, no mincing words about that. She talks the tough talk, but it's obvious from the start that she will not be able to walk the walk without shedding lots of tears and angst first. It's a good thing that Dimitri for some reason loves her feisty jailbait booty, because if he wants to kill her, he could have easily done so while Rose is too busy shivering at his touch.

Of course, it goes without saying that Ms Mead has just raised Dimitri's stock up by at least 200% - now that he's a mean and evil guy who still have a soft spot for Rose, I can see all the young female readers swooning in delight now.

Anyway, back to Rose, in this story she comes off as young, very young. That is a big reason why I can give her many silly antics a pass. Our brainless bruiser may have killed more Strigoi than most Guardians twice her age, but she is clearly incapable of dealing maturely with the loss of her first love. I don't expect her to be mature in this instance. Rose's constant daydreaming about good times with Dimitri when she should be paying attention to her surrounding can be frustrating to follow, but as I've said, she has just turned 18 and in the course of the last few books, she has come back from the dead, lost a good friend and now the first man she had fallen in love with and given her virginity to has been changed into a creature that she is trained to kill. It's too much to expect her to be anything but a confused and depressed young lady.

I confess to choking up a little when Rose finally realizes that she has to let Dimitri go - that this Dimitri is now a Strigoi, completely changed from the man she once loved. I know the author will do this, having been manipulated by the author in this manner before, but it's still a nice type of catharsis when the author hits me with her character's heartbreaking epiphany. Speaking of which, go check out the complete lyrics of that song Through The Trees from the original soundtrack of that movie Jennifer's Body - I think the song describes the relationship between Rose and Dimitri in this book perfectly.

One thing that frustrates me about the whole series so far is that Rose's personality has actually regressed as the book continues. She has become so close-minded and fixated on being in love and belonging to her close circle of friends that Rose has since then rejected any possibility that sticking with the Moroi 100% may not be the best situation for her.

In this book, once again Rose is confronted with suggestions and evidences that the Moroi abuse and take their Guardians for granted, but Rose, frustratingly, refuses to accept that perhaps the useless Moroi are not worth fighting and dying for. Instead, she is in denial. When her new friend, Dimitri's sister, is in danger of becoming a blood whore for the Moroi, Rose doesn't think about anything beyond not wanting that woman to become a skank like those other women. I know Rose is a brainless bruiser, a better muscle than brain, but she was pretty self-aware in the first book, and therefore, it's still disappointing that she has regressed into this obstinate punch-first think-later shadow of her former self.

Perhaps I am tiring of Rose being the protagonist of this series. Ms Mead says in the attached interview that Rose will have two more titles before someone else in this series take over the narration duties, which I feel is a great thing as Rose is too self-absorbed and too obstinate, therefore limiting the author's ability to portray her story in anything but black and white. It will be great if, say, Mia gets her share in the limelight, heh. Anyone but Rose and Lissa, actually - I am tired of them, I feel. Actually, I don't mind Lissa, but if she takes over the narration duty, Rose will still be there, and therefore, it's still the same story, if you know what I mean.

Still, despite my personal belief that Rose is wearing out her welcome where I am concerned, Blood Promise offers a nice new phase in Rose's story. The ending is pretty predictable, but something tells me I will enjoy finding out what Dimitri has up his sleeve for Rose.

Rating: 84


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