by Richelle Mead, fantasy (2008)
Razorbill Books, $8.99, ISBN 978-1-59514-197-2
Shadow Kiss is the third book in the Vampire Academy series so you really shouldn't read this book if you haven't read the previous books. This one can stand alone very well, I believe, but if you happen to love this book, then you'll be hopelessly spoiled and the previous two books won't be as enjoyable anymore. Oh, and while I try to avoid putting in spoilers here, I may end up accidentally letting one or two slip past - and I probably would, since the ending is rather... controversial and it is hard to mention it without even hinting a little at what happened in this story that leads to that ending. So, you've been warned. Start with the first book if you are new and you want to read this series, skip this review, and we will all feel so much better with ourselves this holiday season.
Okay, where we left off Rose Hathaway, she's back in the St Vladimir's Academy (full background information can be found in my review of the first book in the series here) and graduation is just around the corner. However, if you believe that she can get out of trouble in the meantime, you're so adorably naïve, that's so sweet. First, Rose is taken aback when she starts seeing the ghost of the poor fellow who died in the previous book and the sight is seriously interrupting her ability to concentrate. Secondly, she is assigned to guard Christian Ozera, Lissa's boyfriend, instead of Lissa as part of the big assignment these Guardians get before they graduate and this decision does not sit well with Rose at all. The biggest problem here is that the villain from the first book is still in jail and will only stand trial in this book. There is a possibility that Moroi politics will end up interfering with justice and setting him free, yikes. And you know Rose, I'm sure. She is terrible when it comes to subtlety and cunning, so you can expect her to go ahead charging like an enraged rhinoceros.
Shadow Kiss is a pretty thick book, but the story is actually a slow moving one compared to the previous two books. The focus here is on Rose's relationships with Lissa, Christian, Dimitri, Adrian, and even her mother. To be honest, the bratty girl soap opera moments are a little too much for me to take, especially when... well, let's be honest here, I like Rose, but she's not the smartest tool in the shed and she's definitely not the most cunning person around. Unless she stops and thinks, and she doesn't do that as often as I'd have liked her to do in this story, she's always going to lose, which makes following Rose tad frustrating in this story.
I'm probably showing my age here but I personally can't get too interested in Rose's potential relationship with Adrian, given that I find Adrian a little too much like a stereotypical bad boy the way Dimitri is the stereotypical Non-Threatening Older Bloke character. I find myself wishing that Rose will get to know that mysterious Strigoi who actually gets to talk - and walk away! - for a change. Speaking of the bad guys, my goodness, I think we can now place St Vladimir's Academy up there on the list with Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as some of the most incompetently run schools ever - at the rate these adults react to danger, I'm surprised everybody isn't slain while they are asleep or something. It is that bad, people - these folks need someone like Rose to point out the security flaws in their school. Rose, of all people.
By the late third of the story, I'm feeling pretty frustrated on behalf of Rose because it does seem as if the adults are deliberately conspiring against her. It's as if I was seventeen going on eighteen again, convinced that I knew all the answers in this world and it is so frustrating when adults refused to acknowledge my superior awesomeness. I am not sure whether I enjoy being reminded of how I was when I was Rose's age, heh. The most successful aspect of this book is how it succeeded in placing me in Rose's shoes. When she's frustrated, I'm doubly frustrated.
I'm also frustrated at how this story often features the bad guys are the ones who are actually right. Unlike Rose, I think the Moroi brats are a bunch of ungrateful pansies who should be erased off the face of the earth just so that I don't have to hear them whine about their entitlements, and I wish Rose is with the bad guys, happily plotting the destruction of these useless tossers. Changes are coming, but at a very slow rate. And Rose is unfortunately still naïve enough to believe the party line about dhampirs needing Moroi brats to survive when Ms Mead and all the cool bad guys know in this story that the Moroi brats in charge are useless tossers and the dhampirs in charge are brainwashed twits.
Which is why I'm so glad the author did what she did late in the story, I tell you. Rose needs to grow, see the world, and get rid of her current baggage whose dependency on her will only suffocate her and prevent her from experiencing emotional and spiritual growth. And, who knows, perhaps that character whose, er, "sad fate" that catalyzes Rose's actions late in the story will actually become interesting for once.
While Shadow Kiss is a decent read in itself, it has a little too much teenage angst and soap opera for cynical old me. It is the last third or so when the action kicks in that the story finally becomes really interesting for me, and by the last page, I feel like wanting to give Ms Mead a big hug because, truly, despite the mass of angry emails she may receive from people who may feel hurt or betrayed, this is the best thing the author could do for Rose. Rose needs to grow up and find out who she is as her own person, away from her responsibilities as her Guardian. I'm glad the author introduces this theme in this book and has the guts to follow up on that.
After reading this book, I can't wait to find out what happens to Rose next.
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