Title: Shadow Kiss
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Stand alone or series: Book 3 of the Vampire Academy series.
Why did I read this book: As if our recent Richelle-A-Palooza is any indicator, I’m a huge fan Richelle’s. I love her characters, her fast moving plots, and this young adult vampire series is ever so much more fulfilling–and dare I say honest–than many others out there right now. I loved Vampire Academy, loved Frostbite even more, and could not wait to get my greedy paws on Shadow Kiss.
Summary: (from RichelleMead.com)
It’s springtime at St. Vladimir’s Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since making her first Strigoi kills, Rose hasn’t been feeling quite right. She’s having dark thoughts, behaving erratically, and worst of all…might be seeing ghosts. As Rose questions her sanity, new complications arise. Lissa has begun experimenting with her magic once more, their enemy Victor Dashkov might be set free, and Rose’s forbidden relationship with Dimitri is starting to heat up again. But when a deadly threat no one saw coming changes their entire world, Rose must put her own life on the line–and choose between the two people she loves most.
First a caveat–I’ll break out the review into spoiler-free and spoiler-ridden sections–I’ll advise before divulging any spoilers that deal with Shadow Kiss. Also, please note that since this is book 3 of a series, spoilers from the first two books will be necessarily discussed here. If you have not read the first two books and do not wish to be spoiled, please look away!
I discovered Shadow Kiss in my local Borders, one of the few that sneaked out early onto shelves before its release date. Immediately, I snatched up the book and ran home, eager to dive right back into the drama and action that is St. Vladimir’s. A few hours later, I had finished the book…and was in a complete state of shock. Speechless. In part, I think this is why I waited a week to post my review–giving the implications of the novel to really sink in.
Shadow Kiss begins with Rose and the other Dhampir students at St. Vladimir’s ready to undertake their six-week training exercise as Guardians to their assigned Moroi counterparts. Shortly after the devastating events of Frostbite, Rose (and Eddie and Christian) are still trying to come to terms with everything they suffered through together at the hands of the Strigoi, and with Mason’s death. So, when Rose starts seeing Mason’s ghost on campus, she tries to shake it off as a product of her guilt and her own stress.
Meanwhile, things are falling apart for Rose as she is not assigned Lissa as her Moroi to guard–instead she must follow Christian, Lissa’s boyfriend and Rose’s rival, while Eddie is assigned to Lissa. Also, Lissa learns from Dimitri that Victor Dashkov is getting prepared to stand trial, and neither Lissa nor Rose will be called to testify. Moody, incredibly stressed out, seeing ghosts, and just being the impulsive and anger-prone person she is, Rose lashes out angrily at everyone–from Dimitri for his inability to get her to the trial to testify, to teachers and Guardians for their assigning her to Christian instead of Lissa. When Rose’s visions of ghosts start to grow stronger, interfering with her training examination and later off campus, Rose realizes that something far more sinister than stress is at play, and will change Rose forever.
Shadow Kiss is the longest of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy books, and also the most complex in terms of plots and subplots. Although I feel there is a degree of predictability with Ms. Mead’s novels, there was a particular twist to this story that took me completely off guard (more on that in a bit). As always, despite any qualms I may have with predictability in terms of plot, this book is so well written and engaging that all is forgiven. As one author dear to my heart stated, it’s not really about the ending–it’s about the journey.
And, as in all of Richelle Mead’s books, it is the characters that are the true draw, and their layered, complex relationships. Rose Hathaway is undeniably frustrating, immature, and infuriating at times. She is loud-mouthed and passionate, and some of her actions in this book made me want to reach out and shake her by the throat. And yet, she is completely believable as a seventeen year old girl, forced to live in the literal shadow of her vulnerable best friend, hiding a serious relationship, and grappling with issues of life and death that no seventeen year old girl should have to grapple with. It is because of Rose’s strange combination of toughness and vulnerability that makes her so endearing as a heroine, despite some of her too-stupid-to-live moments. Her relationship with Lissa is seriously examined here–it’s been a long time coming, considering how Lissa almost takes Rose for granted as a safety net–both in terms of their remarkable bond, as Guardian and Moroi and in terms of where they stand as best friends. Then, there’s the burgeoning romance with Dimitri, which goes to a whole new level in this book. Although it certainly seems that Rose acts immaturely at times, she has grown over the course of these three books and this is reflected in her serious bond with Dimitri. It’s a powerful thing to read, almost brutal in its honesty, especially considering this is a young adult novel–and I mean this in the very best way. Not everything is sunshine and unicorns for Rosemarie, which is an invaluable message, especially to younger readers (I cannot help but compare Rose’s actions and consequences here against the blah Bella of the Twilight books, where everything is so prettily and tidily tied up in a pretty bow).
Shadow Kiss is another wonderful entry in the series, the best book so far in terms of depth, character development, and emotional investment. I’m certain some fans of the series will be put off by the ending (heck, I was, sort of)–but it is what it is. This is another winner by Richelle Mead, and book 4 cannot come soon enough!
Notable Quotes/Parts: I love this passage, showing the nature of the relationship between Lissa and Rose.
“There you are. What happened? You missed dinner.”
I’d completely forgotten. “Sorry…got carried away with some guardian stuff. It’s a long story.”
She’d changed for dinner. Her hair was still pulled up, and she now wore a form-fitting dress made out of silver raw silk. She looked beautiful. She looked royal. I thought about Victor’s words and wondered if she really could be the power for change he swore she was. Looking like she did now, so glamorous and self-composed, I could imagine people following her anywhere. I certainly would, but then, I was biased.
“Why are you looking at me like that?” she asked with a small smile.
I couldn’t tell her that I’d just seen the man who frightened her the most. I couldn’t tell her that while she’d been out living it up, I’d been off watching her back in the shadows, like I would always do.
Instead, I returned her smile. “I like the dress.”
Additional Thoughts: Which brings me to the TWIST!
***SPOILERS FOLLOW*** (To read, highlight the following seemingly blank section)
The twist–Dimitri becomes a Strigoi. And good god is it cruel, and heartbreaking, and I admit I was a huge, HUGE mess about it all. Just when Rose and Dimitri finally say screw it, are together and are blissfully happy for a few moments together, decide to work with different Moroi so they can be together…it’s all coldly taken away.
I don’t know how to feel about it–part of me thinks it brutally sadistic and unnecessary of Ms. Mead to turn Dimitri into a Strigoi. And yet…it forces Rose to grow up, to become her own person, to leave St. Vlad’s and the protection in living her life for Lissa. I love this book for this particular twist, but I hate it too because DAMMIT I want Rose and Dimitri to be together. It’s been a while since I’ve been so emotionally affected by a book (since the last Harry Potter book), which is both a good and bad thing.
If anyone wants to discuss (weep, rage, rant, hold hands and hug for comfort, etc) the ending, please do so in the comments, but make sure to note if you discuss anything spoilery!
Rating: 8 Excellent…although it is quite close to a 9 in my book. I loved it.
Reading Next: Silent in the Grave by Diana Raybourn