When I was fifteen, my best friend and I were obsessed with the book series Vampire Academy. Like much of the fanbase, we’d read and fangirled over Twilight, and then moved on to all of the other paranormal romance YA novels we could get our hands on. I’m not interested in engaging in any ‘Oh, this series is better than that one’ type narratives, because I don’t think I’d have picked up this series without its peer novels. If you’d have asked middle school me, both were my favorites at different times. I still have a lot of nostalgia for the series, though, and recently started a re-read. So, here’s what you should know before you start reading or watching Vampire Academy.
Vampire Academy is about Vampires.
There are three kinds of vampires in this series: Strigoi are evil vampires that are afraid of the sun. Moroi are elegant tall magic vampires that sunburn easily, have their own royalty, and are being hunted down by the evil vampires. Lastly, there are Dhampir, who are the half-human bodyguards to the Moroi, more resilient than the Moroi but have better reflexes, vision, and resistance to disease when compared to humans. Rose Hathaway is the Dhampir protagonist who trains to be the bodyguard to her best friend Lissa, a Moroi princess. Against the backdrop of political intrigue and life and death situations, this is a story of friendship and sacrifice as well as a steamy romance between Rose and her mentor, Dimitri.
Vampire Academy is peak YA fiction.
This is a story about a teenager who does teenager stuff. Rose worries about running out of lipgloss and engages in gossip about which of her classmates are hooking up. Her love interest is wildly inappropriate. As a teenager reading this, I was like 😏nice. Now that I’m almost 30 and have actually met 24-year-olds who are dating high schoolers, I’m a lot more like ಠ_ಠ. I’m not the target demographic anymore and the fifteen or so years since I started reading this series has put a lot of distance between my perspective and Rose’s. Despite that, Richelle Mead’s writing still has me glued to the page.
Vampire Academy Contains Adult Content.
Richelle Mead also respects her demographic, and doesn’t shy away from the fact that 17 year olds think about sex and have ways of getting alcohol. It also critically engages with feminist themes and mental health issues. In 2014 there was a movie adaptation from the director of Mean Girls. I had high hopes that the movie would capture the humor of both the books and Mean Girls while also tackling the tough subjects that Richelle Mead portrays, but it didn’t quite get there. A lot of the criticisms of the movie were around pacing, since Vampire Academy does some complicated world building very quickly, so maybe the new show will succeed here.
Vampire Academy Needs a Long List of Trigger Warnings.
Between Vampire Academy and its spin off Bloodlines, the books cover some tough topics. Depression, anxiety, self-harm, disordered eating, suicidal ideation, harm to animals, murder, grief, sexual violence (implied, not depicted), alcoholism and drug abuse are all present, with some of these being central themes. Most of these are challenges that characters work through and come out with good support structures and healthy coping mechanisms, but things often get pretty rough before that happens. It does sound like they’re pulling back the self harm depictions a bit in the series overall, which I think is a good move.
Don’t Send the Author Mean DMs.
A running theme in all of Richelle Mead’s works is that characters will go through some difficult things, but ultimately, the protagonist ends up fine. If you’re in the middle of the series like ‘wow, this character’s really going through it’, that’s probably the point. Sometimes bad things happen to characters you really like, and if that never happened, you probably wouldn’t find any of the antagonists very interesting or threatening. Richelle Mead does these grand hero journeys with flawed and interesting characters, and you now have enough information to decide if that’s a journey you want to go on.
If you’re looking to read Vampire Academy, the series is complete and can be purchased individually or in a box set from your local independent bookstore or wherever fine books are sold.