Vampire Academy Series Premiere Review

Hi, it’s me again. Yesterday, I told you everything you’d need to know about Vampire Academy before reading the books or watching the show. While that was going through the editing process, I was dying to tell you that we’d been given early access to several episodes of the Vampire Academy TV show adaptation, and it’s extremely good. I was nervous before watching the show, wondering if my favorite aspects would make it into the series. Inevitably, things have to change when a work is translated into a new medium, and it can be hard as a fan to keep the um, actually voice in your head quiet. That said, this far and away exceeded my expectations, and I am thrilled to see this series brought to life with such care and love from everyone involved. This first season is addicting, and I’m excited for it to be out in the world tomorrow. Here are my big takeaways:

The Cast is Phenomenal

Vampire Academy
Vampire Academy / Peacock

The main actors, Sisi Stringer (Rose), Daniela Nieves (Lissa), Kieron Moore (Dimitri), and André Dae Kim (Christian) knock it out of the park. Stringer nails the emotional undercurrent of Rose’s character while delivering witty sarcasm with great comedic timing. Nieves has a more serious role to play as Lissa and portrays the regal and delicate Moroi princess with refreshing vulnerability. Moore brings a physicality to Dimitri that had me wondering how a human could move as he did. And Kim captures the complicated character of Christian and has excellent romantic chemistry with Nieves’s Lissa.

Other standouts include Jonetta Kaiser as Sonya Karp, who made the character extremely interesting and had a magnetic quality in every scene she was in, and Lorna Brown, who is extremely badass-the most perfect Janine Hathaway.

I Have No Idea Where They’re Going With This But I Can’t Stop Watching

Vampire Academy / Peacock

Vampire Academy feels extremely high budget and detailed. The costumes are trendy and interesting, and the sets are well decorated. In the first few episodes, you see a lot of the world they created, from elaborate fight choreography to over-the-top parties and sprawling landscape views. Everything feels very intentional and detailed, but that doesn’t mean you should expect this to be a scene-to-scene recreation of the books.

For example, the fight scenes between Dhampir are harder-hitting in the show. Instead of being slightly-more-agile human fights, these are fights between gravity-defying action stars, and it’s really fun and cinematic. Similarly, the campus is more high-tech, and it felt like the Moroi and Dhampir were far more organized and modern compared to the books. The Strigoi are a lot more monstrous than I originally pictured; more like vampire zombies in the show. I think the book Strigoi is a bit more subtle overall but the show uses the zombie vampires in interesting ways to tell an extremely compelling story, even if this is one of the largest departures from the books.

This also applies to other aspects of the show: nothing is in the order that it happened in the books. They’ve pulled storylines from all over the series into this, given threads to other characters, and added some new things entirely. It makes for an interesting viewing experience; I think Julie Plec and Marguerite MacIntyre have done an amazing job preserving the things I loved in the book while making it unpredictable, interesting, and fresh.

The Human Moments Are Well Written But The Vampire Ones Can Be Clunky

Vampire Academy / Peacock

Despite the changes made while translating the book series into a show; the core story is still intact. The movie was more of a humorous take on the books, and at first, I worried that they’d swung in the other direction with the show. The trailer made it seem entirely melodramatic. Granted, the books are extremely melodramatic, but they are balanced by humor and nuanced observations of the world the characters live in. Plec and MacIntyre nailed the tone exactly, especially in matters of Rose and Lissa’s friendship. I was tearing up in some places and cracking up in others. There are also some steamy scenes! Despite my own warning that the series has some adult moments, I was still pretty shocked to see a butt in the first episode and a topless scene a bit after that.

My only real complaint about the show is the information dump this series has to do to get the story off the ground. I looked at other fantasy-series-turned-tv shows and found them pretty clunky, too. It’s an inherently difficult problem, and they smooth out much of it as they go along. I mentioned yesterday that the movie was criticized for pacing issues, and I think the tv show isn’t as bad, but still has its moments where vital information is delivered in a way that feels very out of place. Kind of like ‘Why would these characters who live in this world sit around and talk about things that would be obvious to them?’ The books benefited from being inside Rose’s head, where she can describe things without it being weird dialogue.

Overall, I found this wasn’t a barrier to watch, and recommend watching this if you’re looking for some high-drama vampire fun. Vampire Academy will premier tomorrow with the first four episodes being available to stream on Peacock, and then one episode will drop per week after that.

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