VAMPIRE ACADEMY – By Richelle Mead

In the wake of the success of the Twilight series, numerous authors and publishing houses have rushed to release their own vampire related stories, or what I sometimes like to call ‘Twilight Spawn’. At the same time, vampire tales that actually pre-date Twilight (such as Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter, the Southern Vampire Mysteries or True Blood and The Vampire Diaries) have also been ‘discovered’ by new readers.

One such ‘Twilight Spawn’ is the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead.

With the seventh and final volume, Last Sacrifice, having just been released on December 8th and the film rights to the first book being optioned (don’t expect to see anything for 2-3 years however), I decided to sit down and read the first volume.

Man, was I surprised!

Yes, much like Twilight, these books are written with the teenage audience (and more specifically, teenage girls) in mind. There is romance, teen angst, all the stuff you might expect from a book like this, but what surprised me was Mead’s mythology, the world she has created for her stories.

Her vampires are different from the ‘traditional’ vampire, but not in the ‘sparkle in the daylight’ of Meyer’s books. In Mead’s world, there are three distinct vampire species. First of all, there are the Moroi. These are the ‘pure blood’ vampires. They require blood to survive and have mystical powers tied to the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), but they can go out in daylight and are mortal. They also reproduce exactly like regular humans (no bite a person to turn them).

Second are the Dhampir or half-blood vampires. These are the result of a union between human and Moroi. They have the vast strength and speed normally associated with vampires, do not require blood and can only reproduce with a Moroi. For this reason (among others) Dhampir serve as protectors or Guardians for the Moroi royal houses.

Finally, there are the Strigoi and it is with here that we find the most ‘traditional’ vampires. Strigoi are the immortal, undead vampires, created when either a Moroi kills while feeding or by infection when a Strigoi bites a Moroi. Strigoi cannot go out in the daylight, are will not die of old age, can only be killed by stake, beheading or fire and are stronger and faster than even a Dhampir. They do lose their element-based powers when they are turned, however.

The stories focus on Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir (a Moroi princess and last of her line) and her best friend/Guardian in training Rosemarie “Rose” Hathaway (a Dhampir) and the trials they face both at the Vampire Academy and in the world at large ,as the Strigoi are slowly wiping out the Moroi.

These books are a surprisingly good read that I would recommend to anyone looking for another vampire series to sink their teeth into.