Reviewer: Bethany

Age/Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Preferred Reading Setting: In a warm bath with lots of bubbles where I can indulge in fantasy with a touch of real issues

Bath Accessories/Accoutrements: Ginger Gold Rush Cocktail (1.5 oz ginger liqueur, 1 oz. bourbon, .5 oz lemon juice, Brandied cherry for garnish (optional))

Happy Halloween! In honor of the date, I picked a book series including lots of Halloween-y (is that a word?) things like vampires, witches, and alchemists. While this series is great for escaping into a world of fantasy, it also offers some unique perspectives on social issues, as well. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this review of the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead and have a safe and fun Halloween!

I read Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series because I saw (and thoroughly enjoyed) the movie. I was pleasantly surprised, when I read the first book, at how closely the movie followed the source material. I probably wouldn’t have started reading Bloodlines had I walked up to it on a shelf in a bookstore without any knowledge of Vampire Academy, but my copy of the last book in the Vampire Academy series had a teaser for Bloodlines. Being my (sometimes silly and easily distracted) self, I read the teaser. And then I bought the book. And then I bought the rest of the books in the Bloodlines series. To fully understand the Bloodlines series, you’ll definitely want to read the Vampire Academy series first.

The Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead is a spin-off of her Vampire Academy series. Vampire Academy was made into a movie – one of the best book-to-movie adaptations I’ve seen in a while – and follows a half-vampire teenager named Rose who has been training her whole life to protect vampire royalty. During the course of the Vampire Academy series, Rose meets a girl named Sydney, an alchemist whose life has been devoted to keeping humans ignorant of the existence of vampires. After an incident with Rose and Dimitri, Sydney, a once well-respected alchemist, is being closely watched by her organization. She has been entrusted with a cover-up plot to keep the Queen’s little sister safe from Moroi rebels. Bloodlines follows Sydney as she discovers the truth about vampires, witchcraft, and her heritage.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t love Sydney’s character when I started this series. She is arrogant, believing that she knows everything it is possible to know about her job. The Alchemists isolate their people, making them suspicious of everyone and everything, so Sydney is not a team player. As the series continues, she begins to recognize how the organization she has grown up in has skewed her view of the world. When she finally accepts that she doesn’t know everything, she becomes more bearable. However, Richelle Mead did a great job of making Sydney human; her character isn’t perfect and still has room to grow at the end of the series.

While this series also takes place in a high school setting, the mentality of most of the main characters is more mature than that of the Vampire Academy series. So are the themes. Vampire Academy addresses themes that young adults in high school deal with on a daily basis, like gossip, cliques, and romantic interest.

Bloodlines, on the other hand, addresses more adult  themes using fantasy as a filter. Sydney’s involvement in the Alchemists is inherited. Her family has been part of this secret society whose entire profession is to hide the existence of “evil” – in the form of vampires and magic – from the rest of the human race. The Alchemists consider themselves to be above both vampires and humans because they have power but do not have to drink blood or stay out of the sun to stay alive.

Unfortunately, that kind of attitude – especially when found in a large group or organization – leads to problematic ideals. Alchemists hate the idea of intermarriage between vampires and humans. In fact, they actively take measures to prevent intermarriage, going so far as to send Alchemists who fall in love with vampires to “reeducation centers.” Those running the organization have become obsessed with their own power and the need to maintain the status quo.

Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series is definitely worth a read. Given the current social climate, this series makes some very powerful statements about the relationship between heritage, tradition, and systemic racism. The characters and themes are more mature than those in the beginning of the Vampire Academy series, so make sure to read them in order to get the full feeling of growing up with the characters.

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