Unless you’ve been living in a hut, sequestered from civilization for the past year, you’ve probably  heard of the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead. The series finale, Last Sacrifice, just came out a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to meet Richelle Mead on her book tour. …But more on that later. Right now I want to familiarize you with the Vampire Academy books for those who either haven’t read them or it’s been a while since you’ve picked up the first book.

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger.

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi-the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires-make Lissa one of them forever.

That’s the blurb for the first book, Vampire Academy. The first thing you have to know about this book is that it’s my least favorite book of the series, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. (My favorite book is Last Sacrifice.)

Rose is the narrator. She’s a rough and tough girl who only wants to keep her best friend, Vasilisa “Lissa” Dragomir, a full-blood vampire princess and the last of her line, alive. Also, Rose is a Dhampir, which is a half-vampire, half-human. In Mead’s world, Dhampirs protect and serve the Vampires because the Dhampirs have all the kick-ass side effects of a vampire without the messy blood drinking part, and they’re just stronger than Vampires. This service aspect is one I always found uncomfortable to read about, but Rose’s dedication to Lissa is more from their bond and lifelong friendship than anything else.

Rose was hard to get into because of her ‘attack first, ask questions later’ attitude and wild lifestyle. Two things that are not me (or most people, for that matter). She’s also a hot-head, which doesn’t mesh well with those in authority, so she’s constantly getting into trouble. There were many times that I wanted to shout at her to think before speaking (or yelling, in her case). Alas, no one has figured out a way for someone to speak to characters in a book or how to travel into a book directly, a la Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. (But I figure it’s only a matter of time.)

The introduction of that ‘forbidden romance’, however, comes into play before long and kept me into the story enough that before I knew it, Rose was maturing into someone I could actually be friends with. It’s a subtle thing, but Rose’s rough edges are smoothed out a little bit more with each book. And the romance! *waves hand in front of face* Whoo! It’s some hot stuff. I wish I could say more about it, but I don’t want to ruin anything. Just beware the third book. It crushed my heart like few other books have done.

This series is engaging and different from anything else I’ve been reading in the Teen section (with an exception to the Strange Angels series by Lilith Saintcrow). I enjoyed each book and would recommend it to older teens and adults. (This isn’t a series for the youngsters due to the violence, sexual scenes, and underage drinking.)

The complete series list:

– Vampire Academy
– Frostbite
– Shadow Kiss
– Blood Promise
– Spirit Bound
– Last Sacrifice

Now about meeting Richelle Mead… She’s awesome (and pretty and funny and I want to be her when I grow up)! She read a passage from Last Sacrifice, talked a little about her spin-off series, Bloodlines, and then answered some questions before signing everyone’s books. And because I love y’all, I’m giving away a SIGNED Vampire Academy book, a VA wristband and a couple of tattoos like Rose receives for killing Strigoi.

+1 entry if you fill out the required parts of the form
+1 entry if you tweet about it
+1 entry if you blog/advertise about it

Just fill out THIS FORM and you’re entered to win this awesome giveaway!

Good luck!

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