Received from the publisher
From the BLURB:
After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri's birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's-and to her best friend, Lissa. It is nearly graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives beyond the Academy's iron gates to begin. But Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he's out there, somewhere.
She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won't rest until Rose joins him... forever.
But Rose can’t forget what she learned on her journey – whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose’s prayers, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what – and who – matters most to her. And in the end, is true love really worth the price?
The following review is spoiler-free for those who haven't yet read 'Spirit Bound'. But there are spoilers of books 1 - 4
‘Blood Promise’ started out on a somber note, with Rose going off on a journey to kill her lover turned Strigoi, Dimitri. ‘Spirit Bound’ has a somewhat more peculiar beginning. At the start of this, the 5th installment to the ‘Vampire Academy’ series, Rose is intending to find Dimitri… and undo his Strigoi ‘undead’ curse. Yet she also understands that if worse comes to worse, she will kill him.
It’s a slightly less crystal-clear mission statement, and as a result ‘Spirit Bound’ gets off to a shaky start. It’s made even rockier by Richelle Mead’s need to tie up loose ends at the Dragomir Academy. Since ‘Spirit Bound’ takes place primarily outside of the school grounds - minor characters like junior Jill Mastrano are all but given a send-off (but also a hinted return… possibly for the VA spin-off?) and Rose passes her final guardian test.
I’d say the first 100 pages of this 496-page book are dedicated to tying up loose ends, setting the scene for this and the final 6th installment and just generally meandering along until Rose discovers the secret to saving Strigoi souls.
It’s not until halfway through that you appreciate those first 100-pages of filler and calm, because once the action starts, it does not let up. Richelle Mead is a master of suspense – be it action or emotion – she leaves readers in a constant state of heart palpitating, blood boiling, edge-of-your-seat wonderment.
'A Rose by any other name...'
Rose has definitely changed. Over the course of four books she’s become a bit harder, a bit tougher and a lot meaner. Fair enough. Rose has had to grow up quickly since returning to St. Vladimir’s – she’s seen people she loves die, she’s killed more Strigoi than Vladimir’s can give molnija marks for… heck, she’s even set-out on a mission to kill the man she loves. And all of those trials and tribulations have come to form this new Rose Hathaway in ‘Spirit Bound’. She is a woman changed, and I found myself not liking all of those changes. In this novel she does the unthinkable and consciously puts her friends, including Lissa, in danger. This is something Rose of previous books would have never even considered, but in ‘Spirit Bound’ she is desperate - hell-bent on obtaining hope and proof of Dimitri’s salvation.
This is not to say that Rose is any less impressive. She's still the same ballsy, brash, sharp-tongued, kick-ass heroine we've come to know and love. Just with slightly sharper edges. And if you still think the beloved Rose of past books is gone for good, look forward to a hilarious scene in which Rose hands moroi queen, Tatiana, her ass on a plate. That's the Rose I love.
Much Ado about Adrian
I didn’t like the way Rose treated Adrian Ivashkov in this book. At the beginning of ‘Spirit Bound’ we discover that Adrian’s hot-pursuit in ‘Blood Promise’ paid off, and he and Rose have been dating for a few months. I admit, I didn’t start warming to Adrian until ‘Blood Promise’, but in that book he proved how much he cares for Rose, and he really stepped up to the plate. He will never be on-par with Dimitri as a love interest for Rose, but I do like Adrian.
In ‘Spirit Bound’ it feels as though Rose is using and disregarding him – he seems very disposable to her and she never takes their relationship too seriously, though it seems Adrian does. I wish Rose had treated him better. He may not be her HEA, but in ‘Spirit Bound’ he is a romantic casualty to Rose’s hardening character and I couldn’t help but sympathize for him.
I really hope Adrian has a big role in the VA spin-off. It feels like he will. We won’t know until the final book, of course, but Richelle Mead has done such a great job at reforming his character and making him into a fan-favourite. It feels like Mead is saving up his storyline for the upcoming spin-off series, but that’s just my own speculation (and hope!). It just seems like such a waste if she built his character up to such great heights, only to write him as Rose’s cast-off, silver-medallist to Dimitri.
Lissa steps up
This is the first book in which I started liking Lissa. I know, I know! She’s Rose’s best friend – but I never responded to Rose’s impassioned speeches about how much she treasured Lissa – I could never get past my interpretation of their friendship as being master/slave. Lissa the dragomir princess, and Rose her lowly bodyguard. In this book Lissa really holds her own and has Rose’s back. It only took four books, but I can finally see Rose and Lissa’s kinship. Lissa certainly steps out of her role as dainty dragomir princess, and shows her worth.
One of the concerns I had going into this fifth instalment, was setting. I liked but didn’t love ‘Blood Promise’ – partly because a good chunk of the action occurred in Siberia, although Mead used the shadow-kiss bond to keep a portion of that book on school grounds. It’s tricky, because the series is called ‘Vampire Academy’, but the way the way that the storyline has progressed means the series will have to adapt and depart from the Vladimir school grounds. Hey, even Harry had to leave Hogwarts eventually.
‘Spirit Bound’ takes place in Alaska, Las Vegas and the Moroi Royal Court. With these scene settings the story expands and becomes more layered – particularly when court politics becomes the focus. And when some big changes are made to dhampir/moroi society Mead effectively ensures the longevity of this series. I really loved all the court politics. It's adding a new perspective to the series and effectively taking it out of the small-scale school setting to play-out on a much grander stage.
There are HUGE repercussions and upheavals in this book, ones that will impact the upcoming VA spin-off as well as the sixth and final instalment. I won’t give anything away, except to say; ‘the times, they are a changing’.
Rose/Dmitri - the saga continues
And what’s a ‘Vampire Academy’ book without the Rose/Dimitri saga? Rose and Dimitri are epic. True love, star-crossed, heart-meltingly epic. But I was a tad disappointed with their storyline in ‘Spirit Bound’. I won’t say too much, except that I expected a bang and got a whimper. To be fair, a lot of their arc in this book is laying groundwork for 6th instalment, ‘Last Sacrifice’.
“You’re beautiful in battle,” said Dimitri. His cold voice carried to me clearly, even above the roar of combat. “Like an avenging angel come to deliver the justice of heaven.”
“Funny,” I said, shifting my hold on the stake. “That is kind of why I’m here.”
“Angels fall, Rose.”
I got the feeling that Mead is holding her cards close to her chest regarding these two, and things won’t become explosive until the end. If you’re a Richelle Mead fan and read her other series’ then you know that the path to true love never did run smooth in Mead’s worlds – I’d say keep that in mind when reading ‘Spirit Bound’.
I loved this book. Loved, loved, loved. I stayed up until 1AM so I could finish reading and now I fully intend to go back and do a re-read. I am a Richelle Mead fan-girl, from ‘Georgina Kincaid’ to ‘Dark Swan’ – she never fails to please, and that’s certainly the case with ‘Vampire Academy’ and this 5th book. Mead had a lot of cliff-hangers to tackle, and scene-setting to pave for ‘Last Sacrifice’ – and she does both in ‘Spirit Bound’, to the nth degree.
‘Last Sacrifice’ comes out this year, December 14, and will be the last VA book narrated by Rose Hathaway. But Richelle Mead has a spin-off series secured… but we won’t know who the narrator or other players are until the curtains are drawn on ‘Last Sacrifice’ and we know who the lasting characters standing are.
I. Can’t. Wait.