So I’m now mining my way through book 5 of Vampire Academy by Richelle Meade, and my canary still clings to life, though it’s gasping a bit. Still, I’m going to keep swinging that pick because though the majority of what I get is dross, there’s enough nuggets of gold to make it worth while.
This series has got steadily better from the first book, Vampire Academy, which is a pleasant surprise in a genre where series usually start well then plummet more rapidly than a cheap roller coaster – and usually far more painfully (right, Laurell K Hamilton?).
The down side is that improving from the first book is no real achievement. The first book was dull, dreadfully dreadfully dull, full of teen angst and drama and so much highschool politics that it made my head ache – as mentioned here
But later books did improve, in fact each book improves on the last. The characters go from barely tolerable to actually quite interesting and, dare I say it, fairly deep and nuanced (well, sorta) but most of all the story really draws me in. It’s almost addictive, even when cursing the flaws of the books I keep reading because I want to know what’s happening next and where the story will go. Following Rose balancing her obligations to Lissa, the Moroi she’s bound to, and Dimitri her mentor/lover/enemy further balancing with Lissa’s difficulty with her unusual magic and the politics of the royal court and among that trying to navigate the fraught relationship with her parents, her love life and her own fears of insanity – this is a fascinating read, even when Rose is frustrating me with her gods-awful bad choice. And the world is novel and different – good vampires with elemental magic, undead vampires stalking them and the half-vampire guardians giving their lives in a corrupt society to keep their charges safe – even while their charges refuse to take the steps to protect themselves.
How could this not be a great read? It has a great world, a great story and, in general, decent characters (most of the time).
Because of that, I would consider these books to be a fascinating read that are largely worth the effort to force your way through. The problem is that it is “force your way through” rather than read and enjoy.
And that’s nearly entirely due to pacing. These books are monumentally slow. They may continental drift seem exciting. For the first 4 books you could largely skip the first 80% (I read on kindle so I don’t get page numbers, I get percentages) because the plot only really starts at the very end. If book 6 is paced the same way then all 6 books would probably make a decent trilogy. In fact, it’s quite possible that all 6 could become a single, stand-alone novel (albeit a rather large one). There is so much unnecessary padding, emotional navel gazing, unnecessary angst and general waffle that these books are a slog. To return to my initial analogy – it’s gold mining, you have to hack away a lot of crap to reach the shining vein of plot.
I really can’t stress this enough and, despite the story, I draw the line at recommending them because the pacing is really that bad. Most of the time reading these books I was bored. Bored bored bored bored. And, on the whole, the story (which I liked) simply wasn’t worth the hours of work it took to reach it.
And that’s a crying shame. If the pacing were picked up these would be good books – probably some of the better books in the genre but as it is they’re just too much work to be truly enjoyable and in places bore me so much I am sorely tempted to skim past them until some relevant plot finally raises its head. It’s very sad to think that these books could have been awesome.