I've become quite cynical of spinoffs because they generally don't live up to their original source. Being quite fond of the Vampire Academy series, I...moreI've become quite cynical of spinoffs because they generally don't live up to their original source. Being quite fond of the Vampire Academy series, I was very wary of this new series. This was only compounded by the news that books would be told via Sydney rather than in the third-person as was originally planned. Obviously, since her story is completed Rose is no longer an option to narrate, but I wasn't convinced Sydney would be interesting enough and I hadn't found her particularly likable in her previous appearances. Mostly, I was apprehensive because of the many dangling plot points from Last Sacrifice, which at the time of my initial read felt almost arbitrary. I try to approach every book individually and without any preconceived notions or expectations, but honestly the simple fact is that this book had a lot to live up to for me.
As it's only the first book, I can't say that Bloodlines has or will surpass VA, but I think it's a worthy followup. More importantly, it picks up those loose threads from Last Sacrifice in such a seamless way that I actually want to read the VA conclusion again just to see if I still find those lingering plot points as jarring as they initially came across to me. My one quibble is that it's such an easy transition into this new series that I wonder how accessible it would be to someone that isn't already invested in the prior series. No matter how much I adore the series, it's hard to recommend a book that requires so much advance reading. The biggest surprise for me was how smoothly Sydney's narration comes across. Mead's explanation sums up the differences between the two perspectives quite well:
[Sydney] gives us a human take on the Moroi world, which isn’t something we’ve really seen yet. Vampire life, through Rose’s eyes, is a very normal thing. For Sydney? Not so. It’s made worse because she’s been raised to believe vampires and dhampirs are wrong and unnatural, but spending time with them in Palm Springs begins to change her mind . . . What’s also interesting is that Sydney has a much more analytic view of the world than Rose. Sydney overthinks where Rose rushes in, and both styles are fun to watch. Sydney’s super smart and can memorize reams of material—but is a little oblivious to how a normal social life works.
I expected a bit of an adjustment to Sydney as the narrator. Her prior appearances via Rose's perspective made her seem very standoffish, almost snobby at times. In comparison to Rose's effervescent personality this came across as a bit cold. (I concede that I may have interpreted that incorrectly and it's yet another reason I'm curious to do a reread of the original series.) Through her narration, Sydney reveals a different person than that and even shows us why it is she acts as she does. It's also thoroughly entertaining to see someone else's view of Rose! By the end of the book I was totally smitten with her and I'm deeply curious to see how things unfold for her throughout the series.
Beyond my initial qualms my feelings are somewhat conflicted. I'm inclined to think I almost psyched myself out of fully enjoying the book because of my expectations much as I tried to ignore them. The one comparison I can't help but notice is that the story itself is much less driven, almost weak, than the typical VA book. I missed that sense of urgency that the prior books had and found myself wishing that someone would pull a Rose and just randomly punch someone to get things going. That isn't to say I was exactly pining for action, but when it finally does surface -- practically at the end of the book -- it's present in such a blasé fashion that it was like seeing the scene through a film of water. It also seemed far too obvious right from the start and so I found myself slightly irritated that things didn't click into place for so very long. Even when Sydney started piecing things together there was no momentum to the story, in fact she actually stalled the plot a bit by sitting on her discovery! I also found it very hard to keep track of time. What felt like days, even weeks, was described as happening in the span of a week. Specifically, I can't believe that in this economy a person could find three job interviews in (I think?) a day and moreover have them scheduled in the same day. And, while it's only a little thing in the book, I'm absolutely disgusted with the hang up Sydney has over having to wear size 4 clothes -- and that she mentions needing to diet her way back to a size 2. Not at all what I'd expect from Ms. Mead. Very disappointing.
What saves all this from a complete downward spiral is that the characters that take center stage in this new series are almost as fascinating as Rose and Lissa. It's a different view of the Moroi world in several ways. As I mentioned before, Sydney gives us an "outsider" view, but in their own way each of the four is kind of on the outskirts. In fact, the entire location of the book puts them outside of the goings-on of the Moroi. It's a completely different dynamic than the first series and it's the perfect venue for these characters. Adrian has never been much of a draw for me, but he's started to pique my curiosity. Personally, I'm most intrigued with Eddie and where his story will go.
In the end what it all comes down to is that I don't really know how I feel. I enjoyed the book, but I'm not entirely sure if that feeling isn't colored by my relief that my wariness was unfounded or my previous love of the original series. I do feel a bit letdown by some small elements, but I think they're minor enough to be forgivable. So, for what it's worth, I'm reserving final judgment until I read a bit further into the series.
**spoiler alert** Put simply, Hush, Hush makes me mad. I'm actually physically angry with it for failing to be good in so many ways. Possibly I'm even...more**spoiler alert** Put simply, Hush, Hush makes me mad. I'm actually physically angry with it for failing to be good in so many ways. Possibly I'm even a bit mad at the author for writing such a poor piece or the editor for not making it better or the publisher for actually putting it on the market! It's the mad that kept me reading because I wanted so desperately to finish so I could justifiably rant about how much this book enraged me with how greatly disappointing it is. I read this book for you, so you don't have to. I suffered for your enjoyment.
Right from the start I have an issue with the writing. It is at best inconsistent. The very first example of this begins with the prologue which is written in a choppy third-person style that I can only assume is trying to emulate the 15th Century time period it takes place in. Unfortunately, it doesn't give the piece any depth or history, it's just clumsy. Especially since the prologue itself is such a throwaway scene that it's entirely forgotten for more than twenty chapters! Not to mention the actual story takes place in present day Maine and is narrated in first person by our protagonist.
Nora is problematic. She's described in the blurb as a teenager with no interest in boys, which is a fact that isn't really presented in the book unless you consider that she's the only character not completely obsessed with sex. A more apt title for this book would have been Teenagers are Horny because not only is it the focus of nearly every conversation a major part of the story centers around Nora's biology slash sex education class. If that's not baffling enough the teacher of the class also teaches physical education and thus is appropriately referred to as Coach. He is obviously shooting for Teacher of the Year with this sex-obsessed class of students because his lesson plan seems tailor made to be as inappropriate as possible. And when Nora finally speaks to him about how uncomfortable she is in class and with her newly assigned lab partner, Patch, he not only refuses to oblige her with a new partner but assigns her to tutor the boy! I can only think he lives by the credo of "grin and bear it."
The protagonist's backstory can be boiled down to two points: her father was murdered and her mother works long hours and isn't home much. The former is merely an excuse to put her in mandatory therapy with the school psychologist so that one of a long list of potential threats can be introduced. The latter is helpful in justifying her sheer stupidity, which is the only facet of personality she possesses. First, there's her choice in a best friend, Vee, who is described as "shapely" but in need of dieting. She is the epitome of the BFF who has your back at least in the sense of encouraging Nora to do stupid and outright dangerous things. One of her more shining moments is when she justifies Nora being physically abused and verbally threatened by a boy because he was drunk. In the same conversation she advocates for going away for the weekend with that same boy! The more obvious showcase of Nora's brain being missing is her absolute lack of avoiding every single dangerous thing that happens in the book. Her main defense seems to be to talk the threats on her life to death. Near the end of the book she has three separate people vying for her death, she is cornered and alone with each of them and since escaping is apparently futile she instead plays Inquisitor. Most notably in her repertoire of incompetence is her association with Patch, especially since she's nearly exclusively alone with him.
Oh, Patch. Since that's a name that instills me with images of puppies and the Gesundheit Institute founder, it definitely doesn't scream tall, dark and mysterious bad boy. The only mystery about him is that he continually finds people to play against him in pool and poker even though he constantly wins. In fact at one point he walks away with a new Jeep Companion! Obviously that's not the point of his character because the author spends a great deal of time reminding us by proxy of Nora that he's dangerous. Of course, that means Nora is head over heels for him even though her inner dialogue about him can be boiled down to a slight irritation. During her first conversation with him, after he's assigned to be her lab partner in Sex Ed, he all but confesses to stalking her and seemingly reads her mind so it would make sense for her to be alarmed. Except, she really isn't. In fact, she later realizes that he can force his way into her mind and even though she's been having traumatic and violent hallucinations she actually turns to him when her life is in danger. Shortly after that, while physically restraining her and pinning her down on a bed with his body, he admits that he wants to kill her! So, then later they make out.
Feeding the whirlwind in the absence of logic of which this book is bound together with these are not the only instances of how utterly disturbed he is! A major part of the story revolves around girls at school being attacked, most notably Vee. All the evidence points to it being Patch so Nora's conclusion is to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to exonerate him of any crime. She instead fingers Elliot, a new transfer student, as the culprit and is able to justify this because she discovers he is a suspect in a murder investigation. This is one of the few intelligent conclusions Nora has, so to offset that her "best friend" immediately shoots it down! To compound how nonsensical all this is, Nora's inner monologue goes on and on about her mistrust of both Patch and Elliot and yet she goes on a date with each of them. Then again, the one person she never bothers to suspect, Jules, turns out to be the biggest threat to her life. Or, one of the three?
In case you're actually able to follow all that plot -- if you can call it that -- this far along there's the mythology thrown in to really shake things up. See, Patch was an angel who fell in love with a human and so he threw himself out of Heaven to be with her thinking he would become human. Instead, he got his wings ripped off and now he's "fallen" and stuck in his wingless angel body unable to have human emotions. So, back in the 15th Century he bound himself to Chauncey, a Nephilim, so that two weeks out of the year he can body-jack him to experience real feelings. Now he's been tasked with saving Nora's life so he can regain his wings and become a guardian angel. Except! He's the one who's going to kill her because he really wants to be human and as she is a descendant of Chauncey it is her death that will destroy him. In case that's not enough "mythology" to swallow there is yet another complication: Patch's ex-girlfriend Dabria. She doesn't want him to be human, so she's bent on killing Nora first so Patch has no choice. And if that's not enough, it turns out that Jules is actually Chauncey and he's also got his sights on Nora's death because he wants to punish Patch for all those years of being body snatched.
As you can probably tell, the whole book is a series of haphazard events that centers around characters that exist solely to do the most asinine things imaginable. Most, in fact, defy believability. At one point Nora manages to be tricked out of her hat and coat in the freezing cold by a homeless woman who is then killed in a drive-by shooting by one of Nora's trio of killers. That would be the second time in the book one of those would-be murderers goes after the wrong person thinking they're Nora. Another long series of focus in the book is Nora's sleuthing. She's the worst actor on the face of the Earth, but twice she attempts to play investigative reporter. She doesn't manage to fool either person and in fact is pointedly caught the first time. Another time Vee sets up a distraction so Nora can snoop in the student records room. She's caught, obviously, and the best part is that the distraction is a bomb threat called in from the pay phone by the school.
For all that I've said, I could still go on. There are tons more examples of Nora's idiocy, Patch's craziness, the lack of logical story, or the plain absence of an actual plot! Page by page this book shows it is an utter and complete mess. If I hadn't read it on my Kindle, it's quite likely I'd have heaved it at a wall. Possibly several times.