I’ve been avoiding Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series since it debuted way back in 2007. That avoidance had nothing to do with the author—until now, I’d never read her—and everything to do with my own issues. First, despite my adoration of Boarding School Stories, I got far more than my fill of Vampire Boarding School via the atrocious House of Night series, and secondly, something about the Angelina Jolie lookalike on the cover of the first Vampire Academy book just...irked me.

See? I told you they were MY issues.

Read Bookshelves of Doom on the Jane Austen rewrite of 'For Darkness Shows the Stars.'

Anyway, when the first Bloodlines* book came out last year, it occurred to me that it was time to finally give Mead a try. Because it’s a whole new series! About a Girl Alchemist! But then it got lost in the shuffle, and I forgot all about it until I got the just-published sequel, The Golden Lily, in the mail.

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After finally starting the book, I quickly realized that—curses!—all of my Vampire Academy avoidance had been for naught: Bloodlines is a spin-off, so I spent the first 30 pages getting caught up on the broad arc of the original series. By then, I was determined to finish it, and—hooray!—it ended up being loads of fun.

It’s not a literary masterpiece. Those first 30 pages are pretty rocky. While I was ultimately grateful for the history lesson, that didn’t stop me from noticing how awkwardly the information was delivered. In that same section, Sydney’s frequent hints about knowing another character’s “dirty secret” come off as inconsistent. She’s filled the reader in on every other detail of the backstory, so why would she hold that back? (Answer: to allow for a Dramatic Accusation later on in the book.) The inconsistency doesn’t stop there, as she is supposedly completely socially inept due to her unusual upbringing, but constantly notices subtle social cues. I know about her keen powers of observation because after every single interaction she has with another person, she then re-hashes the entire interaction while dissecting every nuance. It’s a narrative quirk that Gets Old Fast.

However! Just because it isn’t perfect doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some strengths, too: despite those problems with her voice, I genuinely liked Sydney as a character. She’s got some legitimate flaws—her upbringing instilled in her an almost pathological fear of magic and some borderline bigotry towards vampires—which is so unusual in a paranormal heroine**. Boys don’t fall in lurrrve with her left and right, and she doesn’t swoon after every dude she meets, either. Despite the cover art—which suggests straight-up paranormal romance—Bloodlines reads more like a paranormal mystery. There’s potential for plenty of trials and tribulations in the future (including some star-crossed love!), but assuming that the future installments continue to stress the mystery angle, I’m in for the long haul.

And now pardon me...I’m off to read The Golden Lily!


*Do you have any idea how many books share this title? A WHOLE LOT!

**A more likely flaw in a paranormal heroine, of course, is adorkable clumsiness.

Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.