Here’s the thing about YA fiction: it’s addictive. It’s fast-paced, sexy (most of the time), and the characters are amazing. Well, if you’re reading good YA. And Bloodlines is good YA. I re-read the first three books in the series so that I could refresh my mind as to whereabouts our beloved characters were at the end of Indigo Spell. I thought the re-read would take forever, but I’d forgotten how easily you can slip into Richelle Mead’s prose. I had those three books finished in about a week and a half. Maybe less. And you know why? Because of the voice.
I don’t know how many of you read book reviews or are writers yourselves, but the voice is the hardest thing to nail down. Not so much in third person, but Mead writes in the first person. We see everything through the eyes of Sydney Sage. She’s analytical, misses social cues, and has a complicated set of beliefs that is constantly changing throughout the series. And Mead absolutely knocks it out of the park. Nothing Sydney says ever feels contrived or forced. Which is difficult to pull off, seeing as Sydney has to miss certain looks and actions from other characters – namely Adrian Ivashkov – that we as readers understand straight away.
This all changes in The Fiery Heart, however. Sydney finally admits her feelings for Adrian to herself at the end of Indigo Spell and, so, this book basically smoulders with sexiness and intrigue. Because relationships between humans and vampires are strictly verboten. And Sydney could end up basically being tortured by her Alchemist higher-ups. So whenever the two are together, there is an underlying feeling of unease. That at any moment the couple could be discovered.
I don’t want to give away the spoilers. Firstly because if you haven’t read Bloodlines (and shame on you if that’s the case) they won’t make any sense anyway and secondly because, as per usual, I want you to read this. This is YA at its finest. Characters are so three-dimensional that they essentially leap off of the page at you. And there is a lot of YA with flat, boring characters that have absolutely no substance (read: Stephenie Meyer and Lauren Oliver).
There is just one thing that I picked up on while I was re-reading the series. There is a lot of forbidden love in Bloodlines. There’s Sydney and Adrian. But then there’s a human and dhampir (the half human, half Moroi hybrids) relationship between Angeline and Trey. The consequences for Trey as an ex ‘Warrior of Light” (vampire hunter) aren’t as severe for him as they are for Sydney, so Trey shrugs them off, but that element is there. Then you have the guardian and charge relationship, where the guardian (Eddie) has fallen in love with his charge Jill (the Dragomir princess). But in the earlier books there was a casual relationship (all flirting, no action) between Jill and one of her human classmates that had to end because the relationship was so forbidden. And the one that started it all was the main relationship in the prequel series Vampire Academy: Rose Hathaway and Dimitri Belikov. They were student and teacher. Throw that dynamic on top of a seven-year age gap, the fact that the two were guardians for the queen, and that they were both dhampirs (couldn’t have children, so no more dhampirs to add to the ranks of guardians) and you have the mother of all forbidden relationships.
Honestly? I think Mead has a thing for the forbidden fruit angle. It may be slightly overdone, but you don’t realise this at the time of reading, which I suppose is what you want.
Now I’m going to side-track myself for a minute so we can talk about the cover of this book for a minute. Sydney’s whole expression says so much. It says “I love this man. I would have him right now if I could. But you want to take him away from me. But I’m a powerful witch, motherfucker. Come near me and I will eat you for dinner. Then fuck this guy’s brains out”. Maybe without the swearing, but you get the idea.
Adrian just looks worried, looking over his shoulder to watch out for one of the thousands of people out to get Sydney. Plus the shadow over his face? Such a metaphor for the detrimental effects of spirit. Michael Frost and Emilian Gregory – the cover photographer and designer respectively – are two very talented individuals.
But, the first three books in the series? These covers didn’t really make much sense:
First of all, in Bloodlines, Adrian only starts falling for Sydney at the very end, so that intense, secret gaze is a bit much for me. Then the Golden Lily? If that’s Jill on the left, she’s supposed to be brunette! A light brunette, but still. And then Indigo Spell? Marcus (because he’s the only one described as having that indigo tattoo) is supposed to have shoulder length blonde hair! And having Sydney in the middle of him and Adrian implies she’s torn between the two. She never was. So even though the Fiery Heart‘s cover is impeccable, I don’t like those three. And the released cover for Bloodlines #5, Silver Shadows?
I don’t get it. I’ve tried to make it fit and it just doesn’t. A huge let down after the amazing cover for Fiery Heart.
Back to the detrimental effects of spirit, Mead brings this into play in a big way when we see things through Adrian’s eyes (that’s right, we get into Adrian Ivashkov’s head. Something avid readers of the Bloodlines series have been hanging out for since February), when we realise that Adrian is starting to hallucinate his dead aunt’s voice. In my honest opinion, I think Mead glosses over this a bit too much. Adrian’s diagnosis of bipolar disorder doesn’t add much to the overall plot, it just explains his character further. But, this is such a serious thing, that it kind of gets lost in translation. You could mark it down to characterisation and the fact that Adrian wouldn’t really take it seriously, but what about when Sydney finds out? I mean, when he loses it one night and she bursts into tears because she can’t help, that’s spot on. But after that? I think she’d worry a whole lot more. There’s a lot going on in this book, but I just think this got brushed aside. Kind of like “yes, Adrian is bipolar, but didn’t we already know that?”.
Kind of fitting for the fourth book in a series, don’t you think?
- Covers That I Wish I Could Redesign (pandaheartsbooks.wordpress.com)
- Richelle Mead answers fan questions for Goodreads (herroyalguardian.com)
- Screw the Program (infernalimagination.wordpress.com)
- The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead book review (theselittlebookishthings.wordpress.com)
- Richelle Mead talks ‘The Fiery Heart’ with Entertainment Weekly (herroyalguardian.com)
- Review: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4) – Richelle Mead (unconventionalbookviews.com)
- Review: The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead (pandaheartsbooks.wordpress.com)
- The S.S. Sydrian (infernalimagination.wordpress.com)
- Bloodlines – Richelle Mead (madamespeed.wordpress.com)