Published by Penguin Group on August 23rd 2011
I wasn't free of my past, not yet.
Sydney's blood is special. That's because she's an alchemist - one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. But the last encounter Sydney had with vampires got her in deep trouble with the other alchemists. And now with her allegiences in question, her future is on the line.
When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomir - is in mortal danger, and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the unlikeliest of places: a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. The last thing Sydney wants is to be accused of sympathizing with vampires. And now she has to live with one.
The Moroi court believe Jill and Sydney will be safe at Amberwood Prep, but threats, distractions, and forbidden romance lurk both outside - and within - the school grounds. Now that they're in hiding, the drama is only just beginning.
I was weary while going into Bloodlines. This is actually my first companion series. Having adored the Vampire Academy series, I found myself extremely nervous. When you come to understand, look forward to, and love a certain character or characters, it’s hard to imagine a story through the eyes of another. I feared that not only would I be disinterested; I’d be let down. In the past, certain books have had sequels that because I disliked them so much, brought the whole series down in my eyes. *Cough Breaking Dawn Cough* I’m happy to report that this was not the case with Bloodlines. Although I desperately missed Rose, Dimitri and other fellow VA main characters, I found Bloodline’s new selection of characters, entertaining and intriguing. It was great to not only dip back into the imaginative world of Moroi royalty, vicious Strigoi, and kickass dampers, but to see and explore other parts that briefly had a cameo in VA, such as the life and doings of alchemists. Who would have thought that Sydney Sage the mysterious and standoffish, female alchemist Rose meets in VA, would one day have a series focused mainly on her. Well… besides Richelle Mead that is. Ha ha.
Sydney Sage’s VA appearances were short and few between, and therefore it was fabulous to not only see her again, but witness her first-account experiences and life in the alchemist profession. We learn early on that there are many alchemists throughout the world. This is a type of family tradition where one member of each generation gets chosen for this “higher” calling. I say higher calling because it is the belief of alchemists that all vampires, even the more human and alive-type (Moroi), are evil and soulless. Therefore it is an alchemist’s job to prevent humans from realizing that vampires exist. They aren’t fighters — far from it — but they know their way around a chemistry lab and have certain ways of disposing of bodies with handy-dandy chemical mixtures. We learn early on that Sydney’s life is miserable. Having been 1 of 3 sisters, in a respectable alchemist family where male alchemists are preferred, to say Sydney and her father have a bad relationship would be putting it mildly. Everything is procedure and protocol which leaves no time for affection. It also doesn’t help that because of certain escapades in VA, Sydney’s father and the general alchemist hierarchy have begun to question her allegiance.
A big part of Bloodlines has to do with one’s views on the age old black vs. white a.k.a. good vs. evil. We know from VA that although some Moroi do evil things, it is solely the work of a Strigoi that is 100% evil. However, alchemists view this matter differently. They believe that all types of vampires are evil and “soulless” even though they are willing to work with the Moroi and to go as far as sending an alchemist to protect a Moroi girl. It was amazing to see Sydney’s character evolve throughout Bloodlines. After certain occurences in VA, Sydney begins to question her alchemist beliefs. In Bloodlines she begins to realize and understand that what alchemists have been led to believe, is a lie. She’s basically forced to rethink her whole way of life when she volunteers and then gets approved to live with and protect an important Moroi girl (Jill). Throughout the book, Sydney struggles with her alchemist beliefs and protocol when she comes to realize that Jill may not be so different. Although Jill is a Moroi, she is also just a sweet teenage girl who has had to uproot her life in order to protect it.
I’ve never really considered myself a big fan of alchemy. This is mainly because I’ve never read about it before. However, I really enjoyed learning more about the role of alchemists in the VA universe. We learn in VA that each Moroi is gifted with an elemental, magical ability. The element they have the most affinity for is the one they can wield (water, fire, earth, air, spirit). The idea behind this type of magic is that the user connects to an element, draws power from it, and can manipulate it. However, in Bloodlines we have a different type of power. Alchemists use different types of chemicals, minerals, and such to concoct and create tools. Alchemists are fervently against “magic” believing it’s part of the evil, unnatural-ness of vampires. However I think there’s a lot of backwards thinking. These alchemist mixtures, which sometimes include vampire blood, scream “magic” to me.
Overall I was surprised and generally happy with Bloodlines. It started at a bit slow but I realize now that, that was to be expected. Although were in an already established world, we’re still being introduced to a new part of it. Unfortunately I had a few quips with this book. I found, after looking back through some VA books that there was some inconsistencies. A few general character descriptions were off. But more importantly in VA we are told that Jill’s affinity is air, however in Bloodlines it is said to be water. I don’t know if I missed something that explains it, but either way I was little confused.
If you are a VA lover I definitely recommend reading Bloodlines. Although we’ve got a new group of characters to follow, they are just as interesting if not more. There’s also some brief and more-so cameos by some favorite VA characters. I’ve got to wait a few weeks until I can afford book two The Golden Lily but you can bet once I get it I’ll be reading it in one sitting.