Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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Shadow Kiss was a deliciously addictive novel that I could not put down. I have devoured the first three books of this series in a kind of manic fervor because they are so damn addictive. This book was so, so close to getting 5 stars from me, but I held back for reasons I will elaborate on later in this review.
Okay, if Rose Hathaway didn't already make my list of favourite YA heroines in Frostbite, she firmly cemented her spot in this novel. Rose is Badass with a capital B. Seeing her struggle with supernatural style mental illness and romantic woes broke my heart, and it's been a long time since I cared so much about a protagonist. I also loved that Rose took a stand for herself in this book - none of this "Moroi come first" business. Rose needs to take some time for herself and address the things that are important to her. Lissa is important, but so is Rose!
One of my favourite things about Shadow Kiss was how Mead changed the way she discussed the idea of "blood whores". I remember being taken aback in Vampire Academy by how derogatory this term seemed, and how Rose just agreed with it. Then I realised, that's how we are raised to think of real-life women in similar scenarios - and we see Rose change the thought process she has always used with this issue as she grows, which is admirable. Through the past three books, Mead has shown Rose's maturity develop as she lets go (somewhat) of these old prejudices. Ambrose and Dimitri's family make Rose think twice about what it means to be a dhampir - and that maybe raising kids or having kinky sex is not really that bad.
As I said in my review of Vampire Academy, I felt like this series was going to be a non-stop soap opera. Whilst this was definitely true of the first book, I think Shadow Kiss had more political and social justice aspects. Seeing the court in action, and seeing the divide between dhampirs and Moroi, provided much-appreciated insight into Moroi society. Having said this, it never lost the gripping personal drama and action that made it so intriguing to start with. It is hard to strike such a balance, so kudos to Mead for keeping me sated on both fronts.
The ending of this novel was really what stopped me giving it 5 stars. Whilst I can understand why Mead chose this ending, (view spoiler)[separating the main couple for a prolonged period always ends in disaster. (hide spoiler)] The only time this really works is when romance is not the central theme in a book - and let's face it, romance is a pretty big part of this series.
Overall, this was the best book in the Vampire Academy series thus far. It had a kickass protagonist, thrilling action and beautiful romance - all with vampires! What more could you want?
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