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Last Sacrifice (MP3 Book) - Richelle Mead, Emily Shaffer Reading Last Sacrifice felt a bit like reading the final Harry Potter book-- the first 3/4 is mostly dull descriptions of the characters running around and searching for clues rather than the excitement and action you would expect in a finale. There were plenty of things going on-- Lissa's tests as a candidate for the throne, Rose's friends trying to solve the mystery of Tatiana's murder, Rose and Dimitri reconnecting with each other-- but author Richelle Mead wove all of the plotlines together in such a clumsy way that everything just felt flat. And while Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had a decently satisfying ending, Last Sacrifice finished with a ridiculous deus ex machina that completely derailed the personalities of some of my beloved characters and left a lot of loose threads.

It's always a problem when Lissa and Rose split up since Mead hasn't figured out a better way to tell Lissa's storylines without using her and Rose's bond as a cheap plot device. I wasn't bothered by it in Spirit Bound where it was used sparingly, but like in Blood Promise, this book has Rose constantly checking in on her best friend using the bond in order to tell Lissa's side of the story. Perhaps it would have been less annoying had Lissa's story been even the least bit interesting. Lissa's tests to become the next vampire monarch were of the most formulaic kind-- a survival test, a test of fear, and a riddle. Each one followed a very predictable structure and their outcomes were predictable as well, although I did like seeing Lissa's growth as she went through each test. I saw the final result of who would be crowned long before it happened.

In addition to the constant use of Rose and Lissa's bond, there was a lot of abuse of the dream walking abilities that spirit users have as well, with Rose being visited by spirit users every time she fell asleep. These sections were used to let the reader know what was occurring in the other subplots that Rose wasn't involved in. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these spirit abilities/plot devices, much of these sections depended on Mead telling us what was happening rather than showing us the scenes. Rose can conveniently access Lissa's memories to find out what happened since her last check-in, so she ends up explaining to the reader what has occurred. Similarly, any spirit user who visits Rose in a dream ends up relaying information through dialogue. What we end up with is a lot of talking about and telling of events that happened rather than showing it. Isn't one of the cardinal rules of writing "tell rather than show"? These spirit abilities may have provided Mead with an easy way to deal with the limited first person perspective, but she ended up writing herself into a corner. And what a badly-written corner it is.

There was a lot of new information introduced in this book about the Vampire Academy world, which was clearly meant to set the stage for the spin-off series Bloodlines. The substantial amount of time spent on the Keepers was a compelling and unexpected expansion of the VA world but it had absolutely zero significance to Last Sacrifice's storyline. The whole section felt like filler, dragging the story out needlessly (seriously, is Mead paid by the number of pages she writes or something?), to only be dropped for the rest of the book. Many other aspects of the plot were left unresolved as well, presumably to be picked up in Bloodlines, and while that makes for a good marketing scheme, as a reader I am annoyed at the lack of resolution.

Speaking of resolutions, we do see the conclusion of the primary mystery of the book-- but the identity of Queen Tatiana's killer is a disappointing and infuriating revelation. The culprit's identity was unpredictable, but only because Mead pulled a deus ex machina on us. It felt like she took stock of all the characters in the series and picked the least likely candidate, only for pure shock value, regardless of whether or not it even makes sense for the character to commit murder. She gave poor reasons for it, and in doing so, destroyed a previously respected character in one fell swoop. A character who had always been described as intelligent and strong, has now turned to a petty, jealous killer.

Oh but Mead wasn't satisfied with destroying only one character. The boring and obvious romantic subplot has also ruined any likeability Rose has left. The way she handles things with the two men in her life makes her out to be a selfish and inconsiderate person who leads other people on for her own benefit. When called out on her actions, she says she's sorry without acting sorry at all and even turns it back on the other person, who is completely justified in their anger, saying that it was the person's own fault for the way things turned out. I guess Rose shouldn't be held responsible for her own morally reprehensible actions? (And we're supposed to view her as a heroine to be looked up to?) And no matter how much she tells us she's sorry and she actually cares, I remain unconvinced that she cared about the other person at all, and frankly, it seems to me that the leftover person in the love triangle dodged a bullet here.

So what exactly was the titular last sacrifice in this book? I'm thinking it was Rose's likeability as a character. (Thank god she won't be the main character of Bloodlines!) Or maybe "last sacrifice" refers to all the sacrifices every major character except Rose and Dimitri had to make in order for Rose to have her happy ending with the person she loves. For myself? I certainly sacrificed a lot of precious time that could be spent on other books to read this awful volume and it was not really worth it.