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Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy Series #5) - Spirit Bound was a big improvement over the somewhat lackluster Blood Promise. The story begins with Rose back at St. Vladimir's Academy, getting ready to take her trials to become a full-fledged guardian. After she passes with flying colours and graduates from high school, she shifts her attention to finding a way to heal Dimitri, based on a rumour she came across in Siberia. The book moves at a steady pace with plenty of conflicts and revelations, all written in Richelle Mead's clean and crisp humour-infused style. Many familiar characters return as the much of the book takes place at the Moroi royal court, including Adrian, whom Rose has begun a relationship with, Christian, Tasha, and Dimitri.

The many unpredictable plot twists make Spirit Bound a novel that is difficult to put down. Throughout the Vampire Academy series, Mead has always been able to surprise me with completely unexpected events in the storyline that change the plot significantly. In Spirit Bound, one plotline leads to another through fast and shocking reveals that drive the story and raise the suspense. Lots of things are stirring up in the Moroi royal courts and Rose finds herself in the middle of it, dealing with the work and expectations of being a new guardian, navigating the royal court's social scene, and even facing Queen Tatiana, ruler of the vampire race.

I grew increasingly annoyed with Rose as the story went on. It's understandable that Rose would be concerned about Dimitri, but her constant thoughts about him throughout the book, while conveniently forgetting her boyfriend Adrian's existence, doesn't make me like her all that much. It makes me feel sorry for Adrian, whose sweet and caring side is revealed in this volume. He's so dedicated to Rose and it irritates me so much that Rose does not truly appreciate what a great guy he is. Rose repeatedly says that she has come to care deeply for Adrian, to the point that she can't imagine not having him in her life and expresses that wish for their relationship to work out. She keeps telling us this throughout the narrative yet her actual behaviour betrays an intense fixation on Dimitri. It makes any romantic moment she has with Adrian not believable in the least. As a reader, I am no longer interested in the outcome of Rose's love life because, no matter how much Richelle Mead tries to convince us that there is a tense love triangle here, it is obvious that Adrian was never a real contender at all.

Lissa and Christian's love story is equally frustrating. I am still not quite clear as to why they broke up in the first place, but the possibility of them getting back together is constantly dangled in front of the reader's face in all of their interactions. It's exasperatingly obvious they'll end up together anyway and I just wish Mead had them make up quickly so we can get on to the more interesting parts of the book.

Emily Shaffer's voice really suits Rose in the audiobook. Her narration could have been a little more nuanced but she uses plenty of emotion that had me hanging on to every word even during slower scenes. She has fairly distinctive voices for all of the main characters, though it was an odd choice to give Adrian a British accent when I'm pretty sure it's never been mentioned in the book that his character speaks like that. It was a little distracting at first but I got used to it. More distracting though, were the different music and sound effects that were played every time a spirit user used their powers and every time a Strigoi showed up. I'm not sure what the audiobook's producers were thinking when they decided to add in these audio effects. They added absolutely nothing to the narration or the story and were incredibly jarring.

Despite the unengaging romantic entanglements, Spirit Bound kept me engrossed with its drama and political intrigue. I could not tell where the story was heading at all and a big twist at the end of the book has me eager to read Last Sacrifice, the final book in the series. I can't wait to see what's next!