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Blood Promise - Richelle Mead I'm not a big fan of vampires so Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy series came as a nice surprise to me since it felt very different from the typical YA paranormal series that usually revolves around a girl falling for a paranormal creature. Romance takes a backseat as the main focus of Vampire Academy is on the many plot threads running throughout the series. The first three books were great, full of action and excitement and never had a truly dull moment. However, Blood Promise, as the fourth book of this series, fails to deliver the same fast-paced adventure and thrill that I love VA for. It feels a lot like the middle book in a trilogy, where the action is slower since the author is taking time to set things up in preparation for the finale.

In Blood Promise, Rose runs off to Siberia in order to find and kill Dimitri as she promised she would. Since she's in a totally different setting, we are introduced to a handful of new characters, which includes Dimitri's family. Dimitri's family consists of his mother and his sisters, who are all dhampirs. This part of the book delves a bit into the lives of dhampir women and how they live and interact particularly with Moroi. We also get some glimpses into Dimitri's chlidhood.

Blood Promise also introduces us to Sydney Sage, who is an Alchemist. The Alchemists are a group of humans who aid the vampires in keeping their existence a secret. I was very interested in Sydney as a character because I was aware that she is the main character of the Vampire Academy spin-off series, Bloodlines. I latched on to her character right away because of this and because of how drastically different she is from Rose but I was disappointed since her role in Blood Promise was actually quite small and not very memorable at all.

With this book, Richelle Mead extends her worldbuilding which should be interesting, but instead, only brings attention to the many plot holes in the series. If the Alchemists are so important to the vampires, then why weren't they mentioned earlier in the series? Also, I find it odd that they work for vampires and help them, when most Alchemists carry the view that vampires are evil creatures who prey on human beings. It is explained that Alchemists have a tattoo which is charmed to prevent them from exposing the vampire world and are compelled to work for them as it is a job passed on through the family. However, if so many Alchemists were against vampires in the first place, you'd think they'd find some way to band together and rebel. There is also a revelation in the book that renders Lissa's kidnapping in the first Vampire Academy book rather pointless.

It's also evident that Mead did not know what to do about Lissa's story now that she and Rose are separated. She takes advantage of Rose's bond with Lissa and uses it as a plot device to show what is going on with Lissa back at St. Vladimir's Academy. The bond isn't integrated very well into the structure of the story and of course, every time Rose peeks in on Lissa, she conveniently witnesses something important. I think Mead could have just written those chapters from Lissa's point of view instead of using the bond, and the story would have flowed a bit better. The use of the mental link as a convenient plot device just seems kind of cheesy, clumsily-executed, and poorly thought-out.

The first three books in the VA series had a fairly good internal pace in terms of how quickly the story moved. Blood Promise, on the other hand, felt like a significant departure from the tight editing of the previous books. The first 300 or so pages are fairly slow since it's mostly just Rose living with Dimitri's family and trying to figure out what to do. It's certainly not what we're used to in the normally action-packed Vampire Academy series. I rather enjoyed the change in pace however it did begin drag on a bit, especially with Lissa's story, which was obvious and not at all interesting, and all the flashbacks with Dimitri. They seemed more like filler written to increase page numbers rather than to add to the plot and could have been edited down. The real action doesn't really occur until about two-thirds in, and when it does, Mead is back in form with thrilling fight scenes and intriguing plot twists but it is too little too late.

All in all, Blood Promise wasn't an entirely bad read but there is a noticeable decline in quality in this installment. I hope that this is just due to Mead getting ready to dish out some big revelations as we get closer to the end of Rose's adventures.