This engaging book begins a new series set in Richelle Mead’s world of vampires and humans. The violent Strigoi and the more peaceful Moroi vampires live amongst humans, hiding in plain sight. The Alchemists are a group of magical humans who work to help hide vampire activity and protect humanity from danger from the vampires. The book focuses on the protagonist Sydney, a young woman, who has had her life devoted to the Alchemists by her powerful and unforgiving father. Well educated but sheltered, she is confronted with situations that challenge her beliefs and sense of self.
After previously acting to save a vampire in danger, and falling under suspicion from her own people, Sydney is given a chance to redeem herself and is assigned a sensitive mission – to act as bodyguard to the sister of the Moroi queen, who for her own safety has been placed in a school in the human realm. As Sydney overcomes her fear and revulsion towards vampires and comes to appreciate those she is working with, she also begins to break free of her strict upbringing and make decisions for herself. She has many dilemmas to face, working out who she should trust and where her loyalties should really lie.
Mead has created a sophisticated and developed world with a complex mythology through the seven volumes of her Vampire Academy series. This new series, with its focus on the Alchemists, fits easily into that world. While it is definitely a book structured for teenagers, it is challenging and engaging to read with attention to detail and moral dilemmas. While it is primarily concerned with the supernatural, it also explores themes as diverse as individual responsibility, family ties, body image, bullying and fitting in. There are also hints of forbidden romance and long term plots which will develop further in future novels in the series.
Bloodlines will appeal particularly to teen girls, and it is always a plus to come across a text that will lead students on to further reading as they work through a series. I have certainly had a number of girls try to take the text out of my hands when I was carrying it around school, and many offers from students to ‘review’ it for me if I would give my copy to them! I would have no problem recommending it as a wide reading text, and it would also be a good text for literature circles in Years 9 and 10 for groups who wish to challenge themselves and for those who enjoy reading and discussing texts in this genre. Bloodlines is a developed and engaging story which suits its target audience perfectly.