I figured that some of you may be hesitant to buy Bloodlines because you liked the Vampire Academy series so much that a new series might feel weird... or you might be afraid that it'd disappoint you. So rather than writing another review for Bloodlines--I'm sure there are plenty of them out now as it is--I figured I'd do a comparison post between the two so you could see if you'd like Bloodlines.
First, here's the summary in case you haven't seen it already.
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
The first book in Richelle Mead's brand-new teen fiction series - set in the same world as Vampire Academy.
When alchemist Sydney is ordered into hiding to protect the life of Moroi princess Jill Dragomir, the last place she expects to be sent is a human private school in Palm Springs, California. But at their new school, the drama is only just beginning.
Populated with new faces as well as familiar ones, Bloodlines explores all the friendship, romance, battles and betrayals that made the #1 New York Times bestselling Vampire Academy series so addictive - this time in a part-vampire, part-human setting where the stakes are even higher and everyone's out for blood.
1. The Protagonists - Rose vs. Sydney
Brash, loud, brave, strong girl jumping into action without thinking versus a quiet, responsible, brilliant, somewhat socially oblivious scientist girl. When reading from Rose's perspective, you get a lot of cursing and disrespect for a good portion of authority... still, you see that she has good intentions, despite the arrogance, and is incredibly loyal to her friends. Sydney is the same regarding loyalty & good intentions but is more... logical about it. She overanalyzes a lot of things. Sydney is a scientist; Rose is a fighter. It really comes down to just that.
2. The World - Well, it's the same world of Moroi and Strigoi and Alchemists as established before, but the focus is more on the Alchemist part with the Moroi world in background. It's not too far in the background, given what Sydney is asked to do, but you get a different perspectives on vampires as a whole.
3. The Romance - It's slower building in Bloodlines than in Vampire Academy, and the reasons are two-fold: the personality differences of the protags & the consequences of the ending in the VA series. Sydney strikes me as the kind of girl who needs to be friends with and respect a guy before she starts dating him, particularly since she's never dated somebody and never been in love. Not only that but Adrian is also still getting over Rose, and there's the whole human/Moroi controversy that they'll have to face... So while VA had a near-sex scene, Bloodlines didn't even have a kiss; just quips exchanged back and forth... until the end. When it definitely seemed like things were heating up.
4. Body Issues - Rose was the girl with an exotic beauty and a girl who knew she was beautiful and used it. When I think of her, I see a curvy girl with big breasts and hips to match, though her body is well-toned due to dhampir training. Sydney, on the other hand, compares herself to Moroi, who are tall and thin like models. Sydney feels inadequate in comparison and doesn't get very many compliments regarding her beauty. It'll be nice to see how she'll come into herself as the series progresses.
[Side note: I cannot tell you how grateful I am that Richelle Mead included this. How many novels even address this issue? Most of the time, the girl is "average" (though it's questionable what it is actually average) or good-looking as it is... but is that really how most teenage girls see themselves? I don't know about the masses, but I do know that I have insecurities, and reading about Sydney's made her seem like a real character.]
5. High School Setting - I was actually considering making this a similarity, because Ms. Mead uses the high school setting in a similar way. The classes aren't actually all that important; the setting, rather, is just another tool to develop social drama and prove how hard a time the protag/side characters are having adjusting to their new lives... The real difference lies in the 'extra-curricular' studying the protag does--while Rose goes to the priest to ask about Anna & St. Vladimir, Sydney turns to one of her teachers and unwittingly discovers another aspect to the fantasy world Mead has created.
Twists and Turns - This sort of reminds me of Shadow Kiss where two things are happening to Rose: her aura being so dark & her seeing ghosts. There are multiple layers to Bloodlines, and nothing is what it seems... a sign of the plot mastery & suspense/mystery that Richelle Mead is so good at, no matter what story she's telling.
The Characters - Richelle Mead also excels at creating unforgettable characters. I admit, when I read the VA series, I didn't think all that much about Eddie or Jill. I felt bad for both of them when things happened to them but didn't spare them a second thought, really. I definitely liked Adrian and Sydney, though. But it really doesn't matter what you thought of them in VA, because they get well-developed in Bloodlines and are infinitely more likable once you know them... which I didn't think was possible for Adrian, but hey, an author who can make a mobster (aka Abe) likable has some serious talent up her sleeve.
Themes - This section is comprised of a lot of my own speculations regarding the series / what may happen in the future Bloodlines books.
A. The magic in the world being greater than the protag. realizes... With VA, this was an examination of Spirit Magic--its limitations, its possibilities, etc. There is still some of that in Bloodlines, and I expect a lot more to come... And yet, there is also something else introduced in Bloodlines besides the stuff you learn about regarding the type of "Alchemist magic."
B. With the maturation of the protag. comes challenging of one of the established ideas of the world... Rose starts off in VA scorning dhampir/dhampir relationships... and yet where does she end up? I think the same will happen regarding human/Moroi interactions with Sydney, particularly in the romance realm. There is another idea being challenged, similar to Rose's discovery regarding humans and Strigoi, but I won't say what it is here, because it's more spoilery...
C. The protag. challenging her own ideas... For Rose, it was finding out what it meant to be a Guardian, and when to put her life above Lissa's or vice versa. I think that for Sydney, a part of the story will focus on what being an Alchemist will do for her in life.
Honestly, I don't think anybody who loved VA won't love Bloodlines. It was fantastic. I don't know which I like better, and I don't really want to make that judgement now. For me, each VA book only got better, so I'd like to give Bloodlines that chance too, and hope the rest of you will as well.