As I stated in another review my main concern with spin-off series is the fear that I have that the new series won’t be as good as the original. Fortunately, the record for allaying fears is two for two. I really should trust my will-always-read-stuff-by these-authors in they know what they are doing and won’t disappoint.
Whilst J.R. Ward’s Fallen Angel series was not strictly a spin off series but more a different series set in the same world with a completely different cast of characters, Bloodlines uses major characters that were introduced in her Vampire Academy series and makes them the new central cast.
Which begs the obvious question which is ‘Do I need to read the Vampire Academy’ series first?’
Technically no, that’s not necessary. Introductions are made to the cast of characters with the story being told in first person perspective from Sydney Sage’s point of view. Other characters taken from the previous series are the Moroi vampires Jill ‘Jailbait’ Mastrano and Adrian Ivashkov and the Dhampir guardian Eddie Castilo.
However, whilst it may not strictly be necessary, newcomers would do themselves a serious disservice in not reading the Vampire Academy series first because not only is it an amazing series but there is so much world building and history with these characters. Such as why Adrian calls Jill ‘Jailbait’ and what happened between Rose and Adrian that affected him.
Bloodlines story itself also follows on from a setup in Last Sacrifice which means that the Queen of the Moroi vampires can only hold office (it’s an elected position) provided that there are a minimum of two family members of the same bloodline. Jill is Vasilisa’s only other family member and an attempt on her life forces Jill and a select few to go into hiding until a change in the law is passed.
Given that the order the Sydney belongs, the Alchemists loathe all things not human such as vampires, dhampirs and magic but are charged with keeping the two worlds separate Sydney is called upon, albeit very reluctantly, to help hide Jill in a school in Palm Springs.
This could have been very similar to Vampire Academy in that it’s Jill going to school where that was Lissa and Jill’s life is in danger where again, it was Lissa and it’s up to the heroine to keep them safe; Sydney now, Rose Hathaway then, those are the only similar instances.
For a start, when Rose and Lissa returned to St. Vladimir’s, they were going back to a world they were raised in, where they didn’t have to hide what they were. Sydney, Jill and Eddie are going to a completely human school that obviously operates in day time as opposed to St. Vlad’s nocturnal routine. Granted, whilst Sydney is human, she was home-schooled in the Alchemist ways.
Sydney and Rose are very different heroines as well. Situations that would have had Rose using her skills as a fighter either verbally or physically were handled differently by Sydney who relies on her knowledge. She’s no less plucky than Rose though and when called upon, certainly steps up. In doing so, you can see her growth in character throughout the book.
What was interesting was that due to Rose and Lissa being Spirit Bound, the point of view in the Vampire Academy series could switch between two characters which made it easier to keep track on what other characters were doing when out of sight of Rose. However, there is no such device here which, whilst I miss the gimmick, is actually a good thing given Sydney’s irrational reaction to Moroi magic (Adrian’s dream-communication scene, for example). Talking of Rose, seeing her, albeit from Sydney’s point of view was a delight.
If there was a downside to Bloodlines, it was that the bad guys were obvious in who they were. Vampire Academy’s bad guy was actually something of a surprise to me when it was revealed but maybe that was just me.
On the whole though, an outstanding start to new series with the main story wrapped up and resolved with openings to be continued in The Golden Lily. Can’t wait!