>Review: Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead

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Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules. She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir’s Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir princess, Lissa. She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri. And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and her reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardians to come.

Now the law has finally caught up with Rose – for a crime she didn’t even commit. She’s in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch. She’ll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir.

But the clock on Rose’s life is running out. Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back… and this time she is truly out of second chances. The big question is, when your whole life is about saving others, who will save you?

Last Sacrifice, which hit bookstore shelves earlier this month and rocketed up the New York Times Bestseller Lists, marks the sixth and final novel in Richelle Mead’s bestselling Vampire Academy series. These books have done their best to fill the void that opened in many people’s lives when Buffy the Vampire Slayer went off the air. Everything there was to love about Buffy, Vampire Academy has delivered in spades. It’s got a spunky, butt-kicking heroine with a steady stream of one-liners, an awesome supporting cast of friends, family, and mentors, a forbidden love with a sexy older guy (if not quite so old as Angel!), a secret human organization keeping tabs on things, evil bloodsucking fiends, a pretty good body count, humor, heartrending choices, tragedies, and triumphs. Despite how it sounds, the Vampire Academy series isn’t just Buffy 2.0 – it is distinctly its own story, with its own mythology, plot, conflicts, and unexpected twists. It’s just got the same great mojo that made us love Buffy and her Scooby Gang.

Last Sacrifice picks up only days after the conclusion of Spirit Bound, which saw Rose finally give up on ever having a relationship with her erstwhile instructor and lover, Dimitri Belikov, and be arrested and falsely charged with the murder of Queen Tatiana. Unsurprisingly, the book opens with Rose going stir-crazy in prison, awaiting her trial as her friends try and figure out who really killed the queen. But Rose is Rose, and her friends are their usual bold and crazy selves, and true to expectation, she doesn’t stay in prison long.

Rose had her fortune told at the end of the previous book, and the cards predicted a journey in her future, although this was never the sort of journey Rose expected! Like in Blood Promise, the fourth VA book, Rose is on the road without Lissa, her best friend and bond mate. Not just on the road this time, though – on the lam! An escaped prisoner charged with high treason and murder, Rose is someone the Guardians are determined to bring back to court – dead or alive.

The book proceeds with two parallel plots, which correspond neatly to the two vital questions introduced at the end of Spirit Bound. One follows Rose in her escape from Court and prison, as she tries simultaneously to hide from the Guardians and to unravel the mystery that Queen Tatiana posthumously charged her with solving: identify and locate Lissa’s heretofore unknown illegitimate half-sibling, ensuring that Lissa has a quorum and is eligible to wield the power of the Dragomir family on the Moroi council.

Back at Court, Lissa, her boyfriend Christian, and the rest of Rose’s motley gang of rule-breaking friends race against time to try and answer the other key question: Who killed the queen? Solving the mystery is the only way to lift Rose’s death sentence. As before when Lissa and Rose were separated, Rose follows the action from afar by utilizing her mental bond with Lissa, which allows her to see through Lissa’s eyes and hear her thoughts. She’s also able to have occasional contact with her boyfriend Adrian, who is a dreamwalker, so she can contribute her thoughts on what she’s seen through Lissa’s eyes.

As if tracking down hidden love children and catching murderers weren’t enough excitement, Rose & Lissa’s nemesis, Victor Dashkov, decides to reappear in their lives. In addition, the entire Moroi world is in tumult because of the elections to choose a new monarch from among the twelve ancient Moroi royal families, adding the complication of royal politics to the lives of Rose’s friends back at court.

In keeping with its character as a sort of roadtrip adventure story, the book’s action proceeds at a rapid clip, with events coming thick and fast for both Rose and Lissa. Nevertheless, despite all the external action at both ends, there is still a surprising amount of time spent exploring the main characters’ inner landscapes, as well. In many respects, Last Sacrifice is as much a story about emotional journeys as physical ones. The emotional journeys are more satisfying than usual, though, because the characters make real, tangible progress sorting through their baggage and growing as people.

As might be expected, given the gravity of the mysteries Rose and Lissa are trying to solve, Last Sacrifice doesn’t have as many outright funny moments as some of the earlier installments in the series (humorous cheap shots at West Virginia aside). However, the overall tone of the book is lighter; it is a steady journey up from the dark depths where the previous book ended (Dimitri utterly depressed, Rose emotionally devastated) to the resolution that will leave most readers both pleased and satisfied. All is not pure sweetness and light by the end of Rose’s story, however; it is pointed out to her that there was “a lot of collateral damage along the way,” and not everyone’s story ends as well as hers. Further, the unmasking of the very unexpected identity of Queen Tatiana’s murderer is not the unqualified relief for Rose and her friends that they had started out expecting. Also, there is Rose’s last sacrifice to be made…

Last Sacrifice is definitely a worthy conclusion to a series that grabbed on at the first chapter of the first book, and didn’t let go once for the entire six book ride. It still leaves a few issues dangling and questions unresolved, but happily, that is what the spin-off series is for! Rose’s story may be told, but the upheaval in the Moroi world is far from over with the election of a new queen, and many of the characters from Vampire Academy still have tales to tell. Look for the first book, Bloodlines, to come out this summer.

PS: For those of you that ship – Team Dimitri or Team Adrian? Tell me about it in the comments!

Elvie purchased both dead-tree and audiobook versions of Last Sacrifice.

If you love Vampire Academy, be sure to check out Janet Cadsawan’s fabulous collection of official Vampire Academy jewelry, and Arcane Vault for other cool official merchandise like t-shirts, key chains, bookmarks, and more!

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