Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.Hallelujah that by the time I finally got around to reading this book, book 3 was already out. Because THE ENDING! Not exactly a cliff hanger, but, man oh man, does it have me beyond excited to see what’s going to happen next. Which I was a little surprised (happy, but surprised) about, considering this book got off to a rather slow and lackluster start. The first 100 pages or so just feel like review: the author is trying to catch the reader up on what happened in “Bloodlines” plus some of what happened in the Vampire Academy series. So that, combined with the fact that not much happens in the beginning, makes it all a bit tedious. BUT. After the first third or so, Mead finds her pace and the book gains momentum and becomes quite hard to put down.
Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.
But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.
When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.
Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?
Sydney and Adrian are a work of genius, I think. In the first book, they both managed to get on my nerves, and in this one, they still did, though they were a little better, but, oh the possibilities! Both characters have so much potential, and I can’t wait to see how Mead develops their characters over the course of the series. Because, hello, this is Richelle Mead and you know she’s capable of writing awesome character development.
And even with their lingering annoyingness, Sydney and Adrian have got some really great chemistry. And I don’t necessarily mean romantic chemistry (although, let me say once more: THE ENDING!)—I just mean that their friendship is so well-written and believable and anticipation-building. I love the way they understand each other and each other’s struggles in a way that no one else does and that through their friendship you can see them each growing and becoming better people. (And what Adrian says to Sydney at the end about her skinniness obsession . . . that’s where I finally fell in love with Adrian as a protagonist.)
The story is obviously much less action-based than the Vampire Academy series, although there are some brief moments of fighting. I still find myself occasionally missing Rose and her kick-A take-‘em-down style, but Sydney and her logical, methodical style is growing on me more and more as Sydney herself grows on me.
Overall, while it was off to a slow start, once the “The Golden Lily” got going, it totally redeemed itself. I’m SO excited for the rest of this series, because I think the characters and plot have a truly great potential for awesomeness.
Rating: 4 / 5