Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
DANGER: SPOILER LANDMINE – If you haven’t read Last Sacrifice, come back later! This is not meant to be a spoiler-free review, it is more of an “oh my lord it’s the end” gushfest.
And if you haven’t started the series, check out this chapter sampler.
So was anyone else a bit freaked out by the title? Images of Rose taking too much of Lissa’s spirit darkness and going completely insane (like Anna-suicidal-insane, or Tarasov-prisoner-cuckoo), or of Rose taking a fatal stake/Strigoi bite/bullet for Lissa were plaguing me as I ripped through this book. I was just waiting for the “Last Sacrifice” to rear its ugly head.
And that tension brought up a very familiar feeling for me. I love Rose Hathaway. She is one of the best heroines ever put to paper – selfless, badass, and able to come up with insanely creative (emphasis on insane) solutions to sticky situations. But I’ve always felt that her undying devotion to Lissa was somewhat unearned. Yes, I know – Lissa is the only reason Rose survived the fatal car crash that claimed the rest of the Dragomirs. Yes, that does count for a lot. And yes, she brought Dimitri back – it doesn’t really get better on the BFF-front than healing the Strigoi out of said BFF’s boyfriend. But given the lengths Rose is willing to go to for Lissa, I still can’t help but feel their friendship is off-balance somehow.
Throughout the series Rose has been so capable, intelligent and uncannily skilled at protecting Lissa, even when she’s physically thousands of miles away (was there anything more frustrating than watching Rose watch Lissa through the bond, imploding at the hands of Avery Lazar in Blood Promise? And bless her, Rose even found a way around that.) Rose frequently siphons off spirit darkness without a second thought, despite knowing that it may mean the end of her sanity and her life, but Rose would lay down her life for Lissa in a heartbeat. I’m always left wondering: is it worth it?
Maybe the feeling is a bit of an extension of my overall disdain for the Moroi-Dhampir political structure, because the whole “they come first” mantra has always irked me – why SHOULD they come first? When some of the characters I care most about, Rose and Dimitri (and also Eddie, and poor, poor Mason), are dhampirs. Shouldn’t THEIR lives matter just as much? I know the Moroi possess valuable magic, and are necessary for dhampir procreation, but the whole caste system never sat well with me.
So that brings me to the reasons Last Sacrifice blew my freaking mind:
1. LISSA STEPS IT THE #$%@ UP
As we open the book, Rose is trapped in a prison at Court, presumed guilty of murdering Queen Tatiana. What could be worse to a body in constant ass-kicking motion than 4 prison walls? Nothing – except maybe an undignified execution – and Lissa knows that’s what awaits her friend. So with Rose-like calculation she orchestrates an elaborate and daring prison break.
Obsessed with finding the true murderer, Lissa grills everyone at Court, using compulsion when necessary to get information. Then she makes a GIGANTIC concession. She agrees (after being publicly surprised by her friends) to run for Queen in the elections so she can further stall Court politics and buy time to absolve Rose. Despite the fact that she has ZERO desire to be Queen, AND that she’ll have to endure a series of rigorous tests, she is willing to do it for Rose. (And there’s no danger of her actually becoming Queen anyway, right? She doesn’t have a family member from her bloodline to complete the formal election procedures. Technicality yes, but an important one.)
But somewhere during the physical, psychological and intellectual tests, Lissa decides that even though she’s not playing for keeps, she should treat the Queenly tests seriously out of respect for her family, the Moroi people, and the proceedings. And that’s when she truly begins to shine. During a survival scavenger hunt, we get to see (via the bond) Lissa reason her way through complex riddles, overcoming her inexperience as a sheltered Royal, and succeeding without the guidance or protection of Rose.
The next test, living her worst fears via a spirit-charmed cup, spoke miles about her feelings for Christian, Rose, and the Moroi people. She loves them, doesn’t want to let them down or lose them, and she refuses to let herself stand behind a Rose-shield, ESPECIALLY if it means spirit-induced craziness would claim her friend. Though she wants to run and hide from the devastatingly real-seeming fears, she faces them bravely, and comes out the other side stronger.
The final test and speech convince me that Lissa actually would be a good Queen, especially over the other royal candidates – one of which would FORCE dhampirs into service (I think you can tell where my vampire politics lie). Lissa wants dhampirs to have more of a voice in their society, and she is as ready for Moroi to wield their magic in battle as the radical Tasha Ozera.
In my mind by the end Lissa finally deserves Rose as a best friend and self-sacrificing protector. And she deserves to be queen. So when the technicality holding Lissa back from the throne is removed (as you know it will be since you’re privy to Rose’s secret mission), it is such a sweet, sweet ending.
2. ROSE IS AS ROSE-LIKE AS EVER
What’s the best way to escape your former boyfriend/mentor when he’s trying to protect you? Pretend to kiss him, and then surprise him with a punch in the face, so you can make an escape. Rose is on the run, and she has no interest in a “sexually-charged adventure” with Dimitri. Especially if it means sitting around in a hotel playing it safe.
Most fugitives on the run for their life would be ok with lying low, but Rose would rather rock her “shoot-to-kill” status by embarking on a crazy quest to (what else?) help Lissa find her long-lost sibling. And she is not above involving Victor Dashkov, his mad brother Robert, and Sonya Karp (a former teacher who went Strigoi to escape spirit madness) in the search. Utterly crazy Rose-logic? Of course. Ass-kicking and effective? Always.
OF COURSE it’s Rose who uncovers the true murderer (and man is it a doozy), and she reveals it publicly in spectacular, defiant fashion. And since the murderer won’t go down without a fight, and Lissa happens to be in the room, that blasted “Last Sacrifice” becomes inevitable. But Rose has one more bit of bad-assery up her sleeve. She refuses to give herself up to the world of the dead, and this time, she doesn’t need Lissa’s spirit to help her avoid it. The side effect, the breaking of the one-sided spirit bond, may inhibit Rose’s ability to keep tabs on Lissa going forward, but it will make for a more balanced and normal friendship (and will make Lissa’s love life less of an all access peep show).
3. DIMKA GETS HIS MOJO BACK
Even though he is still brooding over having perpetrated serious evil as a Strigoi, and even though he goes a bit berserk when he’s fighting/interrogating Strigoi, he gradually begins to accept that he is a dhampir again, and that life is worth living (with a little help from Rose, of course). Yes, I expected it to happen, but that didn’t make his about-face any less thrilling. Especially when he realizes the most vibrant and “alive” part of his life is his love for Rose.
Which brings me to:
4. ROSE + DIMITRI: REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD
Was there any doubt how this love story would end? The only real obstacle between Rose and Dimitri was his own guilt over his Strigoi-tainted crimes. (Oh, and Adrian. But we’ll come back to that.) I don’t think I’ve been this pleased with a romantic storyline in a LONG time. Their love is so pure, so unstoppable, even their auras are out-of-control glowing when they’re around each other. Sigh….
5. THERE IS UNFINISHED BUSINESS
Which means more Vampire Academy goodness, in the form of Bloodlines!!! Lissa gives Jill, her newly minted Dragomir sister, guilty looks during her coronation, so we can expect some kind of throne-protecting measures to be taken, and Jill may not like them. Sydney is in deep trouble with the Alchemists for her involvement in the Rose-Dimitri misadventures, and we know we’ll get to see her driving one of her beloved cars through a future plot. And I think we can all agree, after the soul-crushing beating adorable Adrian took at the end of Last Sacrifice, the boy deserves a happy ending. So the VA love interest Richelle has promised to write about in Bloodlines just HAS to be Adrian.
But most of all, we are virtually guaranteed to get more Lissa, Rose, and Dimitri action too. How could we not, with Lissa being the Queen, and Rose being the Queen’s bodyguard?
Long live the Queen.