LAST SACRIFICE (Vampire Academy #6)
Paranormal Young Adult
Warning: Contains mild spoilers from previous books and you will be able to deduce who Rose ends up with romantically from this review though no specifics are given.
Rose Hathaway has never been one to take the easy road. Her life as a Dhampir (half human, half vampire) has always been one of service to her best friend and Moroi princess, Lissa, and she's never hesitated in doing anything and everything in her power to keep Lissa from harm. As it turns out, Rose now finds herself in a position where she is the one in harm's way, imprisoned for a crime she didn't commit and facing a swift trial and execution based on the significant evidence stacked against her.
Though the future looks bleak, Rose's friends refuse to let her go down without a fight, and Rose is quickly teamed up with her former mentor and love of her life Dimitri, off on a mission that will both aid Lissa politically and help to clear Rose's name. Though Rose has tried to move on after Dimitri's heartbreaking rejection, their forced proximity sparks a flame that has never quite extinguished despite both of their best efforts to put it out.
Emotional upheaval, long-buried secrets, and political intrigue are dominant factors, and Rose and company are forced to face painful realizations that have far reaching consequences for all involved. Though Rose knows she's innocent, there's a murderer in their midst who would do anything to remain anonymous while Rose takes the fall and Lissa is thrust into the world of politics, but this battle has been a long time coming, and Rose will do anything to keep her friends safe.
This final installment reunites us with characters with whom we have fallen hopelessly in love through prior books, their heartbreak and loss a keening pain we feel every moment during their absence in between novels, and one that refuses to dissipate the entire six month wait until we are together again. Ms. Mead's shining strength is her stunning characterization, creating individuals to whom we are irreversibly bound, our emotional connection to them a live wire pulsing with our shared joy, turmoil, and overwhelming anguish, cementing a relationship that will forever be remembered, cherished, and returned to experience again and again. Because our thoughts and opinions of characters and events are filtered through Rose's observations and musings, we find ourselves slipping easily into her role, the boundary between her fictional existence and our reality blurring to such a degree that for the duration of hundreds of pages, and sometimes long after, the outside world simply ceases to exist as our attachment to Rose and the other characters becomes a permanent link powerfully reinforced with every word, every page, and every chapter we read.
Rose is, and always has been, a remarkable blend of maturity and naivete, possessing an enviable fortitude and surety of purpose combined with a tempestuous nature that often lands her in a variety of difficult situations. To watch as she's progressed from an able, independent, but also very young girl to a resilient, impassioned, and unbelievably dedicated woman has been and absolute privilege. The battle between selfishness and selflessness has been a prominent one, and Rose has struggled with finding a balance between the value of protecting Lissa's life and the desire to live her own. Finally, in this last book we get to see that epic battle come full circle as the events leading up to the finale produce a Rose who exceeds our expectations and our fondest imaginings. A warrior, a leader, and a woman we would be proud to call friend emerges from the chaos to become someone who we saw fleeting glimpses of previously, but now stands before us fully embracing both the flaws and strengths of a woman that has known unfathomable loss and pain, and has not only survived, but excelled, when others would have surely succumbed.
The journey for Rose and Dimitri has been not just a long and winding one, but one so dominated by obstacles it often seemed they would never escape the darkness and get to experience the light. Part of the enjoyment of Last Sacrifice is the return of the Rose and Dimitri we knew so long ago, and though both have been fundamentally changed by their individual battles, we have the pleasure of watching as a flare alights in the blackness, the tiniest of beacons existing to usher them into the future we want most for these two people who mean so much to us. Even more interesting, we get to see a role reversal in their relationship–where Dimitri has always been the calm to Rose's storm and the voice of reason to her youthful zeal, we now find Rose to be the leader, the optimist, and the lifeline holding Dimitri to sanity when the force of his guilt might otherwise consume him. Where previously they were student to teacher, adolescent enthusiasm to learned control, and inexperienced Dhampir to battle-ravaged Guardian, we now find two equals; both whose worlds have been altered seemingly beyond repair but are rebuilding together, partners in a relationship that brings a smile to our faces, butterflies to our stomachs, and tears to our eyes.
Last Sacrifice is a brilliant end to a beautiful series, one that never shies away from pain and isn't afraid to allow misery to temporarily eclipse hope. It is a story that leaves us more satisfied and complete for having experienced the trials of it's characters and more involved than perhaps we ever thought we could be in a piece of fiction. For anyone who loves to be completely connected with those about whom their reading, this series is for you. For those who like it when their emotions are tested, taunted, and tormented, this series is for you. And for anyone who loves when the joy is ultimately worth the suffering, I say this series is for you.