Vampire Academy fanatics will not be thrilled by The Ultimate Guide. I was looking forward to insider info on the characters, deleted scenes, back stories. Instead I received 200 pages of recaps of books I’ve already read. How disappointing.
The author, Michelle Rowen, did a great job writing about the books and characters, but a guide to a series should be written by its author, not a third party. If Richelle Mead did not have the time or desire to do the book herself, the project should have been shelved until her schedule freed up or she changed her mind.
Spattered throughout the Guide, especially in the recap portion, Rowen provides sidebars with some background info from Mead. This is exactly what I expected the book to be and wish there could have been more! Mead shares how her ideas for the books and characters were conceived, how she chose certain locations for some of the settings, and feedback she received from fans.
The recaps are fairly comprehensive and if you have not read the series in awhile could be helpful. Each book has a quiz after its recap, so you can test your knowledge as you go along. I would say the Guide is best for someone new to the Vampire Academy world, but then that reader would be spoiled if he or she read any further than the recap of book one.
Stuck in the middle of the first section is a section of glossy colored pages that are devoted to imagery. The beginning of the section shows the characters as they are represented in the Graphic Novel. Then, a couple of pages are devoted to showing all the tattoos and symbols common in the series. We see all three of the Dhampirs’ tattoos and descriptions of what they stand for, symbols for all of the Moroi magical elements, and the two types of Alchemist tattoos. Another page shows all of the old and new covers in the series, while its neighbor shows the Bloodlines cover (a VA spin-off series) and describes the novel. Finally, the section devotes space to screen caps from the book trailers, photos of Richelle on promo tours, and a list of Richelle’s favorite links and fan sites.
Part 2 of The Ultimate Guide is much shorter than Part 1 and focuses on “The World of Vampire Academy“. Basic bios for all the main characters and most of the minor ones are provided, but you learn absolutely nothing new about them. The write-ups are merely recaps of the book events that were just recapped in Part 1. It was difficult to get through. The chapter detailing Love & Friendships actually recaps character info that was included in the book recaps and the character bios. Unless you skip straight to this section, it’s a waste.
Chapter 9, called “Allies & Monsters,” details the background and differences between the Moroi, Strigoi, Dhampir, and Alchemist races. The bulk of this section is regurgitated from the VA books, but is not included in any other section of the Guide, so it is much easier to read and a lot more interesting. A page explaining the different types of elemental magic and exactly what its users can do with it was new and gave a little extra info as did a word cloud showing the Moroi royal families and their sizes. St. Vladimir’s is also discussed as are the classes Moroi and Dhampirs attend, but there are no new revelations about the school or its students.
And that’s basically it. There is a quiz after Chapter 9 that is broken in Novice, Qualifier, and Badass God levels, which was fun to take. The Novice level is pretty easy, but it definitely gets harder as you go along. The answers for all of the book’s quizzes are located after the big quiz and a glossary is provided, too.
All in all, The Ultimate Guide is just not what I thought it would be. I wasn’t expecting something as insanely comprehensive as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight: The Official Illustrated Guide, but I did expect more original content.