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SB Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5) by Richelle Mead | Rating: ★★★★★

“Dreams, dreams. I walk them; I live them. I delude myself with them. It's a wonder I can spot reality anymore.”

As usual, the fifth book in the Vampire Academy series sets a course to destroy your emotions and make you feel everything you possibly can. Spirit Bound is just as good as the previous installments and proves that things keep getting better (and worse when it comes to heartbreak). Richelle Mead provides readers with an action packed, emotional, vivid read that proves to be impossible to put down.

It had a lot to live up towards with the stunning scenery and spooky moments we’d witnessed in the eyes of the narrator when she was in Siberia. But it was a task Mead did so beautifully–the novel is one of the best of the series.

After barely escaping the clutches of her former instructor and lover (turned Strigoi) Dimitri Belikov, Rose Hathaway finds herself back at St. Vladimir’s for one final term and prepares for graduation. While most of her peers are looking towards their careers as guardians, Rose can’t help but to wonder where life with lead her next and if she will ever truly be her best friends, Lissa’s, guardian.

Her mind strays to her doubts: will she pass? Will she be enough? As well as the lingering feeling of loss–Dimitri should be here, as himself, supporting her but instead he is hunting her down and sending her stalkerish letters. And then there’s the guilt, still, over her friend Mason’s death. Rose can’t help but to feel things shouldn’t be like they are. Her reality is so different than what she’d expected.

Armed with the knowledge of her parentage (her father, Abe, makes an appearance once more: their scenes once again show humor as they navigate this father/daughter relationship) and the theory that Strigoi can be turned back by the use of Spirit, Rose is now more determined than ever to take on the world and hopefully–hopefully–save her beloved. And so she waits as her high school days come to an end and she passes her tests with flying colours.

Rose Hathaway’s life has been destined for this path from the start. She has defied the odds countless times, lived far beyond her youth and offered great protection to those around her. It’s without a doubt that she will be one of the best guardians out there and everyone knows that.

It’s too bad she can’t seem to keep her reckless nature at a distance and her past continues to take over the mood.

Still, things have improved since the events of Blood Promise. Rose and Lissa’s friendship is back to being unshakable and it is nice to see more of Lissa’s powers and ability this time around. Lissa is putting Rose first and Rose is putting Lissa first. Their friendship is very important and moving and is just a delight to see develop further.

And then there’s Adrian. Everyone’s favorite sarcastic, royal and mysterious spirit user is back and better than ever. There are plenty of moments in which things are heating up between Rose and Adrian and it’s a nice contrast to see compared to the soul crushing tragedy that is the romance of Dimitri and Rose.

Although Adrian struggles with a great deal, he provides a light in Rose that has been missing for quite a while and their scenes are sweet, sexy and hilarious. I feel bad for him, however, because his spirit use will catch up with him one day and it has to be stressful living in the shadows of his girlfriends former flame.

As for other romances, Christian and Lissa are still on the rocks but things seem to be thawing out between the two. Or at least when Christian isn’t spending time with Mia and Jill–who are all learning how to defend themselves. Lissa doesn’t take lightly to this and it’s with good reason. I love Christian but I could honestly shake some damned sense into him when it comes down to their break and his stubbornness.

Spirit Bound is spent racing against fate. Rose and Lissa are more and more curious about how spirit can be used to help turn back a Strigoi; their only chance of finding out is by freeing the despicable Victor Dashkov from his prison and to enlist help from his half brother, who is also a spirit user and is rumored to have been the only one to ever successfully turn a Strigoi back to their original race.

With the help of Eddie, the trio and newcomer Mikael (Ms. Karp’s former lover) embark on a mission to get answers. Eddie is mostly left in the dark but respects Rose enough to go along with her on whatever potentially reckless quest she comes up with.

And before you know it, after a heart pounding break out, the kids find themselves in the presence of Victor and travel to find his half brother. Adrian surprises the group by joining them on their little trip and is shocked by what he finds.

When they do find their target, answers are given and new ideas are spinning in Rose’s mind. They now have the potential to change Dimitri back–it’ll take a great deal of effort and isn’t an easy task, but it’s one that just seems plausible now–and other Strigois who have been turned against their will.

Everything could change.

But when unexpected bumps hit their trip and Dimitri fulfills his promise to find Rose, the group loses the pair of brothers and eventually face the consequences of their impromptu trip. Rose is already drenched with a bad reputation and although their true intentions behind the trip weren’t revealed, she and Eddie and even Lissa have to face the consequences.

Among the other plots are tension between Rose and Eddie due to his anger (which is brief) over their trip and the mark it has made on his career. Christian and Lissa reconnect and attempt to learn how to defend themselves and start back off as friends and then something more after they are held hostage by a disgruntled Dimitri.

As a team, Rose, Christian and Lissa manage to subdue Dimitri. Lissa then surprises Rose by bringing to light that she was able to make a stake charmed with spirit and after a struggle, Dimitri is changed back to dhampir–but at what cost?

Dimitri struggles to adjust back to a normal life and has difficulty comprehending all he did as a Strigoi. A connection is formed between him and Lissa–non romantic, of course–and because of his guilt, he is only interested in speaking with her and offers his support to her for the rest of his life.

It’s heartbreaking to see him reject Rose so frequently but it is easy to see why he did. When Rose decides she has to let him move on, she is in so much pain over this loss that it literally hurts to read. But she has Adrian; warm, kind, funny and utterly sexy. He does have an important part in her life and her feelings for him are real in spite of what she feels towards Dimitri.

Personally, I loved their scenes together once more.

I really do ship them to the moon and back, just as I do with Rose/Dimitri. And their scenes in the last half of the book are sweet and steamy in equal parts. I could have done without Adrian tasting Rose’s blood, but their scenes were still a delight to read. Adrian and Rose are both so complex that it’s just fascinating to be able to see them as a couple.

The big bang of the story comes towards the last chapters. Rose has a normal start to her day before the news breaks: someone has murdered queen Tatiana and the main suspect is her. It’s all too easy to pin the blame on her given the discomfort their relationship brought. They didn’t agree on many things and frequently butted heads, so she’d have been on the suspect list regardless.

It doesn’t help her situation that the weapon used to kill Tatiana was Rose’s. Ah, yes–things are about to get even more complicated for our favorite badass and now her future is even further in jeopardy. There are crimes and then there’s treason like this. Everyone seems all too willingly to blindly accept that she is guilty and so she is thrown into jail.

Abe, Adrian, Lissa, Christian and Dimitri are all eager to prove her innocence and so the stage is set for the final book of the series. Even more shocking for Rose is a note passed by Ambrose to her--from the queen, before she had died, stating one final bombshell. Lissa's father has another child somewhere, produced during an affair, we just don't know where or who. And so the mysteries continue.

Richelle Mead pours her heart into each of her characters and plots and Spirit Bound is a huge nod to this. There’s so much to her beautiful writing and it’s all so smart. I love the elements of mythology she uses. I love the raw emotion she uses. I love how things can be thrilling and send a tingle up your spine when noticing the danger but just as quickly she can make you laugh or cry or need a cold shower.

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