So I FINALLY got around to reading Silver Shadows, book 5 in Richelle Mead’s Bloodlines series (you can see my review for books 1-4 here) and am feeling very conflicted. I loved the Vampire Academy series and have really enjoyed this one up until this point, as well, but I’m starting to feel as though Richelle Mead is grasping at straws with some of the twists she adds in.
This one gets a bit spoilery!
Book 4, The Fiery Heart, left off with Sydney Sage being sold out by her sister and carted off to an Alchemist re-education center to have who-knows-what done to her in the hopes of re-brainwashing her into towing the Alchemist line. Silver Shadows picks up not long after she gets taken into the initial stage of re-education, in which prisoners are denied anything relating to comfort – they’re kept in the dark, food is bland, there is no bed, there is only a sink with cold water for bathing, etc.
Once Sydney earns her way out of this area she is deposited onto a floor with others who are being re-educated/brainwashed. Re-education turns out to be everything Sydney feared it was and more. The brainwashing is not only psychological and physical but also chemical. Nausea is induced as images of moroi flash across a screen, burns are inflicted to force confessions, and “re-inkings” occur when a prisoner gets especially out of hand. But Sydney’s main goal is to escape and find her way back to her boyfriend Adrian.
Unfortuantely Adrian has slipped back into his party boy ways. Once he realizes he is unable to reach Sydney via spirit dreams (in which he visits her in her dreams), he lets spirit drag him down into a deep depression. He drinks his sorrows away and spends all of his time partying. Only once he is finally able to reach her does he realize just how far he has fallen and how much he risked in ignoring his need for help. But it also gives him the kick in the butt that he needs in order to get back on track to finding her. Once he does, their escape begins to take on a very Rose and Dimitri feel and leads to a major plot twist and a huge (albeit somewhat predictable) cliffhanger ending.
Minor spoilers ahead!
What I Liked:
1. Richelle Mead is really good at using alternating voices between chapters. Sydney is very precise and methodical, Adrian is very whiney, dreamy, and broody. Normally I’m not crazy about alternating perspectives but she makes it work.
2. Maybe this should’ve been obvious when I read the VA series, but they finally clarified exactly why a moroi royal needs one living family member in order to qualify as a candidate for king or queen. It’s because if that person dies, there needs to be a family member to succeed them. I feel like this should’ve had “duh” written all over it, but it was never explained that the monarchy was at one time hereditary, not the product of a council vote.
3. Sydney wasn’t spared “just in time.” She went through months of torture before being rescued. It may sound weird to have this on the “what I liked” section, but I think it was necessary for a few reasons. First, it caused doubt. It left the question as to how Sydney would handle it wide open. Yes, we’d all like to assume a happy ending. But there’s still another book coming, so things could’ve easily gone much differently. Second, it shows Sydney’s strength of character both before and after her ordeal. Third, it emphacized just how detrimental Adrian’s spirit use and alcohol abuse is to those around him. And lastly, it finally showed just how bad the “Reeducation” we’ve been hearing about all along really is.
What I Didn’t Like (Spoilers ahead!):
1. As I mentioned in my review of books 1-4, things always fall into place too neatly. Without getting too spoilery, Sydney just happens to stumble across the right prisoners to help in her plans, she almost never runs into any hitches with her crazy plans, and for a super-secret compound that supposedly doesn’t exist, it’s awfully easy to break into and out of.
2. Fleeing to the nearest town after a daring escape probably isn’t the best idea.
3. The big twist. This knocked off at least one star from my review. I won’t give it away, but it’s definitely Adrian’s most insane idea to date and I don’t really think it works with the story. Paranormal aspects aside, logically it just doesn’t make sense and makes Adrian look like an idiot once again because he’s caused significantly larger problems for the moroi than there were before.
While this one wasn’t my favorite by far, the entire series as a whole is still really good. But while I’m hoping the final book is better than this one and is able to take the big twist and spin it so it works better, I’m unfortunately not optimistic.