Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead – Review

Book Jacket:

Rose Hathaway has always played by her own rules.

She broke the law when she ran away from St. Vladimir’s Academy with her best friend and last surviving Dragomir Princess, Lissa. She broke the law when she fell in love with her gorgeous, off-limits instructor, Dimitri. And she dared to defy Queen Tatiana, leader of the Moroi world, risking her life and reputation to protect generations of dhampir guardian to come.

Now the law has finally caught up with Rose – for a crime she didn’t even commit. She’s in prison for the highest offense imaginable: the assassination of a monarch. She’ll need help from both Dimitri and Adrian to find the one living person who can stall her execution and force the Moroi elite to acknowledge a shocking new candidate for the royal throne: Vasilisa Dragomir.

But the clock on Rose’s life is running out. Rose knows in her heart the world of the dead wants her back… and this time she is truly out of second chances. The big question is, when your life is about saving others, who will save you?

You can read an excerpt here.


As a big fan of the Vampire Academy series, I was more or less happy with this final installment – but only in a lukewarm, loyalty-based kind of way. Honestly I think the plot was a bit slapdash and the ending downright anticlimactic, but my love of the world and characters powered me through.

For me, there was a dissonance to this story – if you laid out the bare bones of this book, I would like them. I can point at all the big ideas and major plot points in Last Sacrifice and tell you why I like them, it’s just that I don’t like the way they played out. It wasn’t the story that bothered me, it was the execution.

And that faulty execution sabotages Rose’s arc. Now, don’t get me wrong, Rose continues to be a fabulous lead, brimming with gumption and snark, and it’s impossible not to enjoy spending time with her – yet this story completely underutilized her. Of all the books in this series, Last Sacrifice gives Rose the least to do: she fights less battles, she is less driven, and her usual crazy plans to carry off the impossible are largely missing. She’s along for the ride instead of leading the charge – and it’s largely because this book is more concerned with tying off loose ends than telling Rose’s story. Rose lacks drive because she’s in service of the plot, instead of the other way around, which leaves her with nothing to do for the vast majority of this story, so she just obsesses over her love triangle – and, let’s face it, it’s so blatantly obvious as to how that’s all going to end that the angst just seems pointless. If there had been some meaningful revelation, some wonderful character moment to support her choice, some personal drive to this story, that would have been one thing, but instead I felt like Rose was stuck in neutral while the story hit all the plot points it needed to. And with Rose light on action and purpose, and heavy on melodrama, she is a muted force in this story, and it hurts the book.

But the thing that is so frustrating about Last Sacrifice is that the pieces are all there – it could have really worked, it’s just not well put together. Having Rose head off to discover the missing Dragomir makes perfect sense and you’d think, after Spirit Bound, that Rose would be gung-ho to get on with the search, especially if she can’t do anything about clearing her name, but instead it doesn’t even occur to her until about 100 pages into the story. And in the meantime, Rose finds out she’s supposed to stay safely hidden away, and she throws a tantrum and storms out – which would have made perfect sense if she knew she had this secret mission to carry out, to give Lissa voting power and frankly save the dhampir world – but instead it never even crosses Rose’s mind. And so the tantrum plays out like selfish whining, after which Rose suddenly remembers she should be searching for the missing Dragomir – only now it seem like she’s just justifying what she wants, instead of being a kick ass Guardian with a serious mission. This is what I mean by dissonance – the notes were there, they just weren’t played at the right time.

Furthermore, the unfocused nature of this book’s plot led to a multitude of grating conveniences, all painfully in service of moving the plot forward. Now again, let me qualify – the larger ideas, I liked. The whodunit was a good one, and the twist at the end I most definitely did not see coming. I very much liked the larger architecture of who framed Rose and why – and yet, again, the way in which the investigation played out just felt contrived. The witness they happen to need just happens to show up at Adrian’s house while Lissa and Christian are visiting? And they just happen to uncover evidence that no one else even bothered looking for? You’d think at least one other dhampir who worked at court and knew how cutthroat it could be would at least bother confirming Rose actually committed the murder. And the fact that Lissa and company just happen to have friends in all the strategically convenient places they need – blergh. It didn’t completely ruin my enjoyment of the mystery, but it did hinder it.

But my biggest problem with this book is the resolution to the darkness in the bond between Rose and Lissa. It was such a wonderful series long arc, the big question of how to keep Spirit from driving Rose insane, and then out of nowhere the solution arrives and it is just PAINFULLY abrupt and convenient. It honestly felt like a ta-dah moment – there was no build up, no complexity, and it lacked the emotional impact it should have had. I feel like a box was hurriedly checked off the to-do list, and the plot was snuffed out like a candle. And it drove me absolutely nuts.

Lastly, the plot concerning the succession – again, it felt so blatantly obvious as to how it was all going to end that it was hard to get worked up over the process. And overall, Lissa’s role in this book just seemed to highlight the fact that she’s kind of boring. As a character, Lissa has never really gotten beyond being a paragon who is nice and pretty – she’s an archetype; perfectly bland, like plain vanilla. And given that we’ve seen less and less of the relationship between Rose and Lissa as this series has progressed, I find that if you take away that friendship, I’m just not vested in Lissa’s arc. It’s fine, it’s unoffensive, but it just wasn’t all that exciting – and in the end, how easily it played out was a tad ridiculous.

But even with all of the above, there are reasons to enjoy this book. Every answer you could want is supplied, and if you’re a fan of Dimitri, he gets plenty of face time. There’s certainly no lack of things going on – the frame up, the love triangle, the succession question – and even if it is all a bit pat and the ending feels falsely cheery, there’s nothing to hate here. I think if you’re a fan of this series, you can’t help but enjoy spending more time in this world – I just wish this story had been less concerned with tying off all the loose ends and more concerned with execution and character. In place of a plot, we got a wrap-up – and while it didn’t make for a complete, compelling story, there is still something satisfying about seeing these characters through to the end. I just wish this book had done a better job of getting there.

Byrt Grade A-/B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

The Book Smugglers say:

The romantic wrap-up was disappointing, not so much because of Rose’s choice, but because of the way it was handled (for example, Rose needs someone to tell her about her aura to figure out who she loves, which isn’t exactly inspiring character development). The overall ending, the mystery of Tatiana’s murder, Lissa’s future, all of it…I didn’t like it one bit. It’s a little too happy ever after for Rose and her friends,

Jillian on Goodreads says:

Overall — yes, I liked this book. Yes, there were things I didn’t like about it. Do I think Rose’s “growth” was genuine throughout the series? No, not at all. I felt she didn’t learn ENOUGH lessons. However — flaws aside, I do think the series is a step above other young adult vampire series out there. And, yes, I do believe Bloodlines will prove to be just as engaging (and sometimes infuriating) as Vampire Academy was

First Novels club says:

Guys, every single thing about this book–and this series in general–was AMAZING! I absolutely adored the way Richelle decided to wrap things up and the direction she took Rose’s story in.