Rose Hathaway os a Dhampir, a half- vampire. Her friend Vasalissa Dragomir, known as Lissa, is a living Moroi Vampire whom Rose has sworn to protect. In reality, Rose is bound to Lissa, and is known as a Shadowkissed, because Lissa, whose element to control is Spirit, had brought her back from the dead. This allows Rose to see into Lissa's head, and draw off the darkness of spirit that Lissa sometimes feels.
But when St. Vladimir's Academy, where they both went to school came under attack. Dmitri Belikov, the guardian that Rose was in love with, was attacked and bitten by a Strigoi Vampire. Recalling that they had both agreed that they would rather die than become Strigoi, Rose feels she must leave school and kill Dmitri herself.
So she travels to his home in Russia, but because she is killing Strigoi in Russia, she comes to the attention of the Alchemists, a group of humans who cover up the evidence of Vampires so that other humans don't find out about them. But the girl who discovers her, Sydney, thinks that she is an inhuman, unnatural monster. Rose knows that Dmitri comes from a village where humans and Dhampir coexist, but she doesn't know its name or where it is. Sydney does, and after some discussion, agrees to take Rose there.
But on the way, they are attacked, and Rose defeats the two Strigoi who have tracked them down, but is badly injured. When she wakes up, she is in Dmitri's home, being nursed by his mother. There, she recovers and tells his family what has happened to him, and they hold a funeral for him, because even if he is Strigoi or undead, he is now dead to them.
While Rose is in Russia, She is still looking in on Lissa through their connection. And Adrian, another Moroi royal with the power of Spirit, has been walking into her dreams and keeping tabs on her. But with Rose's departure, Lissa has been going a little wild and crazy. She's been assigned a minder, another Moroi named Avery, whom Lissa at first pushes away and eventually befriends after learning that Avery is considered a bad girl and has no friends.
But Avery's friendship isn't good for Lissa. She starts drinking too much and partying, even kissing other male Moroi despite being in love with Christian Ozera. And when Rose manages to piss off Adrian, she is left alone in her own head. Meanwhile, Dmitri's grandmother takes her to meet another Spirit-bonded pair, a male Dhampir and younger Moroi who are very much in love. Dmitri's mother can also manipulate spirit, and there is another man who apparently brought a Strigoi back from the dead.
But an argument with Dmitri's sister sends Rose to Novosibirsk, where she joins a group of young Dhampir on a Strigoi hunt, looking for Dmitri. Unluckily for her, he finds her, and her love for him makes her hesitate when it comes to killing him. He, on the other hand, has no such compunction, and he takes her prisoner in a luxurious suite, where he tries to persuade her that she should turn Strigoi to be with him. She is caught by his bites, which keep her in a sensual fog where she forgets herself enough to enjoy their time together.
But one night, Adrian appears in her dreams once again after telling her he would never be back, and is shocked at her appearance. Their argument breaks her out of the fog, and she is finally able to come back to herself. But can she escape Dmitri's prison, kill him and free his soul, and manage to return to save Lissa from Avery? Because if she can't, she's dead, and so is Lissa. But how can she kill the man she loves, when she isn't sure he's really all dead on the inside? And he isn't the only Strigoi who is interested in her... the others want her dead, and Dmitri as well!
I enjoyed this book, mostly, but some of it was annoying.because Rose has severe problems with addiction. She gets too easily addicted to things- in this volume to Dmitri's "kiss" or bite. It annoyed me that she fell into it again all so easily. It made her character seem very weak in this way, and I lost patience with her. Yes. it's true that she fights back from her addiction, but it's an outside source to herself that sets her fighting, where I wanted it to be more of an internal, self-directed decision.
Aside from that, I did enjoy the book. The scenes of Russia were well-described and made it almost like being there. It was driven home that Dhampir are just as inconstant and find it just as easy to fall into childish behavior as humans are and do. so, essentially, humans and Dhampir are very alike- but human society allows for a wide range of behaviors, whereas Dhampir are either Kick-ass, Badass guardians or wimpy disliked Blood whores. In Russia, this appears to be not the case, but most western Dhampir fall into one of those two camps. It was nice to see something different in Russia.
I enjoyed this book, even if it was somewhat depressing to read, what with Rose being a prisoner for about 1/3 of the book. But I foresaw the ending even as it was happening, and I think most readers will be as well. Rather obvious clues were also thrown in about Dmitri's fate as well. And while I suspected that something like that would happen, instead of the clues being buried in the story, we're slapped in the face with them, as if there was a big sign flashing "MAJOR CLUE HAPPENING HERE!" I didn't mind the clues, I just wish they were a wee bit more subtle. It's not like you're left wondering what is going to happen, just how. Recommended.