Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a half-vampire that is going to St. Vladimir's Academy. She and her friend, Vasilisa Dragomir, are closer than most. Not only does Rose act as guardian and protector to Lissa, a Moroi Vampire, but once Lissa brought Rose back from the dead with her elemental power of Spirit, making them psychically linked. In the past few years, Rose and Lissa have gone through a lot, especially Rose. After falling in love with her mentor, Dmitri, Rose lost him when he was bitten by a Strigoi vampire.
She may have lost him, but she still loves him, and she hasn't stopped trying to get him back. Now, however, she's heard a rumor that might be able to save her beloved Dmitri. But to do so, she is going to have to free her worst enemy, Victor Dashkov. But first, Rose is going to have to survive graduation, and a test of her guardian abilities. And she isn't alone. She is going to have to do it under the gaze of her classmates and her parents.
And not only does she survive, she does amazingly well. Well enough, that she soon realizes that part of the test that was given was given only to her, since she has so much experience fighting the Strigoi. Her parents congratulate her, and at long last, she graduates. But even as she is swept up in the partying and everything that follows graduation, she plans to find the Moroi prison that Dashkov is imprisoned in and break him out.
And soon after she and Rose go to the court to be introduced to the Queen and meet the other royals, she, Lissa and their dhampir friend Eddie take off for Alaska to free Victor. There, they manage to do so without being seen and by pretending to be merely human. They free Dashkov and travel to Las Vegas to meet with his cousin, Robert, who actually managed to free a Strigoi back into life. He reveals that the person must pierce the heart of the Strigoi with a special stake- one that is filled with spirit in addition to the other elements.
Rose knows Lissa can do this, so that's not a problem. However, it brings her up short when Robert tells her that the person who pierces the heart with the stake must also be the spirit-user, and that is much more of a problem. Lissa isn't strong enough to drive a stake through anyone's heart, and she once again thinks it is hopeless. While in Las Vegas, they are met by Adrian, who is Rose's new boyfriend, and he reveals that they are in big trouble at court thanks to their sneaking off. Victor uses the chance to escape with his cousin, and Rose, Lissa and Eddie are returned to the court in big trouble.
Rose assumes that their punishment can't be too bad- all Dhampirs are needed to protect Moroi, right? But Hans, leader of the Dhampirs at court, tells her that this isn't quite true: there will always be a need for Dhampirs to keep records and file. For Rose, the punishment that follows is torturous, as she has always expected to be out and doing things, and gardening and filing grate on her soul. And Dmitri is still out there, ready to kill her as his new highest form of "love".
So when Lissa, now being protected by two other Dhampir, is kidnapped by Dmitri, it's Rose and her fellow classmates to go to Lissa's rescue. And then, the shock of all shocks- Lissa is able to stake Dmitri with a spirit-infused stake, and he is saved. But he's not quite the same Dmitri that Rose loved. He doesn't want to see her, and the rest of the Moroi, not quite believing that he has been saved, keep him under lock and key for "protection". Whose protection is in doubt. But as Rose fights to see Dmitri, a change is in the air for the court- should the Moroi fight against the Strigoi to protect themselves? Or should the Dhampir only be schooled to sixteen to increase the numbers available to protect the otherwise helpless Strigoi? And what help will Rose's testimony be in helping to decide?
Will Dmitri's story have a happy ending? And will Adrian's parents like and accept Rose into their family? Is there any hope for Rose and Adrian when she and Dmitri have so much history together, or will Dmitri's rejection of Rose finally put an end to any feelings they might have for each other? And will Rose be stuck doing paperwork for the rest of her life after her little "adventure" with Lissa and Eddie, and will Eddie's promising future as a Dhampir guardian be blighted because of the decisions he makes for friendship?
Well, this series seems to be winding down now that Dmitri has been rescued from the curse of being Strigoi. But there are a lot of character threads still to resolve, and one major plot twist that occurs at the end of the book that came in completely out of left field. But it was good to see Dmitri back as a Dhampir. So much time has passed and so much has happened that I was beginning to think that the storyline would only end with his death. It's nice to see that it didn't.
But even while that is a major plot thread in the book, there is plenty more of story threads dangling, some of which get nicely wrapped up, and others which are left to dangle. We get to see more of the court and find out more of the politics, infighting and backbiting (and backstabbing) that take place amongst the privileged Moroi. But not all the nobles are like that. Adrian's mother welcomes Rose very warmly, but realizes that any romance between Rose and her son won't last and only asks her not to break his heart, while Adrian's father ignores her like a piece of furniture.
I found this book exciting and suspenseful at every turn. Richelle Mead managed to make me feel the same sort of frustration that Rose was feeling when she was stuck doing gardening and filing amongst the Dhampir. But at least Rose could get out of it, mentally, by seeing what Lissa was doing while she was doing the boring and backbreaking work. Imagine how much worse it would have been without that out. I am looking forward to the next book, which will apparently be the last. I am anxious to see how the story wraps up and who Rose ends up with. I am hoping for Dmitri. Highly recommended, both as a book and a series. But read the other books in the series before you attempt this one.