First, I'll get the good out of the way since there really wasn't much I enjoyed. The supporting characters are fantastic. I love Adrian. He's charming and witty, but not overly perfect. He has flaws and room for growth, which makes him relatable. I also love how he called Rose out at the end, not only for her selfish behavior towards him, but how she was treating other people as well. I agreed with everything that he said (more on that later).
I also liked Lissa during this book. She really matured a lot over the course of the series and she was strong without being obnoxious like Rose is. That said, I still didn't think it was believable that she would have so much love and support from the people since she really hadn't done anything to justify their support for her. She only graduated a couple months earlier and she didn't even have a counsel vote. I still liked her relationship with Christian, who is another one of the great characters in this series. I liked how he supported Lissa, although I miss some of the spunk he had in the earlier books, and do think he's been underutilized in the latter half of the series.
Unfortunately the good was definitely outweighed by the bad. Rose is one of the most selfish and heartless narrators in YA fiction and that's saying a lot considering the YA books I've read. She uses people for her own gain, destroys their lives, then doesn't even bother to consider, let alone feel bad about, the damage she's caused. So what if Sydney is going to be in huge trouble because she helped Rose out? So what if Jill's life is seriously in danger and she now has to be involved in nasty court politics? So what if Eddie's career has been completely trashed thanks to Rose's antics over multiple books? Why should Rose have to concern herself with these things? None of these people are Dimirtri so they don't matter. And why oh why did Rose have to reveal that Tasha murdered Tatiana in the most cruel way possible, in front of everyone without even warning Christian first?
I really felt bad for Adrian throughout the entire book because from the time he's first mentioned until the very end, Rose does almost nothing but criticize him. Rose also cheats on Adrian with Dimitri and then hides it because she still wants his help. And when Adrian confronts her about her selfishness towards him and others, she has the audacity to become self-righteous and criticize him for acting like a victim. I stopped rooting for Adrian and Rose as a couple during Blood Promise because I realized he deserved so much better.
Then there is Dimitri who has become just as insufferable as Rose. Mead has finally showed me how Dimitri and Rose are alike, which she hasn't done in the past (there was a lot of telling us how much they were alike but no actual showing). In this book he is shown to be just as selfish and heartless as she is. Like Rose, he shows no empathy towards others. He's able to quickly get over the terrible acts he committed as a Strigoi within a couple months of being a dhampir again. He admitted to killing hundreds of innocent people but because Rose tells him that he needs to forgive himself and because she has beautiful hair, he decides that he should forgive himself and just moves on with his life as if nothing happened. Rationally, he should move on because he essentially had an uncontrollable mental illness, but someone who has any emotional intelligence and the ability to empathize with others would be consumed with guilt for a very long time over killing innocent people. The fact that Dimitri only needs a couple months to get over it and move on makes me doubt that his guilt was all that real in the first place.
Dimitri's complete lack of empathy for anyone other than Rose is also shown by the fact that he tells her not to feel bad about all of the lives she's ruined (see above). He also completely disregards Adrian's feelings when he goes after his girlfriend and shows zero remorse for it. Dimitri, despite saying he has too much honor to ever steal another man's girlfriend, tells Rose how beautiful she is and then confesses his love for her. How is this not trying to steal another man's girlfriend? He then decides to sleep with Rose before she breaks up with Adrian. All he had to do was keep it in his pants for one day and he couldn't even do that.
No one calls Dimitri out on his selfish behavior. Instead, we get to hear about how wonderful he is from Rose throughout the entire book. His greatness in Rose's eyes has become comical. Not only can he take down an entire army of guardians and defeat any Strigoi, he is also the fastest tent-setter-upper that ever lived.
"Despite my protests, he wouldnʹt let me help with the tent. He claimed he could do it faster without me and that I should stay off my feet. I started to argue until he began assembling the tent. My jaw dropped a little as I watched how quickly he put it together. He didnʹt even need the directions. It had to be some kind of record."
That's right, Rose gushes about how quickly he can set up a tent. What's next? Are we to find out that he can open a can faster than anyone else? He's like "The Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis beer commercials, only we're actually supposed to take Dimitri seriously.
If only the problems in this novel were limited to Rose and Dimitri, but there's more. Like in Spirit Bound, the action is boring. Everything is solved way too quickly. It takes almost no time to find Sonya, change her back into a Moroi, and then convince her to show Rose and Co. where Lissa's sister is. It also takes very little to convince Jill's mother to allow her daughter to be used as a pawn in court games or to convince her and Jill that Rose is actually innocent of killing Tatiana.
Victor is caught much too easily and it does a disservice to his character. He knows that spirit users can dream walk, so his solution for keeping Jill from telling Sonya where their location is to keep her from going to sleep. But he doesn't think to blindfold her so that she doesn't know where they are or where they're going. Victor is supposed to be much smarter than that.
The darkness that spirit creates has also become a joke, or a plot device. Neither Lissa nor Rose really struggles with it in this book. The only time it actually impacts the story is when Mead needs an excuse for Rose to kill Victor and make Rose feel guilty so that she can identify with Dimitri. Before that, it has little impact on the story, and it also has little impact on the story afterwards thanks to deus ex machina Sonya. It's hard to remember how troubling the effects of spirit were during the first three books of the series.
In addition to the slow action and easy fixes to major problems, Mead also wastes about a hundred pages with The Keepers whose only purpose seems to be to illustrate how taboo it is for a human and a vampire to have a sexual/romantic relationship, which had no baring on the current story. It was clearly only included for the purpose of setting up the spin-off series in which a human (Sydney) and a Moroi (Adrian) are likely to hookup.
I could go on about the flaws in this novel such as the overly simplistic court politics, or the unoriginality of the tests Lissa had to undergo to be Queen, or how Mead destroyed Tasha's character, or how the effect of sunlight on the Moroi seemed to lessen as the series progressed, or how Rose was able to walk around in unfamiliar woods while in Lissa's mind (how did she not run into any trees?)...but I won't.
Overall, a sloppily written book that I'm glad to finally be done with.
P.S. I started the audiobook version of this novel but only got through about 5% before I couldn't take it anymore and started reading the book instead of listening to it. I couldn't stand the narrator. She spoke much too slowly and her accents for both Adrian and Christian were downright awful. I would not recommend the audio version at all, not even to fans of the series who think Rose and Dimitri can do no wrong.