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Vampire Academy: Benchmark

“What do you say? Will you help me keep the Dominion on track?”

The Dhampir novices aren’t the only ones being weighed and measured this week. The question is who measured up and who was found wanting.

Now that two of the Queen’s candidates for the throne have been eliminated, it’s up to the Royal Council to put forth a nominee. Tatiana has officially thrown her tiara into that ring.

For all her lip service towards the Dhampirs, Tatiana believes Dominion exists for the benefit of the Royals. It’s not clear if she believes in the Elemental traditions as she claims, or if it's simply the means to her political ends. Either way, she’s willing to sacrifice Dhampir children to get there.

With a non-Royal husband and two non-Royal children, Victor is in the opposite camp. Unfortunately, without Lissa’s vote in the Council, he’s at a disadvantage. Though, if we’re honest, Victor’s vision for Dominion is not much better.

It's still a world where the Royals keep all their traditional rights, the non-Royals fight over what’s left, and the Dhampir stand between the Moroi who treat them like cannon fodder and the Strigoi who want them dead. Victor's goals may be better than Tatiana’s, but that doesn’t make them good. Regardless of how timid I believe Victor’s concept of Dominion's future is, I was happy to see he’d recovered from his collapse last week, however short-lived that might be.

Just when Lissa thought she was freed from Dominion’s political morass, Victor pulls her back in. He asks her to trade in her dreams of traveling the world to marry and reclaim her seat on the Council. Lissa may have lived a sheltered life, but she knows enough about Dominion’s politics that she entertains the idea. Especially considering one of the prospective grooms is resident dick, Jesse Zeklos.

I’d like to feel sorry for Jesse. His father is physically and mentally abusive, whether or not Jesse recognizes it. There’s an argument to be made that Jesse’s actions are the result of that abuse. Yet I can’t find it in my heart to forgive his asinine behavior, regardless of his petty insecurities.

It’s against this backdrop that the Dhampir novices ready themselves for their annual Benchmark tests. Little do they know that as a precursor to the Royal Council’s ruling to elevate Dhampirs to Guardians once they turn sixteen, all novices are to be tested, including the underclassmen. But in the grand traditions of “Ours is not to reason why...” they simply do as they are told.

Mason is the perfect example. Even after the tests end, he considers Christian his responsibility. Rather than rat out Christian for going beyond the wards and deliberately putting himself in harm’s way, Mason risks his life to rescue him.

On a side note, I feel for Christian. That his parents became Strigoi knowing it was a sin and that it would make him an outcast was bad enough. Wondering why his parents abandoned him is destroying him. I understand why he’d answer his mother’s invitation, however stupid it may be.

That said, Mason knew better. He chose to ignore the rules, even after seeing what happened to Rose. He didn’t even bring a weapon! Mason would have died if Rose hadn’t sent backup. Yet he blamed her rather than accept the consequences for his actions.

Mason’s not blind. Not only is Dimitri helping Rose improve her already formidable skills, he’s also winning her affections. Mason’s blunder is believing Dimitri would ever take it easy on Rose because of his feeling for her or that Rose would ever want him to. While he may see Dimitri and Rose’s growing affection for each other, Mason doesn’t appear to know her any better than she knows him.

Rose and Mason may be competitive, but she would never put their rivalry ahead of their friendship. And for good or ill, that’s all Rose ever saw Mason as. A friend... with benefits. She didn’t set out to break his heart, she just never realized it was in play.

Am I mistaken, or did Rose just get volunteered to fight the Strigoi? As confident as Dimitri is in Rose’s abilities, I refuse to believe he’s aware of the Council’s plans. I’m not sure I want to see what happens when he finds out.

The more I learn about Dominion, the more I understand the need for a rebellion. The Royals need to learn they’re not the center of the universe. The non-Royals need to stick up for their rights. And the Dhampirs need to learn they should have some.

The show has finally found its rhythm. I’d say I was happy to see it, but that may depend on what happens next.

4 out of 5 lift tickets

Bits and Bites:

In Lissa and Rose’s ongoing mystery, we’ve confirmed that both Lissa and Sonya are both Spirit users. Their abilities include compulsion and healing but come at an unexplained cost (black eyes are never a good sign). It also seems to be woven throughout their religion. I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing.


Robert: “What did you do?”

Rose: “Christian wanted me to give this to you.”
Lissa: “Oddly helpful for someone who unceremoniously dumped me on the dance floor.”

Dimitri: “Am I getting old or is this benchmark class full of toddlers?”

Dhampir: “But you’re going to have to beat Rose.”
Mason: “Difficult. But not impossible.”

Rose: “As your maid of honor, I insist.”

Jesse: “How come every time you send me off to breed, I feel like I’m the one getting fucked.”

Dimitri: “You’ve been paying attention.”
Rose: “I have a fairly decent teacher.”

Mikhail: “I know darkness. Right now, all I see is light.”

Christian: “I know they’re Strigoi... they’re monsters. But what if that’s not all they are?”

Rose: “I didn’t snitch. I got your shit saved.”

Mason: “You are all about you. We only hook up when you want it. We only talk when you need it. If it’s not about you, it doesn’t exist.”

Lissa: “You could have been killed, Christian. I know you don’t care about what I think, but–”
Christian: “I care too much about what you think.”

Lissa: “I’m just saying maybe I’m not powerless anymore.”

Rose: “I didn’t fight. I just sat here while you and the other Guardian’s saved them.”

Dimitri: “The Benchmarks continue.”

Shari loves sci-fi, fantasy, the supernatural, and anything with a cape.

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