The new Vampire Academy spin-off kicks off in a promising way with a blend of familiar and new characters and fresh mysteries to solve. Bloodlines has a similar feel and rush to it as Vampire Academy but with a new setting and a new protagonist to get to know. Favorite side characters from Vampire Academy get a chance in the spotlight this time around and we get a better glimpse into the world of the alchemists. The cast of characters blends very well, and the first book in the series sets the stage for another thrilling journey.Disgraced alchemist Sydney Sage has a lot to prove on her next mission. She has fallen out of the alchemists’ good graces because of her role in hiding the fugitive dhampir Rose Hathaway. She is suspected of getting too friendly with the vampires, so now she has to ace this new job of protecting moroi Jill Mastrano, the half sister of Queen Vasilisa Dragomir, or she faces a dreaded re-education. She is sent to a boarding school in Palm Springs, CA to pose as Jill’s sister and help protect her from the rebels who want her dead so that the Queen will have to rescind her throne. The idea is that vampires would not come looking for Jill in such a sunny climate. Sydney has help on her mission in the form of guardian Eddie and everyone’s favorite Spirit-using moroi Adrian.It’s hard not to compare the new main character Sydney to that of Vampire Academy heroine Rose. Sydney is more restrained and by the book. She’s intelligent and inquisitive but is still very uncomfortable with magic and being around vampires, which makes this an awkward situation. She is somewhat clueless in matters of the heart and still getting her feet wet in her leadership role. However, she does show potential for growth, and I’m curious to see how things progress with her character in future installments.The secondary characters from Vampire Academy take on bigger roles in the spin-off. Adrian is back to help protect Jill and try to figure out how to move on with his life. His humor helps to lighten the mood of the story. Eddie is the lead guardian who feels he has something to prove, and Jill is trying to adjust to this new life on the run. I found myself somewhat losing interest with Jill’s issues and found her a bit lackluster. Sydney is a more compelling character overall, though she also has her quirks. It will be interesting to see how the characters evolve over time.Besides protecting Jill, there are other mysteries occurring in Palm Springs that keep the team plenty busy. Some of the mysteries get resolved, and others will keep you waiting for the next book. The alchemist role is interesting, and we learn more about their tattoos and their purpose. Looking forward to finding out more about the alchemists in future books.Overall this book is an intriguing beginning to a new series. It was easy to get involved with the story because so many of the characters are familiar, and there are even surprise guest appearances to help the transition along. There is plenty of action and mystery, and the characters show some promising chemistry. There is not much in the way of romance in this book, but judging from the Vampire Academy series it’s only a matter of time. The conclusion of Bloodlines definitely left me wanting more, and I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next installment The Golden Lily due out in May 2012.