Reviewed at http://www.mandikayereads.com/archives/2572 (9/3/12)You know the author is doing it right when you find yourself frustrated as hell with the main character in one chapter and inexplicably going all gooey with her in the next. Yes, folks, there were audible "Aw"s from this reader as I read.I mean c'mon! Sydney has her first kiss! I'm not telling you who with though.But... it wasn't all sunshine and roses.And when the book ended, I found myself more upset with a book's ending than I've been in a very long time. My heart is broken.I found myself disappointed in Sydney at the beginning of this book (and again at the end). I had remembered from the first book that she had grown so much, but all I was seeing was how uncomfortable magic made her. She physically backed away from her friends when they manifested magic or were touched by it in any way. All I could do as I read was shake my head. It felt as if my old friend was not who I remembered her to be.It still bothers me that Sydney constantly complains about how she feels fat as a size four. On one hand, I understand that this is a real issue. There are girls out there who are a size four who think they are fat. But I almost feel like by calling attention to it in this manner Mead is justifying it - even though I know she's not. It just feels like she is. Especially since there is running commentary through the book of Sydney's refusal to eat sugar and obsession with healthy eating. But at the end, I feel that all is redeemed because Adrian tells her to knock it off. He reminds her that she is gorgeous - if not too thin - and that she will never be the same size as Jill because she is human and Jill is not. He tells her, "This is the truth, from someone who cares and wants your body to be as healthy and amazing as your mind." That is a good line.For all of the story lines about alchemists and murder plots and kidnappings... these books have been - and will always be - about the relationships. Sydney's journey from "the perfect alchemist" to "the alchemist who is friends with vampires" is one that amazes me. It is a deeply personal journey that is filled with struggles. Struggles that annoy me, for sure (the vascillations between DON'T TOUCH ME and YOU'RE MY FRIEND COME HUG ME annoy the ever lovin' snot out of me - but I get it), but struggles that are normal and must happen in order for growth to take place.And in the middle of a paranormal fantasy novel, I have to say that her journey is one of the most realistic ones (mentally) that I've ever seen written.And yes, for those who are curious - Dimitri makes many appearances, making it an automatic favorite.A few tidbits that I enjoyed:Sorry, Ms. Terwilliger. I'm flattered that you think I'm such an upstanding person, but I'm already caught up in one epic battle of good versus evil. I don't need another."You used nunchucks on a moose?"Wolfe got a haunted look in his eyes. "I used all sorts of things on that bastard. But that's neither here nor now. Because here's the thing. With a little common sense, you won't need weapons.""You're not a victim. You're not a captive to that lily. You can be what you want. You can choose what you want."