3.5 STARSI really want to give it a 4 because of the last 10% but I just can't. What is up with these PNR series and redefining slow burn?I remember I had 3 false starts before I got through Dreamfever and still not getting into things until the end of the 3rd book but ended up a (shameless) Barrons fangirl. This one is pretty much the same only while I was mostly passive about early Fever books, this one had a lot of issues that got my knickers in a bunch often. The biggest of which is the rules in the world these characters live in. They seem to live in a world addled with problems that have simple and obvious(!) solutions hampered by restrictions based on something as flimsy as "just because that's how things work"This series seriously drives me up against the wall. Things just didn't compute logically. I'm all for the intricate world building but, like an annoying five year old, I somehow can't seem to stop asking why after one question is answered. The guardians' sole purpose is to protect the Moroi from the Strogoi. They go through intensive training to live a life dedicated for the survival of another with unclear benefits from doing so. On the other hand, the Moroi have enough magical abilities to care for themselves yet they are totally dependent on the protection afforded by the guardians.And this weird relationship exists under guise of friendship and good-natured acceptance from all the parties involved. My mind is hurts.I've had issues relating to Rose in the past 2 books. It's tough to be a fan of a heroine, no matter how badass she is, when her main goal in life is to live and protect another person at the expense of her own happiness and freedom. It's such a conflict. Here I still couldn't connect with her as much as I want to but she has definitely improved in the root-for-me scale and gives me such fervent hope that she'd finally step up the heroine plate:"All my life Lissa... all my life, it's been the same. They come first. I've lived my life for you. I've trained to be your shadow, but you know what? I want to come first. I need to take care of myself for once. I'm tired of looking out for everyone else and having to put aside what I want."Well thank f*ck somebody stopped drinking the kool-aid.Now that there's some small resolution to the Rose-Dimitri conundrum, maybe I'd finally board that train. And I'm so glad the story is getting out of the damn Academy because it was starting to feel like a prison yard of sorts and there isn't even a sorting hat to entertain me in that school. That environment was just so restrictive to each characters' potential, I'm so much looking forward to what happens after all THAT. I sound like such a whiner and I really don't know why I'm still sticking around. To be fair to this book, the secondary characters were more engaging (Christian and Adrian continue to carry the burden of entertaining me) and there's better energy and movement in the plot. The end holds so much promise and thrill that maybe is the sole reason I'm keeping my seat in the theater:Have I finally put in enough licks and is that the center of the tootsie pop I'm finally tasting?