This one got buried in my TBR stack and was just brought back to my mind when I started seeing all the buzz for The Golden Lily. I think I picked a perfect time to read this start to a new series by Richelle Mead. When I finished the last word, I immediately went to Amazon and ordered the sequel. That one won't get lost in the stack.The narrator and main character is Alchemist Sydney Sage. She is in disgrace after her efforts to aid Rose in the previous series and is afraid that she will be sent for re-education. She is surprised when she is awakened in the night and told that she was being sent on a mission. Her job will be to protect the sister of the moroi queen. Sydney meet Jill in the previous series too. Unlike most Alchemists, she isn't really afraid of the moroi though she doesn't like them. She doesn't have the quite the same disdain that most Alchemists have. She does think vampires are unnatural and she is absolutely terrified of their magic. She soon finds herself in Palm Springs with Jill, her guard Eddie, and somewhat more surprisingly with Adrian Ivashkov. Her liaison in Palm Springs is an Alchemist named Keith who spent some time in her home when she was a child and is a protegee of her father. He is also a nasty person who is determined to get Sydney into trouble. All of a sudden, Sydney finds herself in the center of several problems from the mundane of high school rivalry and the mean girls to the sort of problems human don't hear about. Someone is selling tattoos that infuse the wearer with unusual powers. Sydney's Alchemist tattoo is thought to be one of those. Sydney is busy investigating the tattoo situation along with the reluctant help of Adrian.Sydney also has to deal with the problems Jill is having both by being a fifteen-year-old Moroi surrounded by humans who can't know what she is and by the fact the Jill is spirit bound to Adrian. The whole issue of Jill dating has huge complications. Humans and Moroi aren't supposed to mix but a human boy develops a crush on her. Jill also meets a handsome Moroi boy named Lee who is the son of their host in Palm Springs. Then there is the problem of their host's obsession with his daughter Tamara's death. He is convinced that there are human vampire hunters around while most are saying the death was the result of a strigoi attack. But it is unusual that her throat would have been slit along with having blood drained. Then Sydney finds out that Tamara is not the only young woman in the area who has died this way.This was a wonderful story filled with interesting, well-rounded characters. I was especially happy with the way Sydney grew in this story and look forward to further episodes to watch her grow more.