Although the novel kicks off to an exciting start in Portland, Oregon, the majority of the story takes place at St. Vladimir's Academy, secluded a two-hour drive away from the city of Missoula, in the dense forests of western Montana.
The state's name is derived from the Spanish word montaña (mountain) and pretty much portrays in a nutshell what Montana is all about! Western Montana is packed with mountain ranges (as well as numerous sprawling valleys), most of which make up the Rocky Mountains; the central third of the state also has its fair share sprinkled throughout. The Continental Divide follows the main ranges of the Rockies and divides the western half of Montana into two climatically contrasting regions. Unsurprisingly, the economy in the western half of the state is predominantly based on lumber and hard rock mining; in addition, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park are incredibly popular tourist destinations. Montana's harsh environment is the likely reason for the 4th largest state in the United States only ranking 44th in population.
Despite its elaborate Gothic architecture (complete with turrets, soaring peaks, stone carvings and a reasonable quantity of wrought iron gates), St. Vladimir's Academy is no stranger to modern technology, boasting internet and fluorescent lighting, as well as most other modern amenities. The Academy is a high-security institution, since the thwarting of Strigoi attacks is a high priority; permanent magical wards trace its perimeter plus guardians patrol the school and monitor classes in shifts.
St. Vladimir's Academy may be spread out across two campuses, but the novel's action is confined to the upper school, situated on the eastern secondary campus. Classes are attended by dhampirs, as well as sun-sensitive Moroi, therefore the Academy runs on a nocturnal schedule. The first half of the school day is spent apart; novices are trained in combat and other bodyguard techniques, whereas Moroi education is focused primarily on the use of elemental magic, as well as the expansion of their cultural horizons.