Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

So I am starting a new list, 10 MORE books you should read if you are a Buffy fan.  And the first book that goes on that list you ask? The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. (You can read the original list of Buffy related reads here.)

At this point, I am only interested in vampire books if 1) there is a twist on typical vampire conventions, 2) the vampires in no way sparkles and 3) they have a female character who doesn't play into typical female stereotypes and make me want to give 1,000 warnings of please don't do this to my teens as I hand them the book.  Okay, obviously there are a few things I wouldn't want my teens to do I think as I hand them this book - like become a vampire - but you know, all in all I can hand this book to my teens without that twinge in my conscience.  In fact, this is a really good book.  Let me tell you why.

“You don't dwell on what you've lost, you just move on."-Allison 
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

1.  A Different Point of View
Our main character, Allison, starts out as a Unregistered Human.  This means she has to stay below the radar because she is offered no protection and isn't giving a regular "donation" of blood to help keep the vampires alive.  BUT, on page 78 of the book our Allie is forced to make a life saving decision that will render her kinda of alive - she becomes a vampire.  So the rest of our tale is a journey into the heart and soul of a vampire that we already know and admire as a human and watching her struggle to not become the very monsters that she hates.  Kagawa introduces us to a character we care about, changes her into the monster she despises, and then let's us journey with her into this new, uncharted territory.

“Hunger flickered, always there, but I pushed it down. I was a vampire. Nothing would change that. But I didn't have to be a monster.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules




2. A Different World View
In The Immortal Rules, a plague has killed a large portion of humans and vampires rule supreme.  These vampires are not hiding out in the shadows hoping not to be discovered; they are large and in charge.  Also, humans are basically cows.  Humans are herded up to give blood "donations" to keep the vampires alive.  Mooooooo.  It's a unique enough twist on the traditional vampire tale to give this story some real legs.  (I wish I had a really good cow tipping joke to put right here, but alas - I do not.)
 
“Growing up on the fringe, you came to accept hard truths. Nothing was fair. the world was cold, unforgiving, and people died. it was just the way things were.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

3.  The Bad Guys are Bad to the Bone with a Capital B
Make no mistake about it, these vampires do not sparkle all pretty like when they step in the sun.  You will not fall in love with them; no, you will tremble in fear.  At one point in our story Allie's friends are taken hostage to old Chicago and brutal things happen.

“Sometime in your life, Alison Sekemoto, you will kill a human being. Accidentally or as a conscious, deliberate act. It is unavoidable. The question is not if it will happen, but when.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

4. There is Backstory
Allie is saved and turned by a vampire named Kanin, who then spends some time teaching Allie everything she needs to know about being a vampire.  But Kanin has secrets that come back to haunt them both.  In fact, many of the character's she meets on the road have back stories that intersect and look to bring about some major blows (this is book 1 in a series).

5.  There is a Subtle But Messed Up Love Story
After her stay with Kanin, Allie is forced to flee for her life.  I told you, secrets.  So she finds herself travelling with a nomad group of humans searching for Eden (a city, not the holy land) AND trying to keep her secret.  Most humans aren't okay with vampires after all.  Remember, they are Bad to the Bone with a Capital B.  In this group Allie meets Zeke, who is a strong leader dedicated to keeping his people alive.  There are sparks.  There are secrets. There is also the risk that Allie might get really hungry and eat his face off.  In all seriousness, Zeke is an honorable character and it was a nice, slowly growing attraction.  It was also engaging to see Allie struggle with her emotions, her hunger, and the need to make some hard decisions.

“I wasn't thinking of his blood, rushing just below the skin. I wasn't thinking of his heartbeat or his touch or the pulse at his throat. Right now, all I was thinking of was Zeke.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

6.  There is More Mad Science
Yesterday we talked about Mad Science in Origin by Jessica Khoury and shared some other titles where people do bad things with science.  Because of some bad science, you are just as likely to turn into a Rabid as you are a vampire if one tries to turn you.  It's a gamble.  Rabids are - well - rabid; think rabid dogs but with vampires.

7.  Books!
The ruling vampires have taken one thing out of the dystopian playbook: books are forbidden.  Let's face it, an uninformed populace is much easier to control.  Nope, there is absolutely no current day implications for this little nugget at all (she said with a wink and a nudge).  Reading is against the law. Libraries have been burned.  But our girl Allie, she is a reader and can't help but think that if people learned to read and how the world used to be they would no longer be content with how the world currently is.
 
“Words define us,' Mom continued, as I struggled to make my clumsy marks look like her elegant script. 'We must protect our knowledge and pass it on whenever we can. If we are ever to become a society again, we must teach others how to remain human.”
Julie Kagawa, The Immortal Rules

In the end, The Immortal Rules has everything you would want: 8) Thrills and Chills, 9) Big Questions about humanity, government, etc. and 10) Heart.  Yes, a vampire story can have heart. 

This is not your typical vampire story; well written, unique and fully developed - The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa gets 4 out of 5 stars.  One of my few gripes with the story was the convenient way all the characters backstory intertwine themselves to bring our various groups to what will surely be major blows, but a story definitely has to have conflict and outside of the convenience of the relationships, this is certainly an interesting one. Highly recommended.

The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden, book 1) by Julie Kagawa. Published in 2012 by HarlequinTeen.  ISBN: 978-0-373-21051-0

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