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Why The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is an Important Banned Books Week Read

1984. Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World.  These are all great, classic reads that highlight the dangers of censorship.  Two of them happen to be among my favorite books of all time.  Brave New World is not.  But sometimes, authors can slip in powerful statements against censorship in the most surprising of places.  Exhibit A: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa.

The Immortal Rules is the first book in The Blood of Eden series by Kagawa.  It is set in a world where vampires rule.  Not sparkly vampires, but tyrannical vampires who will, in fact, suck you dry if you do not comply.  All humans are forced to register with the new vampire government and are forced to basically pay a blood tax.  Those humans that don’t register remain outside the city limits on the fringe where they barely survive, scrounging for food and praying for safety.  One wrong step and you may suddenly find yourself being used as an example.  Not a good example, but a food example.

This is where we meet Allie.  Allie refuses to register and is hanging with a rag-tag gang who despise the vampire monsters.  And Allie likes to read, which has basically been outlawed.  Understanding the danger of knowledge, the vampires have burned the libraries and tried to destroy all the books.  Allie remembers her mother reading to her as a little girl, and she knows how.  Occasionally she stumbles upon a book and she takes them to her “home”, trying to keep her stash secret.  It is in this world that we find a great defense against censorship:

“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.”

“There will come a time when man is no longer concerned only with survival, when he will once more be curious as to who came before him, what life was like a thousand years ago, and he will seek out answers for a hundred years or so, but humans’ curiosity has always driven them to find answers.” 

“I recognized it instantly. It was a made-up story, a fantasy, the tale of four kids who went through a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a strange new world. I’d read it more times than I could remember, and although I sneered at the thought of a magical land with friendly, talking animals, there were times when I wished, in my most secret moments, that I could find a hidden door that would take us all out of this place.” 

Allie despises the fact that those around her choose to cower in fear and ignorance.  She speaks often of the fact that if they understood what they were capable of, what the world could be like, they would choose to rise up and fight against the vampires.  Which is the very reason that the vampires have burned the books.  They understand that knowledge and story are powerful things.  That they can inspire.  That they can ignite. That they can lead those they wish to rule to challenge that rule.  And in this world we see a subtle, powerful and glaring reminder of just why we must fight for the freedom to read.  The knowledge found in the pages of books can empower us all, and those who wish to rule us would love to take that power away.  The best way to do that is to ban the books.  The Immortal Rules takes us on an exciting journey in this vampire filled world and uses this journey to remind us all, we must fight against censorship because we must fight for our right to rule ourselves.  Also, this is just a really good series.  And there are some really interesting twists.  Read it for Banned Books Week.

Book Review: The Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa

“Who are you trying to fool? People are food . . . You’re not any less of a monster then I am.”
The Eternity Cure, July Kagawa

In The Immortal Rules, book 1 in the Blood of Eden series, Allison Sekemoto made a life changing decision, technically both a life saving and a life ending choice: she choose to become a vampire rather than die.  She traveled with a group of humans, fought an evil vampire prince, and learned more about the vampire world she was living in – and about herself.  In The Eternity Cure, Allison joins forces with the one vampire she hates most, Jackal, to try and find a cure for the rabids and to save her sire, Kanin.  In this new world, the lines between human and monster continue to blur and the stakes become higher than anyone could ever have imagined.

“I hope I’m not disturbing you.”
“Not at all. At this point, I’m so disturbed that anything else will seem tame compared to the week I’ve had.”
The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa

The Blood of Eden series has the perfect mix of science gone bad, the world gone crazy, true love, and epic battles.  The Eternity Cure has betrayal, intrigue, and all that you can ask from a series about a dystopian world ruled by vampires who declare themselves Princes and keep humans as pets.  And Ezekiel, the potential human love interest, is a shining example of why the human race is worth saving and the perfect antidote to all those surly, questionable love interests out there in YA today.  Even in the face of gruesome deaths, plagues and the struggle for power among men disguised as monsters, The Blood of Eden series is full of stand up characters who remind us all that the choices that we make define who are. 
The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is a previous TLT Rec of the Week

 
” . . . a demon barely restrained.”

– The Eternity Cure, Julie Kagawa

This is hands down one of my favorite vampire series out there.  As a Buffy fan, I see this as a twist on the Buffy lore: What would Buffy do if she were turned into a vampire?  To be clear, Allison is not Buffy, she does not begin as a vampire slayer but as a regular, every day human.  But she is a strong, confident young lady living in a broken world.  And when she becomes a vampire she struggles hard to maintain some resemblance of her humanity while being forced to feed on people to stay alive.  Allison forces us to think about what it means to be a monster and what it means to choose love, even if it comes as such a high price.  There is a stunning conclusion that sets us up for quite an emotional thrill ride in the next installment.  The potential romance between Allison and Zeke sizzles.  Highly recommended.  This sequel does not disappoint.

The Blood of Eden series is on my Great Reads for Buffy fans list and is a great addition to those who like to read about plagues and epidemicsThe Eternity Cure by Julie Kagawa will be released in May of 2013 by Harlequin Teen.  ISBN: 978-0-373-21069-5.

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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