Title: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden)
Author: Julie Kagawa
No. of Pages: 512
Genre: Science Fiction
Origins: Mine. All mine.
Bottom Line: Julie Kagawa takes her amazing world-building skills used in the Iron Fey series and applies them to a plague-infested, vampire-ruled society. Scary and ruthless, this is not the angst-y sparkly vampire tripe (as enjoyable as that was) that has been so popular in recent years but a much-appreciated harkening back to the nasty vampires of old.
“In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.”
Thoughts: The world into which Allie Sekemoto was born makes it tough to be a human. Hemmed in by border walls protecting them from the rabids that run rampant in the countryside and by the vampire rulers who control the basic necessities of life, she has so far survived by scrounging among the garbage, choosing to scavenge rather than submit to the vampires’ rules and regulations designed to protect their food source. Her luck runs out one night searching for food, and she is forced to make an untenable decision – become a vampire or die a painful death. As she struggles to adjust to the lasting impact of her decision, Allie discovers there is more to the harsh world than she was previously aware, including the humans able to survive beyond the city walls and the possibility of a cure to the disease that helped create the nightmarish world she calls home. In Julie Kagawa’s compelling first book in her latest series, The Immortal Rules, Allie must explore what it truly means to be human and redefine her ideas of good versus evil, all the while choosing with whom her hard-won loyalties reside.
The world in The Immortal Rules is absolutely brutal and a character unto itself. Between the rabids, the ruling vampires, the crumbling city structures, and the dog-eat-dog world of the Unregistereds, there is little in the way of hope for humans, let alone for one individual. The nature of the plague that infected the world and helped create the rabids is still nebulous but made that much more nefarious by its unknown elements. The familiar but decrepit towns and cities mentioned throughout the novel hint at much more tragedy than the afore-mentioned plague pandemic, further building the ominous tone of the story. While the lack of explanations could be construed as frustrating, Ms. Kagawa builds the story in such a way that specificity about the setting is not necessary to understand or enjoy the story. In fact, taking the time to establish the past trauma that created Allie’s dystopian world would only serve to draw attention away from the main aspects of the plot and establish a dumbing-down effect that would dilute the success of the built-in suspense.
Much of the world created in The Immortal Rules, and especially the vampires as envisioned by Ms. Kagawa, feels very much like Joss Whedon’s Buffy-verse. The vampires are not mindless monsters but have a cold calculation within them that is all the more frightening for the glimpses of humanity that also occur. Like everything in life, there is gradations to the deprivation and levels of monstrosity exhibited in every creature – including the rabids – and sometimes the humans are more evil than the vampire overlords. Allie’s conversion, in particular, is especially appealing because of her recognition of the vampiric instincts that could easily consume her, and does so more than once. This constant internal battle is particularly poignant given the truly terrifying human interactions Allie faces as both a human and a vampire. The rabids are supposed to be the mindless counterpoint to the calculating vampires, but even they show glimpses of thought that is surprising for all their zombie-like characteristics. It is this age-old question regarding the definition of evil that makes The Immortal Rules particularly enthralling.
While the story itself may not be as angst-ridden as other teen vampire novels, there is an element of internal torment within Allie that will appeal to younger audiences who tend to enjoy that level of drama. For, at its heart, The Immortal Rules is a coming-of-age story. Allie battles her inner monster and those she faces in her everyday existence to find her new place in the chaos that is her world. The story includes the soul searching, errors in judgment, and naïve thinking that is the hallmark of this genre. There is even the ubiquitous star-crossed love interest. However, the schmaltz of this oeuvre is offset by realism evoked by Ms. Kagawa’s stellar descriptions and world-building, as well as her butt-kicking heroine. See, Allie is the type of girl to take offense at being considered a moody, temperamental, and stereotypical teen, and this helps prevent the entire novel from falling prey to the traditional faults of such novels.
The Immortal Rules is a strong introduction to a welcome new series by Ms. Kagawa. The first glimpses of Allie as a street rat, wise beyond her years and driven to break her own rules in a desperate search for food, will endear her to any reader, as will her no-nonsense approach to the vicious life in which she has been thrust. The discovery of a different way of life beyond the borders of the city she has called home is equally touching, as much for the sense of hope and determination in the humans as well as the idea of this discovery being too late to truly help her. Intrigue and unanswered questions abound, providing plenty of fodder for future novels even though the story ends without the ubiquitous – and frustrating – cliffhanger. Vampire fans will delight in the fact that Ms. Kagawa reintroduces vampires the way they are meant to be, while her fans will once again enjoy her ability to create breathtakingly real worlds and realistic characters around which it is easy to rally.