Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

Review: ‘The Immortal Rules’ by Julie Kagawa

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

To survive in a ruined world, she must embrace the darkness….

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in 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 dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for…again.

Review

There are obviously a lot of vampire books around at the moment.  A lot of them are surrounded by hype and clamoured over by fangirls.  Some of them actually feature vampires that survive by drinking the blood of humans.  Relatively few are centred around vampires that are BAD.  The Immortal Rules breaks away from a lot of the modern vampiric YA and gets back to the vampires of old that would have hunted you down in the dark and devoured you (in a bad, life-ending kind of way, not in a weird angsty way) and it was really very good indeed.

The America of The Immortal Rules is a dark, miserable place full of vampires that believe that humans are only worth anything as walking meals and rabids that linger just outside the Fringe ready to maim and consume those unlucky enough to cross them.  Allison Sekemoto is part of a small gang that have sacrificed access to regular food and a life of relative comfort for freedom from having to be part of the ruling vampires’ food supply.  I don’t think it’s as unique as it felt to me but a lot of the ‘mainstream’ YA that I’ve read recently has completely avoided facing up to the death and destruction reality of a world where humans are prey.  People die in this book and it isn’t pretty.  Some of the vampires are genuinely very creepy and much of the novel is set in sewers (populated by Mole Men, gangs of humans that have resorted to cannibalism to escape starvation) and an abandoned underground former research facility, padded cells and all.  An absolute atmospheric win.

Kagawa doesn’t quite dodge the vampires-can-be-good trope but she does a great job of making sure that none of her characters are twee.  Allie is a good narrator to get to know because she has a strong sense of self-preservation.  Characters that always act in the world’s best interests can be a bit predictable (because of course they will endanger themselves for even a slim chance of saving a flea) but Allie has a bit of an edge borne out of years of looking after herself in dire circumstances so I didn’t always feel as though I could second guess her actions. She has a conscience and is trying to adjust to needing human blood to live but she does JUST manage to avoid becoming sanctimonious.  Which is more than we might say about some of the other characters.  Oh, Zeke…*sigh* Where Allie is largely neither pious nor self-righteous, Zeke is almost the polar opposite weakened the story for me, even though part of my heart refused to not love him.  Those characters that will always insist on being Good that I mentioned?  Zeke is one of those and he can be ever so slightly irritating.

I think my only real complaint (which is not at all true of the next book in the trilogy so is worth taking with a pinch of salt) is that the plot ambles a bit in places.  The first part is fast-paced and hard to break away from but some of the middle chapters seem as though they dawdle along a bit.  A lot of the story is fun to read and (for want of a better phrase) action-packed but there were some slower parts that almost had me thinking that I’d been lured into another YA tale of love against the odds.  I think I’m just too cynical for stories of young people finding love in the dark always against the odds.  There is a bit of a romantic sub-plot but it isn’t intrusive and didn’t render anybody incapable of making a sensible, objective decision.  The pace does pick back up again towards the end too so don’t worry too much about the occasional lull.

So the characters are mostly great, the story is mostly brilliant and the world of The Immortal Rules is pretty impressive.  I’ll go out on a limb too and vouch for the series in general because the next book is fiercer and darker and even more riveting, if anything.  I still don’t fancy Kagawa’s Iron Fey series but I’m really glad I listened to the positive reviews of the Blood of Eden series.

Overall:  It’s been a long time since I’ve read the first in a series and really felt as though I had to read the next in the series soon after.  I read the next in the Blood of Eden series, The Eternity Cure, a little more than two months after finishing The Immortal Rules and I am absolutely dying to get my hands on the final instalment, The Forever Song.  There are very few modern YA series that I would say that about so I guess we’ll end there!

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Date finished:  
15 May 2013
Format:  
eBook
Source:  
Received from the publisher via NetGalley – thank you, Harlequin Teen!
Genre:  
Urban fantasy; YA
Pictured Edition Published: 
by Harlequin Teen in March 2013