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.
-cover and description courtesy of goodreads.
Atmospheric Analysis: Generically good, if that makes sense. It’s dark and mature and seems to have been based on the cover art for the DVDs of those Underworld movies, and overall I like it well enough…except for the fact that the main character of The Immortal Rules is at least part Japanese and the model on the cover doesn’t seem to be. So, possibly another case of that whitewashing thing publishers seem to enjoy so much.
Planetary Class: Post-apocalyptic, with added vampires. (The vampires are of the undead rather than pseudo-scientific variety, in case you were wondering, while the apocalypse in the novel was caused by a widespread virus.)
Viability Rating: Vampires. It’s got vampires. Wondering about viability is kind of missing the point.
Mohs Scale: VAMPIRES. IT’S GOT VAMPIRES. So it’s a 1, is what I’m saying. Science fiction fans should probably treat this as an SF setting with a major fantastical component. The most obvious comparison I can think of is that movie Daybreakers, which is working off of a similar idea. The major difference is that here, the vampires were always around and just decided to use the viral outbreak as an excuse to take over.
Xenolinguistical Assessment: The language used in The Immortal Rules made me want to find Julie Kagawa and dramatically high-five her. Not because it’s particularly unusual or lyrical or any of that, but because the word ‘shit’ appears several times in the book’s early chapters. No, really, I think that’s high-five worthy. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading about a bunch of orphaned teenagers who are struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, I find that it stands out if they don’t swear. Because, newsflash time, that’s what teenagers do.
The Immortal Rules, then. It’s got the word ‘shit’ in it, and I couldn’t be happier.
Apart from that, the writing here could best be described as functional-to-good. It takes a certain amount of skill to convey a hectic action scene in a way that doesn’t come across as confusing or tedious, and Kagawa is extremely good at it. Allison’s narration never really strives for anything more than what’s needed to carry the plot, but it flows along so well that you’re unlikely to want anything more.
Expanded Report: There are certain reviewers who seem to think that, like the diviners of ancient times, they can perfectly judge an author’s intentions by sifting through the disembowelled remains of his or her novel. Invariably, the organs point to a single damning conclusion: cash-in. This author Did It For The Money. (These people also have the miraculous ability to determine how much money a person makes just by reading their blog, which is how we know that YA authors are all rolling in money.)
Some of these people will probably accuse Kagawa of writing something that she knew would be popular. Post-apocalyptic novels are popular, right? And so are vampires! Combine the two, and the result will surely be a tidal wave of money and popularity.
Well, there’s a lot more to The Immortal Rules than that. In summary, it sounds fairly pedestrian: in the future, most of the human population has been wiped out by a mysterious virus and vampires have taken over the world. Allison Sekemoto is a Fringer, someone who lives on the outskirts of a city rules by a vampiric Prince. It all feels pretty predictable for the first fifty pages or so, with Allison quickly being turned into a vampire by a guy who then teaches her how to survive as a vampire over the course of several scenes that read a bit too much like a videogame tutorial. (Things also get a bit cheesy at times, as when Allison and her mentor are attacked by a pair of vampires who do the usual hissing-snarling-bared-fangs thing.)
But then Allison is forced to leave the confines of the city, and suddenly things get a lot more interesting. She falls in with a travelling congregation who are looking for a human-controlled city called Eden, and is faced daily with the inescapable fact of her own vampiric nature as she struggles to blend in with a group of generally likeable people who can’t see that they’ve undertaken a fool’s errand.
My respect for Kagawa as a writer grew the more I learned about the congregation. How often do YA SF writers bring up religion in their books? Almost never, even when it would make sense to do so, and yet Kagawa lets her characters talk about it the way any real people would if they were in the same situation. If that wasn’t unusual enough, she’s also given us a love interest who isn’t ever an insufferable asshole. He isn’t even annoyingly ‘mysterious’! (If anything, Allison is the mysterious one, given the rather huge secret she’s keeping from everyone.)
Rarely do I get excited about the beginning of yet another YA trilogy, but I’m genuinely looking forward to the next instalment in this one. ‘High-concept’ has become something of a four-letter word for a lot of people, but this is one instance where it shouldn’t carry implications of shallowness or of an author attempting to cash in on a trend.