By: Sher A. Hart
This is the first book I’ve read by Julie Kagawa, and it’s very thick. Since I got bored reading another famous vampire novel, I thought this one would bore me too. Not so. That’s not to say the whole book was too exciting to put down. Kagawa paced her story well. Besides all the action, she gave readers stopping places by making small books within her big book. Smart strategy for a story this length. All the thrills of a horrific roller coaster ride where the operator will let you off if you need a break. I guarantee you’ll get back on as soon as you take care of life’s little necessities.
The main character, Allison, starts as a human hardened from living as an unregistered member of a street gang to avoid having to give blood to her city’s vampire Lord. The author does a good job creating a bleak picture of the city where Allison and her gang are starving in the fringe. The search for food outside the city in rabid territory is what sets the plot in motion. If you didn’t know Allison ends up as a vampire early on, check the blurb. Let’s just say there’s a lot of grief and death before Allison chooses to live as the undead.
It turns out her vampire sire has much to hide, including enemies. No sooner does Allison learn the vampire rules, how to survive, than she’s forced to leave him and flee the only home she’s ever known. Without resorting to filler, the author gives Allison a good dose of un-living alone when she escapes into the wilderness. There she faces starvation. Kagawa doesn’t believe in vegetarian vampires, so Allison’s biggest challenge is to find humans to feed on often enough to keep from losing control and tearing them apart. Meeting bad guys doesn’t make it any easier for Allison to blend in with good humans once she does find them.
I’m still not giving any spoilers by mentioning that one human male turns out to be hard for Allie to resist. Zeke’s in the blurb too. There are a whole bunch of complications to any sort of relationship developing, from a hostile female to a leader that shows little compassion for his dwindling group. He’s on a Quest, capital Q, for a fabled cure. And those are just the minor complications. Guess what? While Allison tries to hang on to the last shreds of her humanity, there’s a lot more fleeing, fighting, and yes—more death. Kagawa does a masterful job on the emotions.
There are problems with originality though. The book’s premise reminds me of the movie Daybreakers. In the movie, Alison is the daughter of a drug company’s president. A plague caused most of the population to turn into vampires who farm the few humans remaining, hooked to machines. Although Kagawa’s humans are more numerous and free to roam within limits like cattle on a ranch, combined with other similarities, it’s still too close for my taste, enough to take my rating from 5 stars to 4.
Still, those 4 are solid because of Kagawa’s unique twist on other ideas. In Daybreakers, vampires who don’t drink enough human blood become deranged subsiders the same as Kagawa’s starved vampires do. Deprived long enough, subsiders devolve into ugly bat-like creatures. Kagawa’s idea of twisting subsiders into rabids—zombie vampires—is very cool. In her book, the Red Lung Virus attacked and killed humans, and medical experiments mutated the virus so vampires became rabids. They’re a big danger to vampires as well as humans and Kagawa uses them to create some powerful scenes.
More on the plus side, the actual events in The Immortal Rules are far different from Daybreakers. The quest for a cure is inevitable for any post-apocalyptic novel where a disease has ravaged the population, yet Kawaga makes it interesting not just by the hardships and dangers, but by making us care for her characters. She inches Allison closer to empathy for others until, at the end, she seems more human than when she lived. And Kagawa wrapped up the story in a satisfying way, although not a happy ending, that makes me anxious for the next installment. Maybe next time, we’ll get to see the female on the cover depicted as a katana wielding Asian. That would be awesome. Kick-butt Kagawa!