Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

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.

Review

I’ve loved vampire fiction and movies since I began my avid reader journey, but in the last few years I’ve developed a wariness regarding vampire fiction. I believe it’s the whole romantic love trend towards them and how their characters can have a degree of humanity, which turns them into pussycats. This renders them unrealistic as monsters for me and basically neutralises any thrill they can create in a story.

When I first came across Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules I was hesitant to read it because of that now common wariness, but I kept finding myself being drawn to re-read the synopsis and consider what was between the covers. I have a love for dystopia just as much as I do for vampire fiction, sometimes even more so, therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise when the combination of the two is so tempting. With the added bonus of a strong-willed, bad-arse woman as a protagonist, it was really only a matter of time before I picked up The Immortal Rules.

There was no disappointment when it came to Allison. With a dystopian society steeped in ruin and decay, whilst being ruled by supernatural predators and surrounded by zombies, it’s natural to expect Allison to be anything but a pushover. She’s street smart, witty, can kick arse when need be, and this is before she even becomes a vampire. The vampire part of her only enhances her abilities to take care of herself and then she gets a katana. Score! I’m a sucker for Asian weaponry, especially when wielded by bad-arse women. It probably sounds like I’ve developed a literary crush at about this point…

Before she turns, human Allison does have a softer side but she grew up in the life of a scavenger, becoming independent and fending for herself at a young age. The effects of this are definitely dominating her personality before the event, but then she becomes the vampire. This is where I think something interesting happens, her humanity seems to grow, and it leads to a more intriguing aspect of the tale.

I loved being able to read from the human to monster’s transformation point of view. She may not be a savage monster, possibly not as impressionably lethal as she could be, but I believe the growth in her humanity helps the reader to connect with her all the more. And it comes across as being very realistic and believable.

I’m not sure if Allison, and Kagawa’s portrayal of the birth of a monster, has too much humanity. It is hard to say when she has just turned and the story doesn’t encompass many years. I found her story compelling enough to want to follow Allison’s struggle regardless of how much of her vampirism came across as a crux more than anything. And I discovered the usual wariness I feel was short-lived as she still exhibited a level of coldness that I feel would have produced some eye rolling on my part if it wasn’t included.

As for romance aspect of the tale, to be honest I didn’t care for it. Thankfully it’s not heavy in that area, but I don’t really feel as though it read as romance as such. To me it came across as a technique to show, and play on, Allison’s humanity, along with the majority of her interactions with humans. This doesn’t mean the other characters weren’t enjoyable. In fact, they were quite robust in presence and were able to leave a lasting impression even when their time was fleeting.

I believe it’s the characters and the side character dynamics that show Kagawa’s writing talent. I haven’t read anything by her until now and I’m seriously considering picking up another one of her books outside of this series. I found every scene easy to imagine, was convincible, and the world was built rather well. Including zombies into the mix added some more oomph to an already possibly thrilling combination, but also aided in creating a harsh reality for the story’s civilisation.

I find myself really looking forward to the split the ending has created (I won’t elaborate to avoid spoilers) and learning more about Allison’s story and the world around her.

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