Every time we get a new vampire book at the library, I’m astonished that they are still being published. In the young adult section here at my library, we have 198 books under the the subject heading vampires—fiction. I’m a fan of vampire books, but after some disappointing selections, I’ve become wary of new additions to this bloated genre.
But I decided to take a chance on The Immortal Rules, and I’m glad I did. Julie Kawaga has made a unique and gripping contribution to young adult vampire fiction.
Allison Sekemoto lives on the Fringe, outside the walls of the vampire city. As an unregistered, she doesn’t have to regularly donate blood, but she doesn’t get any rations, either. She and her band of friends survive by scavenging, but just barely get by. Not only are they vulnerable to attacks from vampires who aren’t content to feed on donated blood, they are also constantly defending their territory from other gangs of unregistereds fighting for scarce resources. And if they leave the walls that protect city, they face the worst enemy of all: the Rabids. These zombie-like creatures have contracted a virus that leaves them emaciated and hungry for flesh. Even vampires steer clear of Rabids.
Allison braves the ruins past the walls of the city on a scavenging trip, and discovers an entire basement full of food that will allow her and her friends to survive through the winter. However, when she returns with her crew to haul back the canned goods, they are caught by Rabids. Her friends die, and as Allison lies dangerously close to death herself, she is given a choice by a vampire: die for good, or be turned into what she hates the most.
Allison’s drive to survive is strong enough that she accepts, and endures training with her sire, who exists outside of the walls of the city and is obsessed with strange research in an old hospital. When Allison and her mentor are discovered by the vampires that rule the city, they must flee. Allison escapes the city, but just barely, and now she is alone in the wilderness full of Rabids. She sets out in search of another city, hoping there is life out there. If she doesn’t come across a human to feed on soon, she’ll go crazy and die.
Allison stumbles across a band of travelers searching for a city called Eden, perhaps the last place on Earth not ruled by vampires. They travel at night because they lost many of their camp when Rabids emerged from their daytime slumber in the ground beneath them, so Allison is able to conceal her identity as a vampire. She develops a close relationship with one of the boys in the group, and uncovers some of their leader’s secrets. Is there a cure to the disease that has decimated so much of the world’s population? Is Eden a real place or just a myth? Can a vampire love a human? None of these questions have easy answers.
This novel blends the best of post-apocalyptic and dystopian genres with horror and paranormal elements. it’s gritty, bleak, and chocked full of action. The world-building is astounding, even if the backstory is awkwardly inserted during dialogue. The plot is fast-paced and complicated, with plenty of twists and turns. Allison is a compelling character, and while far from perfect, she’s someone I wanted to cheer on. She’s smart and driven and struggles with her new identity. My only complaints were flat and undeveloped secondary characters and that the white girl on the cover when Allison is of Asian descent, but that isn’t something I can blame on the Julie Kawaga.
I’d recommend this book to those who are skeptical of vampire stories, anyone who likes a strong female protagonist, and readers looking for a paranormal twist on a post-apocalyptic story.