TL;DR – Holy. Wow.
(Note: this review is for the audiobook version.)
Had I come across The Immortal Rules on my own, chances are that I would not have purchased it due to a few key elements: YA, vampire, love story, dystopian future. I’ve read too many not-great things with similar elements to want to seek them out any longer. However, one of my lovely readers inadvertently recommended this book to me, stating that if someone liked The Immortal Rules, they would like my little book. Naturally, I had to see for myself.
I’m SO glad I did! You know how some stories stay with you even after you read the final word? Yeah, this is one of them. The story is told from the POV of Allison, a 19 year-old girl living in a “vampire city,” surviving by the skin of her teeth in a brutal, dystopian future. Events occur, and she is transformed into the thing she hates most of all: a vampire. More events occur, and she finds herself trying to blend in with a small band of human pilgrims searching for their promised land.
The characters feel genuine, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, goals and attitudes. I loved Allison, our narrator. She was scrappy, smart, and almost painfully pragmatic at times, (I mean that in a good way!), but she grew and developed as the story progressed. Kanin, Allison’s vampire “teacher,” was fascinating in a cold, almost Spock-like manner. (I won’t say more for fear of spoilers. 😉 Zeke, the “love interest” of the story, has his own agenda and his own arc, which is beautifully done. His and Allison’s friendship-turned-relationship had me wringing my hands, dying to know “what happens next?!”
A big part of this story revolves around Allison learning to control the “demon” within, ie: the predatory vampire. Zeke plays a huge role in that. It’s lovely – in a sort of heartbreaking way – to watch Allison struggle with her conflicting “hungers.”
For the most part, the baddies in the story are slightly one-dimensional, but I think it’s because they don’t get much screen time. There is a very gray character named Jeb who could be considered an antagonist at times, though his motives are clear and completely understandable. Most villains think they are the heroes of their own stories anyway. I wouldn’t call Jeb an antagonist, per say; he’s much more nuanced than that. In any case, he was intriguing to watch. (Though there were times I wanted to smack him!)
Moving onto the worldbuilding, I was riveted by the descriptions of this bleak future, where a “rabid virus” has knocked out the majority of the human population. So, not only do vampires want to eat humans, but former-humans-turned-rabid also want to eat humans. I liked the third party angle; it wasn’t just “vampires vs. humans.” That conflict brought more depth to the story and the characters, and made for some exciting reading.
Kagawa’s take on vampires was fantastic. She blended a mix of common legends and some of (I believe) her own ideas to create something fresh, interesting, and wholly believable. (I’m already writing fanfiction in my head!)
WRT the audiobook, Therese Plummer did a phenomenal job, not just with Allison’s voice, but with every voice – even the men. (That can be hit or miss, sometimes.) I particularly loved the resonance in Kanin’s dialog.
Overall, I could tell that so much love, care, and devotion went into this work. It was a joy to read. (Or…listen to, I guess!) Do yourself a favor and read this book!