The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Julie Kagawa, but the one novella I’d read of hers didn’t click. It was a “between the books” story, so those can be hit or miss if you haven’t been reading the series. When I saw the NetGalley announcement of The Immortal Rules and its sequel, though, the description was intriguing enough for me to give her another go. Boy, am I happy I did.

The Immortal Rules is set in a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by humans, somewhat traditional vampires, and the rabids (horrifying dead things that exist only to feed). There are many ways the story could have played out, and the one Julie Kagawa chose is by far the most interesting I can think of. This is a people story, a tale of choices made after the irrevocable moment when no option was a good one. It’s about taking responsibility for actions even if well-meaning ones didn’t go as intended, and about learning who you are above and beyond the basic need to survive.

Now before you get the sense that this is a boring morality tale out to teach us how to behave, let me say those are the underlying themes and are offered as exploration not command of the path to take.

The story itself is peopled by characters who, though their circumstances might be alien, are familiar as reflections of ourselves and those we know. This makes it easy to understand why they do what they do, even when it might not turn out as hoped. It also makes for many gut twisting moments when people we’ve come to know have horrible things happen to them.

This is not a sunshine-and-flowers book. It does have some lighter moments that provoke a smile or a quiet “aww,” but for the most part it’s a hard hitting series that opens the doors on nightmares and tests the spirit of Allie and everyone she comes in contact with to the limits. She faces her own demons and the expectations of those around her as she struggles to hold to a standard she didn’t even know she had.

It’s a powerful, complex read where you find yourself rooting for who should be the “bad guys” or where who is doing the right thing isn’t always clear at first. I go into every book with the expectation that I’ll enjoy myself (this is why I tend to choose my books carefully). The Immortal Rules offered more than simple enjoyment though. Where I was expecting an adventure, I got one. What I didn’t expect was the depth of humanity, or the conflicts I’d have to face in reading it. I will say that when I came to the end, I was happy to know I’d been accepted for the sequel as well. I’m not ready to set Allie aside and move on with my life. She has more to show me, I think, and it’s a journey I look forward to.

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