I am an enormous fan of a good ‘ol genre mash-up. When done well, it can add fresh perspective to a genre that might be feeling a little stale. I first read Julie Kagawa’s Blood of Eden series a few years ago, but I’ve picked it up again since then and found it just as entertaining as the first time I read it.
So get this, in the Blood of Eden books a zombie virus began infecting the human world, predictably destabilizing civilization and bringing about the apocalypse. Pretty typical zombie/dytopian fare, right? Wrong. During the zombie apocalypse, vampires rose out of the shadows to save their food source. The only way they were able to do this is to build walled cities… and of course enslave humans to treat as walking blood bags.
Outside the walls, those infected with the Red Lung virus turn into rabids, feral creatures able to turn others with their bite. Traveling among them is practically suicidal, but Allison Sekemoto is willing to do so to obtain food for her “Fringer” family. On one such trip out, she is bitten and a mysterious stranger gives her a choice: die now or become a vampire to survive the virus. Allie choses to become a vampire and the adventure begins.
This series has a strong “hero’s journey” backbone and combines tropes from zombie, dystopian and vampire genres with a surprisingly fluid grace. Once Kagawa’s reasoning for mashing the vampire and zombie genres is revealed it makes an amazing amount of sense. Seriously, you’ll have that “AAAAHHHHH, OF COURSE!” moment and feel really satisfied. I should say that this mash-up doesn’t come up with much that breaks the mold for any of its genres with much gusto, but it’s the remix of conventions I think you’ll enjoy most.
The freshness here comes from Kagawa’s characters, that are so well developed that they’re extremely memorable. When I decided to pick The Immortal Rules up again, I found I had remembered the characters vividly, which isn’t always the case for me. Our protagonist Allison is one of my favorite female leads in YA. She’s monstrous and lovely at the same time, kickass and kind (and unbelievably tortured). Her “turning journey” is compelling and heart-wrenching, fraught with worries about family, romance and saving what little is left of the world.
Allison’s relationships with her sire Kanin and her vampire brother are strangely heartwarming, given the ferocious nature of each. Her romance with a human, Zeke, is fairly angsty, but for all the right reasons and his struggles with his understanding of Allie’s identity brings out a romantic storyline that is nuanced. I was most interested in how the push/pull between them ended up helping Allison accept herself fully, even when Zeke doesn’t support her.
Ultimately, this series is focused on finding a secret spot where humans live without vampire rule and finding a cure for Red Lung, and it is one scary adventure. As many of you know, I’m not a very brave reader, so horror can be a little difficult for me. These books are definitely suspenseful and the zombies are scary (and the series’ villain even scarier!), but I could handle it. I think it takes the vampire scare factor up to near full force, but the zombie scare-factor is at a medium, creating a dark and tense vibe without being overly gory or terrifying.
One of the best things about this series is that it’s finished! All three books are out now, so get thee to the library and zoom right through them. Folks who enjoyed Carrie Ryan’s Forest of Hands and Teeth or Mira Grant’s Feed will probably enjoy this series.
Allison Carr Waechter is ready for Spring Break.