My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: Holy crud, that was a rather enthralling read, and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would going into it. Plenty of action, interesting character development and interaction, and decent worldbuilding for the setting. Even the romantic notes were done well. I think it’s reminescent of quite a few stories I’ve read in this genre before, but I have to say that it kept me engaged from beginning to end, and I’m certainly looking forward to diving into the second book from here on.
This book was far, far better than I thought it would be going into it. I would say there’s a caveat to liking this novel though – it had familiar elements that I’d read in previous stories before (the comparisons to Blood the Last Vampire/Blood+ and I Am Legend are apt), but I’ll admit that I was able to suspend disbelief in the realm and ended up being drawn into the overarching narrative anyway. It did a decent job with evoking my sympathy for Allie Sakamoto, a human living within a realm dominated by vampires. She’s a “street rat” who tries to make ends meet among her small circle of friends. My mind drifted to Disney’s Aladdin many times when “street rat” was mentioned, but random tangent is random tangent.
Allie ventures outside the city and ends up finding a plethora of food to sustain her group, but the scenario quickly turns tragic when the group are attacked by Rabids – vampire zombie creatures that take form not only in humans, but animals too – and Allie’s life quickly turns towards death.
Until she’s saved by Kanin, a vampire that gives her the choice to become one of his group or die while keeping her soul intact. Allie, who has had a hatred for the “blood suckers” most of her life, decides to choose to live, to fight her fate. It’s a transition she’s not always prepared to take, though Kanin trains her a bit in the progression. I felt the training was a little tedious in points, but overall, I liked the chemistry she had with Kanin in that part of the journey, as well as the expansion upon the world and the delving into how Rabids were created and the contrast between the human life Allie knew and the new life she has to adjust to.
Things really picked up in the novel after Allie goes on her own and comes across a group of nightly nomads – including a well meaning character named Zeke. Only one problem: he hates vampires. Allie is a vampire. This is not a romance that will end well…or so it seems on the surface. I actually loved the way the tension’s established between Allie keeping her identity secret and her internal struggles to sate her hunger and fight her demons. Zeke didn’t come across as too annoying a character in my opinion – he had palpable reactions to the revelations Allie handed to him, and he does a fair share of bargaining between what he has been taught versus what he knows and observes through his interactions with Allie. When his loved ones are in peril, he doesn’t have much choice but to team up with Allie in order to get them back, and it’s a fair share of heartbreak, action, and nicely accented scenes of chemistry between them in the mix.
I really enjoyed this novel for what it offered and look forward to where the next book will take me, especially given on the road Allie sets off on following the ending of the work. Well done, Julie Kagawa, I’m hooked on another series.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Harlequin Teen.