Saturday, December 8, 2012
Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle
Title: The Hallowed Ones
Author: Laura Bickle
Rating: 4 Stars
The Hallowed Ones was one of those novels I remained skeptical about until I was a good half-way through the book. It had come recommended to me by all my most trust bloggers, so of course, I knew it had to be good, but I was still skeptical. You see, my mom went through a phase where she was enamored with the Amish culture and lifestyle and as such, we'd have novels with Amish women on the front cover and I'd often find her watching movies featuring men with long beards making butter. As her daughter, it was my responsibility to rebel against her strange new obsession - which I did quite obstinately, mind you - so when Amish people cropped up in YA Literature, I knew I'd be a tough cookie to convert. I respect the Amish and their culture immensely, but I've simply found it very boring. I didn't see it as something interesting, new, or fascinating in the least - although now I certainly do. The Hallowed Ones opened my eyes and gave me a new appreciation of the Amish lifestyle, all with a healthy dose of good 'ole vampiric fear.
Imagine this: You live in an isolated establishment, without any electricity or means of obtaining information when suddenly, out of nowhere, people are panicking. Everywhere. You don't know how, you don't even know why, but they just are. Now, a mysterious stranger enters your settlement, wounded, injured, and potentially dangerous. Outside, the world is in chaos. Inside, your world is ignorant. A stranger is unwelcome at this time; you know nothing about him after all. It is in this scary, terrifying realm that debut author, Laura Bickle, has placed us. Katie, our protagonist, has been eagerly anticipating Rumspringa, the time when Amish teens leave their homes to experience the normal lifestyle of other American teens, when a sudden epidemic - one that converts humans into vampire-like creatures - hits. With the crash landing of plane, bringing with it the arrival of a stranger, Alex, who Katie saves, Katie's biggest problem is no longer what dress to wear to church, but how to prevent vampires from breaking into her Amish establishment.
The Hallowed Ones is, evidently, a novel that took me by surprise. Katie is a strong, fierce, and independent protagonist. Far from the obedient and submissive heroine I assumed she'd be, Katie proves to have a mind of her own and follow her own heart. What I loved most about this novel was the fact that it exposed corruption, even in the heart of a religious establishment. The Elders don't always do what's in the best interests of the community and seeing Katie stand up to that, all while simultaneously going against her parent's wishes and all those she holds dear, was truly awe-inspiring. It takes a special type of courage to be able to stand up for oneself and for ones beliefs, and Katie has certainly earned my respect as an incredible woman. Furthermore, her inner vulnerabilities despite her outer strength made me instantly connect with her. Although Kate is Amish, she yearns for some of the simple luxuries those Outside have and that, combined with her complexity and depth, made her a protagonist to root for.
In addition to Katie, Alex completely stole my heart. Completely. I loved the slow burn of his romance with Katie and while not wholly unexpected, it still came as a surprise how well-suited these two were for each other. Perhaps best of all is the fact that it never detracted from the creepy - and utterly twisty - plot and only added to my enjoyment of the tale. Theirs is a romance I am excited to see play out in the sequel and simply thinking about it brings a silly grin to my face. Elijah, contrary to what we may think when we first begin the novel, isn't the primary romantic interest after all. Instead, he plays a rather different role in this novel, one which was unexpected and remarkably tied the plot together, making this tale all the more scintillating as I was unable to predict nearly anything.
Yet, what makes The Hallowed Ones stand out, for me at least, is Katie's inner musings of God. Bickle brings to life the Amish settlement that is the backdrop of her debut and while she has utterly changed my view of their simplistic - but satisfying - lifestyle, I enjoyed thinking through the tougher questions she probed about religion. Now, this isn't a religious book in the least. In fact, despite taking place in a religious setting, it never becomes preachy and never even touches upon religious aspects or undertones. Yet, we know, innately, that each member of this establishment believes in God and this belief, which comes to be tested with the arrival of a mysterious stranger and a deadly disease, is subtly alluded to and made the novel all the more interesting for me, simply because it made me think about my own faith. It is all very subtle, but Katie's own questioning of why, or how really, God could come to let this be only further made me connect with her. I think everyone at some point in their lives has thought this and to see it present in this novel, albeit extremely subtly and never detracting from the terrifying plot line focused on vampires, was satisfying to say the least.
All in all, The Hallowed Ones is a novel I can't believe I hesitated to read. It's a debut that it simply spectacular and I am already eagerly counting down the days till the sequel. Bickle writes with a skill that would surprise some for a debut author and her in-depth characters, well-constructed plot, and overall originality makes this a story any vampire or paranormal fan can't miss!