Why The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa is an Important Banned Books Week Read
1984. Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World. These are all great, classic reads that highlight the dangers of censorship. Two of them happen to be among my favorite books of all time. Brave New World is not. But sometimes, authors can slip in powerful statements against censorship in the most surprising of places. Exhibit A: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa.
The Immortal Rules is the first book in The Blood of Eden series by Kagawa. It is set in a world where vampires rule. Not sparkly vampires, but tyrannical vampires who will, in fact, suck you dry if you do not comply. All humans are forced to register with the new vampire government and are forced to basically pay a blood tax. Those humans that don’t register remain outside the city limits on the fringe where they barely survive, scrounging for food and praying for safety. One wrong step and you may suddenly find yourself being used as an example. Not a good example, but a food example.
This is where we meet Allie. Allie refuses to register and is hanging with a rag-tag gang who despise the vampire monsters. And Allie likes to read, which has basically been outlawed. Understanding the danger of knowledge, the vampires have burned the libraries and tried to destroy all the books. Allie remembers her mother reading to her as a little girl, and she knows how. Occasionally she stumbles upon a book and she takes them to her “home”, trying to keep her stash secret. It is in this world that we find a great defense against censorship:
“Words define us,’ Mom continued, as I struggled to make my clumsy marks look like her elegant script. ‘We must protect our knowledge and pass it on whenever we can. If we are ever to become a society again, we must teach others how to remain human.”
“There will come a time when man is no longer concerned only with survival, when he will once more be curious as to who came before him, what life was like a thousand years ago, and he will seek out answers for a hundred years or so, but humans’ curiosity has always driven them to find answers.”
“I recognized it instantly. It was a made-up story, a fantasy, the tale of four kids who went through a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a strange new world. I’d read it more times than I could remember, and although I sneered at the thought of a magical land with friendly, talking animals, there were times when I wished, in my most secret moments, that I could find a hidden door that would take us all out of this place.”
Allie despises the fact that those around her choose to cower in fear and ignorance. She speaks often of the fact that if they understood what they were capable of, what the world could be like, they would choose to rise up and fight against the vampires. Which is the very reason that the vampires have burned the books. They understand that knowledge and story are powerful things. That they can inspire. That they can ignite. That they can lead those they wish to rule to challenge that rule. And in this world we see a subtle, powerful and glaring reminder of just why we must fight for the freedom to read. The knowledge found in the pages of books can empower us all, and those who wish to rule us would love to take that power away. The best way to do that is to ban the books. The Immortal Rules takes us on an exciting journey in this vampire filled world and uses this journey to remind us all, we must fight against censorship because we must fight for our right to rule ourselves. Also, this is just a really good series. And there are some really interesting twists. Read it for Banned Books Week.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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