Book Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

29 Nov

Book cover for The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

Title: The Hallowed Ones

Author: Laura Bickle

Series: The Hallowed Ones #1

Genre: Horror YA, Paranormal YA, Post-Apocalyptic YA

Amazon | Goodreads

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Release date: September 25, 2012

Source: Bought

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

Summary: Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers can get a taste of the real world. But the real world comes to her in this dystopian tale with a philosophical bent. Rumors of massive unrest on the “Outside” abound. Something murderous is out there. Amish elders make a rule: No one goes outside, and no outsiders come in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man, she can’t leave him to die. She smuggles him into her family’s barn—at what cost to her community? The suspense of this vividly told, truly horrific thriller will keep the pages turning.

THE HALLOWED ONES by Laura Bickle is one of the most gripping, shiver-inducing vampire books I’ve basically ever read. It’s a pretty impressive YA debut, friends, because it was pretty much unputdownable from start to finish, and it has two REALLY excellent things going for it: One, an inside view of Amish communities that I found completely fascinating and refreshing, and two, a downright horrifying take on vampires that was literally terrifying. There is nothing–NOTHING–romantic or swoony or inhumanly beautiful about the vampires in THE HALLOWED ONES, and quite frankly, I’d take these vamps over any others any day.

So I feel like I need to start out talking about Katie, who is a really wonderful main character. We get a really great glimpse of her life in the Amish community, and how she bristles against some of the rules and expectations of her family and the elders. Amish girls are supposed to follow rules and do things that they’re told and not question anything. Katie has a bit of a reputation for doing the opposite, and that means that she is both easy to understand and root for, and a lightening rod for drama, not the least of which comes from the boy she takes in and houses in her family’s barn against the rules and wishes of the bishop, who has decreed that, to stay safe, no one can come in or go out of their community. I really enjoyed her lots, and she adds a really great human element to THE HALLOWED ONES that ups the danger and fear like WHOA.

As awesome as Katie is–and she IS awesome–the real standouts to me in Laura Bickle’s book are the atmosphere, the vampires, and Amish. The first couple chapters of THE HALLOWED ONES completely gripped me with the creeps. See, the Amish live in a community that is basically sequestered from the rest of the world. They have no news, no phones, no TVs–no way of knowing that things on the outside are going to pot because there’s basically a vampire-pocalypse going on. What they DO know is that all of a sudden, Katie and her neighbors stop seeing cars on the road behind their community, some of their number who went into the nearest town to work at the furniture shop haven’t come home, and . CHILLS, I’m telling you. Like, real ones. When we do see the vampires, they are focused on one thing: SUCKING ALL THE HUMANS DRY. They have no humanity. They have no compassion or warm hearts or gorgeous, sparkly skin. They are only hungry, and evil.

The way that the Amish react to the vampires in THE HALLOWED ONES gives us an incredibly fascinating look into Katie’s Amish community, to their daily life, their beliefs, their language, the way they deal with the things they lack that the outside world has, like phones and convenience stores. They have these really old-school superstitions about things that I found completely fantastic. But, they also have a very old-school mentality of their way is the right way and they won’t change for anything. The bishop and some of the elders in Katie’s community create lots of drama and jeopardy because of the things they refuse to believe, and because of the tenets they hold on to when situations might be better served by something else. It’s all really top-notch work from Laura Bickle.

I also LOVED the whole idea of the Hexenmeister, too, who’s basically the community’s old sort of warlocky person. Or, well, more like folklore master who is the keeper of the oldest stories and superstitions. He’s AWESOME.

If there was a weakness in THE HALLOWED ONES, I’d say that it’s maybe the relationship between Katie and the outsider boy she hides in the barn, Alex. Not that it’s bad, because it’s pretty fraught for lots of reasons, but to me the things that made the most impact on me were the vampires, the Amish themselves, and Katie. Alex and his relationship with Katie is important to her story, but she was about lots more to me. Which is awesome.

I am BEYOND stoked that there will be more books about Katie and the vampire-pocalypse, friends, because Laura Bickle’s THE HALLOWED ONES was scary, intense, atmospheric, and thought-provoking, and it provided a window into a community that I don’t know very well but am completely intrigued by. Vampires + Amish = OUTSTANDING, and I’m ready for more.

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4 Responses to “Book Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle”

  1. April Books & Wine November 29, 2012 at 10:22 am #

    YESSSS! I was so nervous you wouldn’t like this on, because I get nervous when people read books that I love especially The Hallowed Ones because the concept is kind of out there.

    BUT YES YES I AGREE ON EVERYTHING as usual. Like, the very very best part of The Hallowed Ones is the anthropological bits — where we get to really see the Amish community. And the lore surrounding the Hexenmeister. AND. AND. Katie and her questioning. And the scary for reals vampires. LOVE THIS REVIEW AND YOUR EXCITEMENT FOR THIS BOOK.

    I, too, am ready for more. 🙂

  2. boundandgaggedbooks November 29, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    What is with this strange subgenre of American Religious Movement Post-Apocalyptic YA? I just read a zombie YA book that was very Shaker, a coworker recommended another one about Shakers after the apocalypse, and The Village has some pretty Shaker influences. Now this? Not complaining, just trying to riddle out what on earth this means. It’s baffling.

    Anyway, I wrote a short story this year with a not terribly different premise (no vampires though), so I’ll definitely have to check this out. And vampires being vampires is a welcome change.

  3. Alexa Loves Books (@alexalovesbooks) November 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    The Amish + vampire = who would have thought this combination could work out? I certainly would not have expected it to! But it sounds like you really enjoyed this, and usually, we enjoy the same books so… Yeah, I’m going to have to read this soon 🙂

  4. Allison (Allure of Books) December 3, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I’m with April – I get nervous when people pick this one up because the premise is so BIZARRO. I actually picked it up expecting it to be a hot mess, but I’m a cover whore so I started reading it because it is pretty. I was beyond shocked that it was so awesome and I am SO GLAD that you agree!

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