The Hallowed Ones (#1) by Laura Bickle
*review copy provided by author and publicist — thank you!*
Regina’s Rating: 4 Stars/Grade A (I enjoyed it! Great start to a series!)
We have a double feature today. First, author Laura Bickle stops by for a guest blog post. And next, I post my review of Ms. Bickle’s new novel The Hallowed Ones.
If your home was the last safe place on earth, would you let a stranger in?
In this captivating thriller, an Amish settlement is the last safe haven in a world plagued by an unspeakable horror…
Katie is on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenag-ers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the church. But before Rumspringa arrives, Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields, followed by rumors of massive unrest and the disappearance of huge numbers of people all over the world. Something is out there…and it is making a killing.
Unsure why they haven’t yet been attacked, the Amish Elders make a de-cree: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in. But when Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the bounda-ry of their land, she can’t leave him to die. She refuses to submit to the Elder’s rule and secretly brings the stranger into her community—but what else is she bringing in with him?
Guest Blog Post by Laura Bickle
Growing Up During the Apocalypse
Growing up is hard to do, no matter who you are and no matter where.
The transition from childhood to adulthood is bumpy for everyone. There are things that we crave about our childhoods – safe places to fall, people who love us, and the security of knowing we’ll be looked after. But there’s also the excitement of the adult world – making our own decisions, defining our own morality, and coming to terms with the lure of the unknown. These things are difficult to manage as a teen in modern mainstream society.
And they are also difficult for Amish teens.
The protagonist of THE HALLOWED ONES is Katie, a young woman on the verge of her Rumspringa, the time in Amish life when teenagers are free to experience non-Amish culture before officially joining the Amish church. Katie is looking forward to testing the rules a bit – going to the city to see movies, perhaps wearing jeans and makeup, seeing more of the world. She loves her parents and her community, and has every intention of becoming baptized in the Amish church. She simply wants to see a bit of the world Outside before she makes her choice and commits to the Amish lifestyle forever.
But Katie’s safe world starts to crumble. It begins with a fiery helicopter crash in the cornfields near her house, followed by rumors of violence and the disappearance of large numbers of people Outside. Unsure why they haven’t been attacked, the Amish Elders make a rule: No one goes outside their community, and no one is allowed in.
Katie struggles with many of the issues that most teens grapple with. She has concerns about fitting in, about conformity and rebellion. She questions her own morality and the values of those around her. But she must do so against the backdrop of a crisis much larger than she could have imagined. Katie finds a gravely injured young man lying just outside the boundary of their land, and refuses to leave him to die. She refused to submit to the Elders’ decree, secretly bringing the stranger in to her community and hiding him. But what else is she bringing in with him?
As all teens do, Katie will come to terms with her choices. But her decisions will ripple out, risking her beloved community and bringing the darkness Outside in…and she may find herself with no safe place left to return to.
It is unusual to read to read a different take on two of the most popular genres — vampires and the apocalypse. But that is exactly what the Hallowed Ones is — a completely different telling of vampires and the end of the world. I am partial to survival stories, whether they are non fiction, written by Laura Ingalls or a modern apocalyptic tale. And having glutted myself on urban fantasy and vampire stories, any author that writes vampires in a different way and adds in the apocalypse starts off as a winner for me.
The vampires in the Hallowed Ones may lure their victims, but they aren’t sexy and they are not romantic. These vamps are true monsters and something to fear after sundown. But while vamps and the end of the world are the general themes of the novel, the main character Katie faces other challenges. Katie engages in normal rebellion, or what appears normal to me. However, her questioning of the elders in her community and her questioning of religious and social belief structures sets other scarier monsters after her — i.e. leaders of the community who are power hungry.
What happens when a community already closed off from the world is one of the last remaining communities in the world? What happens when a community already imbued with religious superiority sees itself as the sole survivors according to god’s will? I really enjoyed the religious focus of this story. As the story begins, religious belief is just a part of Katie’s life. Yet as the horror of what is happening begins to be known to Katie she begins to question her community’s religious belief. How could a witch’s coven in New Jersey hold off the vampires if they do not believe as her community did? How could Buddhist monks survive the vampires when they do not believe (according to Katie’s community) in the one true god and the correct path? Is it Katie’s destiny to submit to the will of the elders and a husband? Having said that, the religious element in the Hallowed Ones is not offensively done and is not overwhelming.
The Hallowed Ones is not a complex story and it is told simply. But it is engaging and hard to put down. The characters are interesting and Katie, the main character, is one that grows, changes but definitely has her flaws. Katie is by definition a “young adult”, she is considering marriage, committing herself to the church as an adult and has a love interest. But the romance and the teen concerns are not the main focus of this story. Which I appreciated. I like a tad bit of romance thrown in, but I enjoy my post-apocalypse stories more when the struggle the characters go through is something separate from the romance story line. If you enjoy post-apoc and urban fantasy stories, I think this is a story you would enjoy.