Review: The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

 

Title:  The Hallowed Ones

Author: Laura Bickle

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

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.

Review:

This book had me extremely freaked out at several points during the story, and I could not put it down.  Well, I did have to put it down once, because everyone else had wandered off to bed, it was dark, and I was FREAKED OUT.  I just could not sit in the living room by myself and continue to read, damn my easily frightened heart.  So I carefully marked my place, set the book down, and waddled off to bed, already counting down the hours until I would be home from work and able to read again.  It was probably for the best; it was a work night anyway, and the weekend beckoned just a few hours away.

I loved Embers, also by Laura Bickle, for both the heroine and for her cuddle-worthy elemental, Sparky.  I read a lot of books, and if I can remember most of the plot and even character names months after I have finished, it was a great reading experience.  When I saw that she had a YA title coming out, I was beside myself with excitement.  Would I enjoy it?   The Hallowed Ones intrigued me for another reason, too.  Katie is Amish, and she is about to set off on her Rumspringa, the time that young Amish are permitted to live with the English away from their communities, in order to determine whether or not they wanted to return and be baptized, and fully accepted as adults in their society.  Being baptized also meant putting aside non-Amish things, and having additional pressures to conform to accepted behavior.  I wondered if I would find Katie an interesting person.  She is supposed to be  humble and agreeable, and not make waves.  Guess what?  She is a fascinating heroine, strong, brave, and more than willing to make waves when she thought that an injustice was being committed.  This got her into a lot of hot water with the Elders, but Katie just could not step aside when she thought that someone needed her help.  Unfortunately for her people, everybody needed help after a devastating catastrophe befalls the Outside.

I can’t remember having read another book with an Amish protagonist, so I don’t know how authentic Katie is, but I liked her a lot.  She never backed down when she was needed, regardless of how unpleasant, and in several instances, how downright horrifying, the task was.  I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, because I want you to be as freaked out as I was.  Let me just say that there are evil, awful monsters Outside, and they are ravenous.  They are scary.  They are strong.  And worse of all, they are smart.  With the Elders denying that a darkness has descended and threatens to survival of the human race, things are looking particularly grim.  An Amish community, with its wooden houses and lack of technology, isn’t the first place I would choose to make my last stand with the world ending around me.  There are no radios, TV, or internet for the news, and cell phones?  Forget it!  You aren’t going to be able to send urgent, terrified text messages to your friends and family because they don’t have those there!  Several times I was struck by how difficult communication would be even without the end of days.  Heck, if I wanted to talk to my neighbors on the other end of the community, I would have to walk there.  Or hitch up my horse and drive there.  Thank goodness I know how to drive a buggy.

I thought the beginning of the story was a little slow, but now that I have finished the book, I don’t think that anymore.  We needed that calm before the storm, to establish both Katie and Elijah’s personalities, their role in their society, and what their hopes were for the future.  Katie firmly believed that she and Elijah would go on Rumspringa together, and after kicking up their heels, they would both be baptized, and then eventually they would be married and start a family of their own.  Everything was laid out in a simple path, and all she had to do was follow it.  But then the unthinkable happens, and there is no Outside anymore.  When the Elders, in an abundance of caution, closed off their community, Katie begins to question everything that she once accepted without a qualm.  She disobeys the Elders, and soon she has first hand knowledge of the evil they are up against.  Things don’t look good, and Katie thinks that it is just a matter of time before everyone in her knows and loves suffers an unspeakable end.

While I liked Katie, I think that the Hexenmeister is my favorite character.  There is just something about a crazy old guy who turns out to be a magical bad-ass that appeals to me.  While he lived on the fringes of his society because he was quite odd during times of peace  and contentment, during the end of the world he was just the guy to have on your side.  He, too, was strong and unwavering, even when confronted with the corruption that seethed within their community. 

The Hallowed Ones is an exciting, and at times, terrifying read, with a strong heroine ready to do whatever is necessary to save the lives of her family.  Without technology on her side, Katie has to rely on something many of us have forgotten how to use; her own cunning and common sense.  I enjoyed this book very much, and can hardly wait for follow-up.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher