Vampires are not my thing, even reluctant ones. Having said that, I must admit that I do read some books where they play a part. And in this case, they are the central part.
Allie is a vampire, having seized the option offered to her after having been savagely attacked and left to die. Where her existence previously consisted of scavenging a life from the dregs of society, now she is taken under the wing of a "sire." He teaches her how to defend herself, about the way vampire society works, and how to eat like a proper lady . . . vampire. There comes a point when they have to separate, and Allie finds a ragtag group of survivors in the wilds. They are trying to get to what may be a mythical place while trying to avoid "rabids," vampire-like zombies responsible for Allie's near-death. There has been a plague which decimated the human population and scientists tried to find a cure; the rabids are the result of trying to use vampires to do it. These rabids inhabit the areas around and between vampire cities. Additionally, Allie's sire Kanin struggles to find a cure for the plague while avoiding vampire hierarchy.
This sounds like a complicated plot, but it's really pretty straightforward: vampire girl tries to find her way in dystopia. That about sums it up.
The book is written well, which is what kept me reading. The action and dialogue are cohesive; nothing seems stilted or to come out nowhere. There's really no lag in the movement of the plot either. There is action, battle, running from danger, facing impossible odds. This would make both a wonderful graphic novel and a movie. Our reluctant hero never seems to sit and whine about her situation. Rather, she tends toward self-loathing with a realistic view that things are what they are, and that being a vampire was indeed her choice. She is decidedly not a whiner. Basically, she just gets over herself.
The turning point, of course, is when she decides that she is not the monster she might otherwise be. Then things get a bit dicier along the adventure. Allie's character didn't really change as much at that point as simply expand - part of the appeal of the story is to see Allie grow into herself, accepting her choices and finding her way amidst those who would certainly reject her if they knew what she was. This plays out in a good way and a bad way; good in that she gains maturity and self-acceptance. It is bad in that her ability and choice to communicate are somewhat lacking. I found myself many times wondering why she wouldn't just be honest with those around her and simply take the adventure from there. I realise that it creates a tension in the story that keeps us interested, but I find I am increasingly weary of heroines who refuse to be honest because they are afraid of being rejected.
The other characters - Kanin (Allie's vampire "dad"), Zeke and Jeb, are well-defined. There is a love story between Zeke and Allie, but it is largely incidental within the scope of the story. It provides the basis for some of their choices but is really a minor plot element. Jeb was an interesting guy, a nice contrast to Zeke which is interesting because he is a father figure for Zeke. Kanin is probably my favourite of the characters. He's dark, brooding, wise, and most definitely a big bad vampire.
Also regarding characters, I have to say that I was easily able to see them in my mind. They were real images of people rather than just ideas or vague images. To Kagawa's credit, she is a very good writer on that front. She was unafraid of killing many of the characters off, which I found to be a brave choice.
The book struck me as basically a YA version of [b:The Passage|6690798|The Passage (The Passage, #1)|Justin Cronin|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327874267s/6690798.jpg|2802546] by [a:Justin Cronin|45315|Justin Cronin|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1291156119p2/45315.jpg]. The action is more PG here, which I preferred. The book is relatively dark and gritty, but more in a wild west sort of way. Good people are better able to survive really, really bad stuff. This seemed to lighten the story enough to where the world didn't seem quite so bleak. That said, some of the plot turns were typical and predictable. I was led along a storyline that I have been down enough times to easily navigate and expect.
Regardless of its problems, Kagawa has written a very good story that deserves the acclaim it has received. Although I have not read the [b:The Twilight Collection|690926|The Twilight Collection (Twilight, #1-3)|Stephenie Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1266618000s/690926.jpg|3187048] by [a:Stephenie Meyer|941441|Stephenie Meyer|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1269985304p2/941441.jpg], I understand from lovers of this sub-genre that Kagawa's story stands head and shoulders above Meyer's series.
I listened to the audio version of this book narrated by Therese Plummer. Although she kept the story riveting, I didn't care for many of her characterizations. Like Justine Eyre, she tends to pause the dialogue in odd places in order to define the characters. This isn't the way I would imagine the characters actually speaking, and it threw it off for me. Perhaps this is one better read in print.
All things considered, this was a good book. To its credit, this Blood of Eden series promises to be outstanding - even for vampire-avoiders like me.