I heard about The Hallowed Ones from someone on Twitter, and the premise was goofy enough that I just had to give it a try. The narrator, Katie, is a teenage Amish girl planning for her rumspringa with her friend Elijah, when suddenly the world outside--the world she wants the chance to explore before making a lifelong commitment to the Amish--is subjected to some kind of deadly upheaval. What kind?
Vampires, and the Amish. Yup. Ridiculous, right? Well, if you're willing to buy into the concept of vampires--and I am, in fiction, if done well--then you might be surprised at how skillfully author Bickle draws you in. Katie is a strong, smart girl, deeply religious due to her Amish upbringing, but still a teenager at heart with all that implies. She has questions and doubts, and she's got a stubborn, moderately rebellious streak. Combined with naivete about the world at large, she's a bundle of contradictions.
I enjoyed this so much more than I expected to. Going into it, I expected to sneer a lot and give up after 50 pages. Instead, I could hardly put it down and raced through it in two days. Bickle does a great job of exploring the Amish world and Katie's confusion as that world collides with the deadly world outside.
There's also a wonderful character called the Hexenmeister, who is apparently a deeply rooted part of some Amish communities.
But most of all, there's Katie, whose upbringing makes her so aware of all her little sins. When she goes to the outside world in search of missing Amish, she stops at a local store to get herself a little treat of a bottle of Coke, and even though there's no sign of human life there, she leaves money to pay for it. And her guilty pleasure comes in the form of secretly reading Wonder Woman comics:
"But most of all, I was intrigued by the idea of her purity. Wonder Woman was certainly not Plain, and not even any stripe of Christian. She followed the ancient Greek gods, who occasionally appeared in the stories.
"But she retained her virtue. To my knowledge, Diana remained virginally pure. Despite her seemingly overt sexuality, there was a certain innocence about her. Power and innocence. It flummoxed me."
Poor Katie. She just described herself, without realizing it: Power and innocence.
Then there's the conversation she has with an outsider:
"'There was even a story that some bored Satanists got drunk at a science fiction convention and managed to summon some supernatural evil that took over the whole convention center.' [said the outsider]
"My frame of reference was already stretched to its limit. I had no idea where to begin with questions about that statement."
There's a sequel to this book, and I think I need to check it out. I'm not sure where Laura Bickle came up with the idea of combining vampires and Amish, but she certainly made a good romp of a read out of it.