As I've mentioned before, these are teenage vampires, but they don't sparkle and they can all very clearly think for themselves, including the female ones. It's going to be tricky reviewing this book without giving any spoilers, but I don't think it would ruin anything to let you know that the main character, Zack Thomson, was infected by the virus that turns people into vampires. Yes, a virus! I think that's a clever twist. Thanks to a combination of bad luck and bad timing, he's tangled up in the politics of a bunch of vampires who are centuries old and who aren't too keen on these young whipper-snappers messing up their plans. It doesn't help that people seem to think Zack is some sort of vampire messiah and want to either put him in charge or knock him off, when he'd really rather be spending time with his girlfriend and just generally be left alone. Unfortunately for him, he doesn't have that luxury. Oh, and then there's his friend who has been turned into a werewolf, a type of creature with a tendency to eat vampires for lunch.
The thing that struck me the most about this book and its two predecessors is how Zack wrestles with ethical dilemmas. This is not the kind of issue most vampire characters ever deal with. Here we have a vampire who is remarkably human. He's faced with having to kill or be killed when he doesn't believe in killing, and he's faced with being the leader of a huge group of vampires - their emperor or dictator or something along those lines - when he doesn't believe any single individual should have that kind of power.
Along the way, Zack makes a lot of mistakes and screws things up over and over again, then beats himself up about it. In other words, he's a totally believable character. He's no all-powerful undead creature. He's a teenager struggling to deal with his newfound powers and doing his best to work out his own beliefs and values without getting himself or his friends killed in the process.
This is a trilogy, with the books ramping up in 'speed of action' from the first to the second to the third book. The first book had some nice action but it wasn't mind-blowingly fast. I enjoyed learning about Zack and how he came to be in the unusual condition he's in. The second book dialed up the action a good bit, with chases and intrigue and double-crossing. This final book could easily match any thriller on the market in terms of how gripping it is and how powerfully it draws the reader (me!) forward with all the twists and turns. I read a lot and I'm not easily surprised by plot twists, but there were a couple that honestly caught me off guard in New Order. And the interesting setting in this volume - the characters end up in eastern Europe - certainly added to the vibe.
This trilogy is categorized as young adult fiction and I'm sure teenage readers would enjoy it. But I think it would appeal to any of us who still remember what it's like to struggle to decide who we really are and how we should find our way in the world. You don't have to be bitten by a vampire to know how hard that is.