Monday, March 31, 2014

Review: Ashes and Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick

I could have sworn I'd reviewed these!

But since I was on a reading drought of sorts for a long time in 2013, I guess these got waylaid. I didn't think much of it until I saw reviews of Monsters crop up, and realized that this trilogy was about to end.

Well, high time I do my duty. 

But first, let me get this out of the way: If you're a newcomer to this series, and if you're interested in reading it, don't faff around buying these books one at a time. Do a bulk purchase, order both books from your library, or do whatever you legally can to have Shadows is nearby when you finish Ashes...

...because Ashes ends in one of the cruelest cliffhangers I have ever had the displeasure of reading. 

Luckily for me, by the time I picked the trilogy up, the second book was already out, so it was a matter of one trip to the nearest bookstore before I read it. But oh, it was a really unpleasant night when I did finish this. It was even more unpleasant because it was dark and I kept seeing things creep around my bed. 

I have to admit, I'm not an expert in the horror / suspense genre. I am, however, fond of Apocalypse stories, all that stuff about society falling apart and rebuilding itself, and I'm even more fond of stories where the characters act like... you know, people. As opposed to cardboard cutouts. 

The story follows Alex, a cancer patient who sets out on a trek to scatter the ashes of her parents, (supposedly before she dies,) but halfway up the mountain something happens that causes the entire world to change. Suddenly, animals are not acting like animals, Alex is no longer sick, and, oh yeah, ZOMBIES! 

Okay, they're not technically zombies, but they do act like such. It's interesting to see Bick's spin on the genre, with the Changed being almost like any other human... except stronger and meaner and with a great appetite for guts. I also like how the human society rearranges itself around this change, how people treat the fact that suddenly their nearest and dearest turn on them. (One of the more interesting aspects of the zombie genre.) 

Along the way, Alex meets more people, makes friends, kinda falls in love, loses a lot of people, and then more shit goes down. I'd like to give more detailed summary of the plot, but the truth is, there isn't much more to it than that. There is some talk about finding out exactly what happened, and there are some theories thrown around, but that's not what's on the forefront of the action, and it's definitely not what the main characters are trying to accomplish. The focus has always been on how they, especially Alex, react to the fact that the zombie apocalypse happened.

Speaking of Alex, she's one of those characters that is likely to polarize readers. Not because she does anything particularly controversial or shocking - in terms of her actions, she's fairly practical. Actually, she's something like Carey from "If You Find Me" - tough, but realistically flawed and insecure... and for whatever reason, she does everything right and brings all the boys in the yard. Depending on your tolerance for those types of characters, you'll either love her or want to thump the book in frustration. 

Other than that, the books move at a quick pace, have a lot of intrigue and strong character voices. Mean cliffies aside, they're a pretty good read if you're in the mood for some apocalypse-type action. 

Note: Images via BookLikes. 

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