Monday, October 17, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick- Review

I cannot rave enough about how many amazing finds have popped out of my BEA pile; books I knew nothing about, but sounded promising, and turned out to be awesome.  And several of them have been obscure enough I'm not sure I would have found them otherwise, or at least not any time soon.  Ashes was totally one of those finds, and although I really want to scream at the HUGE cliff hanger ending, I also desperately want you to read it and come back and gossip with me about it!

From the back of the book:
  An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions.  For those spare, it's a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human...
Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the Changed, Alex meets up with Tom- a young army veteran- and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse.
This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to survive.

A totally different take on the zombie thing, Ilsa Bick goes for the full on scientific approach, which works on several levels.  First it's a believable way to create the apocalyptic environment of the story; I was totally buying what she was selling, every step of the way.  It also gave her characters a straightforward way to be able to explain what's happening, an army guy and a doctor can believably piece together the evidence to try and get some answers, but whats more, it was interesting.  Secondly it allowed her to do some really cool things with her main character Alex, and some elderly characters you meet later on, in relationship to health and disease. I won't give away details other than the fact that the first thing you learn about Alex (like on page three, I swear I'm not ruining anything) is she has a brain tumour killing her, and this adds a really nice bit of complexity to the story especially with the EMP theories.

Ashes, although very much about Alex and her experiences, is also an ensemble cast kind of story. There are many characters you come to care about, and it makes the story much more engrossing than it would be if you were only worried about Alex.  As she runs from one disaster to another gaining and loosing friends and acquaintances you not only worry about her but everyone else as well.  In the back of my head I was constantly wondering about the characters she'd lost.

The story also capitalizes on the creepy town factor, such a staple in horror.  Like the Forest of Hands and Teeth there's a lot of unresolved mystery about the town and it also seem to be wrapped around religion somehow.  Rule, the town in question, captured my attention even more than the first part of the story (where the disaster happens and Alex first starts to cope).  Once Alex gets there, things ramp up considerably in the mystery category and the complications with Chris were, again, something I can see happening under the circumstances- yet totally intriguing.

But back to what I was saying to begin with, the ending! I'm pretty sure that was one of the craziest cliff hangers I've ever read, and it may just kill me waiting for book two, Shadows, to come out next late summer or early fall (Monsters, book three is due 2013).  Seriously, I was so thrown by the ending, it was so startling and unexpected I just sat around slightly stunned for a good hour.  Even with Ilsa's other book Draw the Dark sitting on my coffee table, it was torture to move on to a different story.

A great book with lots of layers and interesting mysteries, Ashes is something you definitely don't want to miss out on.  Though I have to say I liked the cover I got better.

Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by EgmontUSA, September 2011
Buy Ashes from Amazon
Check out Ilsa's website


  1. Aww, your cat looks so much like one of my very beloved orange boys. Oh--and thank you for the review, too! ;-)

  2. He's a lover of books that one! But it sounds like you have a collection of orange boys and I only have one orange in my collection! I am jealous!