Ashes by Ilsa J Bick

Just finished reading Ashes by Ilsa J Bick and must say this was a totally gripping, fast paced, edge of the seat type of story.  I loved it and couldn’t put it down.

This is a post apocalyptic style of book with a bit of flesh eating canibalism thrown in.  The world is devastated by a series of events that change the nature of everything we know, killing most people – and leaving only the young or old alive.  There are a few other survivors who, for differing reasons don’t die and become known as the  ‘spared’.  The young people become known as the ‘changed’.  They’ve turned into flesh hunting creatures – I don’t know whether you would call them zombies or not but they are like wild animals, craving human flesh but they are not without intelligence and the ability to adapt and that together with their savagery and speed makes them absolutely terrifying.

At the start of the story, and pre the events that change the world, Alex is on a lone hiking expedition, she is carrying her parents ashes and is looking for closure and answers.  Alex has an inoperable brain tumor and has reached the decision to stop with her medication.  She doesn’t expect to come back from her trip into the wild but things are set to change dramatically.  Whilst in the forest Alex meets an old man and his grand daughter, Ellie, but before they’ve even had a chance to get through their introductions chaos descends.  A massive EMP sweeps over the country killing the old man and leaving Alex and Ellie alone.

The pace of the book is brilliant.  The story races along and we watch Alex and Ellie stumbling through the forest and quickly coming to the realisation that things have gone drastically wrong.  There is so much tension in this first part of the book (don’t know how many times I was reading with my mouth shaped in a perfect ‘O’).  The two girls seem to stumble from one horrifying situation to the next until Tom enters the scene at a very opportune moment.  Tom was camping with friends when disaster struck and is now the only survivor of that little party.  The three then continue through the forest until they come across an abandoned ranger station (I so wanted them to stay there – head in the sand style – although I don’t suppose the book would have been very interesting if they had).

I don’t really want to say too much more about the story because it will spoil the suspense.

This is a dark and gritty tale, quite harrowing in parts and certainly not one for the squeamish.  Ilsa Bick is not afraid to call a spade a spade and she doesn’t flinch from telling the gory scenes as they are.  We go from one nerve racking event to the next as the three try to survive and come up with a plan.

I really liked the characters.  I thought Alex had a great voice, she’s mature for her age but that’s to be expected with the events of her young life.  Ellie is quite possibly the most annoying character in the world – but then she’s only eight and you have to cut her some slack as she has just witnessed the death of her only family member.  She is totally grating and goes bumbling into things, flouncing through the forest making enough noise to awaken hibernating bears (the least of their worries) and telling everyone she hates them.  But in spite of that I couldn’t help but become attached to her and want to look after her.  Even after everything she has suffered she still manages to retain some childlike qualities and simple pleasures.  Tom is a very likable bloke, firstly he saves their lives, he is mysterious and has his own problems but he is dependable and he knows how to survive.  He just feels safe and strong.

Of course there are more twists and turns and a bit of heart wrenching which all ends in suspense but I won’t elaborate further.

The last third of the book has a decidedly different feel and introduces a new bunch of characters – this part doesn’t feel as ‘on the edge of the seat’ as the first two thirds but it’s nonetheless intriguing and, yet again, jaw dropping as the creepy and sinister happenings in the town of Rule start to become clear.

This book just reminds me of so many things and yet it also manages to be original and exciting.

In terms of criticisms the only thing I can really say is that this does end on a cliffhanger – a BIG cliffhanger – and let’s face it there is now a year’s wait before we get book No.2!  If you really don’t have the patience you were born with then maybe you should wait a few months before reading and then that way the wait won’t be quite as devastating!

I would definitely recommend this book and can’t wait for the next installment.

Rating A+

Ashes

Ashes

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5 Responses to “Ashes by Ilsa J Bick”

  1. Jennifer | Book Den

    Ashes sounds like a really great read. Well, not the big cliffhanger part, but it sounds like it might be worth having to wait for book 2.

    • lynnsbooks

      Personally I don’t really mind cliffhangers, especially when I know there are more books due, but, yes, I really enjoyed this, the pace was good and I really liked the characters. I’ve seen a few negative comments about the way the story changes 2/3rds in but I think it was necessary. You should definitely give it a go.
      Lynn

  2. Shadows by Ilsa Bick « Lynn's Book Blog

    […] ending with what felt like a very long year’s wait!).  Anyway, my review for Ashes is here.  If you’re interested in reading this post apocalyptic zombie style book then read no […]

  3. Novroz

    Since the review of the second book…so, I read this one instead.

    I grow to like dystophia everytime I read one and I have to say Ashes sounds interesting. The EMP part reminds me of Stephen King’s CELL (have you read it?). I think the basic idea is the same but how the story evolved is different. I am really curious.

    great review, Lynn

    • lynnsbooks

      I read a few Stephen King books when I was going through my younger horror phase and then didn’t read any for a long time. I recently read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – which was short and I think a bit different for King. I really must pick up some more of his and I’m puzzled why I didn’t think of doing so for Carl’s RIP.
      Oh well, you can only read so many!
      Lynn 😀

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