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I am a self confessed book worm and read-a-holic, I cam across 'Ashes' when I was browsing Amazon.co.uk for books for my new kindle. Luckily for me 'Ashes' was the daily deal and I managed to bag this book for just 99p!!! An absolute steal!!
From the start I was hooked, I had finished the book within 3 days, I could not put it down!
The story is set around a girl called Alex, Alex is suffering a terminal illness and has decided to go back to where she lived with her parents and spend some time out in the woods with her own thoughts and finally say goodbye to her deceased parents. When out in the woods, she is pondering her life and stumbles across an old man, his grandaughter and there pet dog. It was when chatting to her new 'friends' when the pulse happens.
An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the country, destroying all electrical devices, wiping out every computer system and killing billions of people. Unfortunatley the old man whom Alex has just met meets his end too. Alex is now left with the old mans grandaughter Ellie who has also survived. Alex is less than pleased with this set up, as Ellie is not a particularly rescourceful or polite young lady, and Alex could do without the hassel. But they both stick together to try to find out what has happened.
They meet another survivor or 'spared' when travelling through the woods. Tom is an ex soldier and has excellent survival skills, however they all meet in thrilling circumstances. Turns out that there is now more to the world that just the dead and the survived (spared). The electromagnetic pulse had a terrifying effect on certain members of the population - The Changed.
The changed are not quite dead, not quite alive, not quite human and not quite zombies. The changed form there own alliances as are out for what they can get and what spared they can feed on. Its a fight for survival when Alex, Tom and Ellie have a plan of where to go to stay safe. They come across the disaster and devastation along there journey and have to battle with the changed to stay alive.
Devastation is paramount when the youngest of the group Ellie, is taken from them by other spared survivors. Soon after Tom and Alex are ambushed by the changed and Alex has to leave Tom to get help, but Tom and alex never see each other again......(in this book anyway).
Alex is taken in by a town called Rule which have there own survival techiniques and forces in place to protect their community from the changed. Alex is determined to leave to find Ellie and Tom as she is convinced they are alive. However there is a lot more to Rule than she has been told of and she wants to find out the sinister ways of the council and its elders.
This is a truley gripping read, I have just purchased the second book in the trilogy and I cannot wait for the third. This is a thriller and a science fiction type book but it is suitable for teenager, young adults and adults alike. In the same league as the hunger games, this should also be made into a film.
It could happen tomorrow... A cataclysmic event. An army of "The Changed." Can one teen really survive on her own? An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky, destroying every electronic device and killing billions. For those spared, 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.
I found this book quite a hard book to review, as there were both things that I very much enjoyed about it and a few things that I thought weren't all that great. I also thought that the first half of the book was much better and really different to the second half of the book, which slightly confused me as it does have a very different feel about it.
Unlike the majority of books I have read recently, I picked this one up knowing virtually nothing about it, I couldn't even remember what the synopsis said when I started reading. Right from the beginning I found this story gripping and the action starts straight away making it easy to find yourself glued to the page, as the story really hurtles along.
The first half of the book concentrates on Alex, Tom and Ellie as they struggle to survive vicious attacks by zombie children, wild animals and still find all the practical things like food and shelter, because as luck would have it they all met deep in a hiking trail in a massive forest where civilisation is days away. However, that was also a key to their survival because they were away from the hordes of diseased killing teens and other desperate people trying to survive. I grew too really like these characters and the growing love between them all, they were becoming a family and that is where the first half of the book ends and the second half begins. All three of them decide to descend from the mountain range and wilderness and see what is left of civilisation while making their way to somewhere more permanent to live. I really want to say more about this but I am aware that a lot of people won't have read this book yet so I will just say that it was slightly jarring and I didn't want to let go of the characters that I started to care about. I really hope the second book in this series picks up from the end of the book, but more so I really hope that it picks up from the middle of this book as well and I get to find out what happens to the characters that just disappear!
There really is a lot going on in this book and the characters are all individually dealing with quite a lot of their own personal baggage - Tom a former solider may be suffering from post-traumatic stress, Alex has a brain tumour that may be lethal and Ellie who is still very young has lost all her family, her parents before the event and her grandfather just after. These characters were definitely a more unique bunch than you often find in YA, and I also loved that these personal baggage characteristics have been linked into the plot - again sorry but I don't want to spoil anything so you will just have to read it to find out for yourself.
I liked the run up to the ending of the book, but the actual ending left me feeling a little confused and a bit annoyed. One of my pet peeves with books in a series is that they just stop in mid action, it's almost like a chapter break rather than a book ending. I know this book is going to be part of a series, but please, please don't cheat me out of an ending and just stop the story wherever you want and in what felt like mid-flow. The ending of Ashes bugged me a lot, Bick's hasn't even attempted to tie up any plot threads and I'm left hoping I remember all the things I wanted to find out so I don't get confused in the next book
I did find that there were a few gory scenes that really made me glad that I wasn't eating while I was reading Ashes, I would definitely say that Ashes has a very strong horror element. I would recommend Ashes, it has an interesting take on a zombie post-apocalyptic theme.
Genre - YA?, Horror
Published by Quercus Publishing (UK - Sept 2011)
Paperback 352 pages (£6.99)
I received a copy of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bicks in exchange for an honest review.
"It could happen tomorrow . . . An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions."
When seventeen year old Alex decides to embark on a lone hiking trip in the remote mountain range she loves, she is expecting it to be her last. Diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour shortly after loosing her parents, the last couple of years have been rough and now all she wants to do is say goodbye to her parents and find peace within herself before the inevitable.
But when she's struck to the ground by an electromagnetic pulse, finding peace becomes the last of her priorities, especially as she reluctantly finds herself responsible for eight year old Ellie. When she meets Tom, the three of them bond together as a family in a fight for survival in a world where most of the population were either killed in the pulse or 'changed'. With only a few people spared, life becomes a battle...No-one can be trusted and nowhere is safe.
Ashes is one of those books that arrived without any great fanfare and I didn't know much about. It looked interesting, but sat on my to be read pile for a while until I randomly picked it up one day and became hooked.
The book starts with Alex's background story, a girl who lost both her parents in a tragic accident and is now herself in the last stages of terminal brain cancer. Despite the trauma surrounding her, she doesn't come across as depressing and her matter of fact attitude intrigued me. As she embarks on her final trip into her beloved mountains we get a real inside on her character and I grew very attached to her. I also loved the descriptions of the wilderness, which Bick herself clearly has a passion and knowledge of.
What sets Ashes apart from the many dystopian novels about at the minute is how it's not set in some time in the future, it's right here and now and the threat is very real. Alex is going about her life, in a somewhat state of despair, when pow. It all changes. As said in the blurb, this world really could be ours at any moment and the book drives home how precarious life is.
Ilsa J Bick portrays a stark and brave account of survival. Alex is in a position where she believes her life is pretty much over already, yet still the instinct to survive kicks in and she's a fantastically sympathetic heroine. I love how Bick makes her strong, determined, resourceful and compassionate character, yet still has flaws. She isn't always likable, but she is always real and you're able to understand her easily. Sometimes she comes across as harsh, particularly in the beginning with eight year old Ellie, but this just gives her an honesty and humanness. I'm sure under the circumstances I'd be pretty irritated at times too.
I adored the relationship between Alex, Ellie and Tom and how together they made a unit. If i had one complaint about the book it would be that I'd have liked to have seen more development of it. There seemed to be a big jump of several weeks at one point which may have affected the intensity of Alex and Tom's bond a little for me, but that is just a minor complaint.
Ashes is an edge of your seat horror, with threats around every corner for it's main characters. People were either spared, killed or changed in the electromagnetic pulse, and those who changed now want to eat those who survived. I've never really found zombies believable before, but Ilsa J Bick makes them so. They're like feral, wild animals rather than lumbering brainless lumps of dead meat. Terrifying. But even more frightening is that the other threat comes from those who survive, as it becomes every person for themselves. I also thought the society of Rule, were Alex finds refuge from the outside world, was genius and sinister. There really is so many dynamics to this story it's a roller coaster from beginning to end.
Not everything is explained in Ashes, in fact I'd say it throws up more questions than answers and leaves on a huge cliffhanger that left me desperate for the next book in the trilogy. This is one I'll certainly be following, there is so much more to discover and I can't wait to see what happens for Alex next.
Published by Quercus September 2011
Copy received from publishers for review.