Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Book Shelf: Ashes (Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed... Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the zombies that are on the hunt, Alex meets up with Tom - an Army veteran who escaped one war only to find something worse at home - 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 find food, shelter, while fighting off the 'Changed' and those desperate to stay alive. A tense and involving adventure with shocks and sudden plot twists that will keep teen and adult readers gripped.

Blurb from

Review: (Warning contains spoilers)

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick is an intriguing debut in the dystopian genre and a great start to a new trilogy, however there are things I love it and hate about this book to be honest. I can’t deny that I’ve been hearing things about this book. Certain claims by other bloggers and while that would never sway me, I was almost positive that they must have been overreacting. I’m sorry to say that I really think they weren’t. And yet, while the premise of this book didn’t sound like anything I hadn’t heard before, from the moment I started reading I was addicted to Alex’s journey of survival.

The book begins by introducing us to Alex, a girl with health problems and who is essentially an orphan. When “the Zap” happens and many people, animals and technology all drop dead, Alex is forced to survive in the woods. As young people appear to alter due to “the Zap”, Alex appears to be unaffected. Alex is a really brilliant heroine. She’s quick thinking and strong with her own struggles and fears. She’s able to survive in the wilderness and in a world that is on the brink of destruction. She’s afraid of the “monster” inside her head, even as it proves to be helpful to her. I thought her relationship with dogs was intriguing and I wonder why she’s able to interact with them how she does. Alex is an enigma in a very interesting world. She’s different with newly formed abilities but hasn’t changed completely and like her we don’t quite know why. I think this is something that Bick will explore in the rest of the trilogy. One of the things that I liked about Alex was that she thought on her feet and never gave up.

When Ellie is left all alone after “the Zap” Alex wants to help her. Meeting her just before “the Zap” which kills her grandpa and only family I admit at first I thought Ellie was a brat; a spoilt, naughty little child who didn’t care about anyone other than herself. The sweet little blond certainly acted as such, but as the novel progressed I came to adore her. The friendship she built with Alex was so beautiful and I liked the closeness that developed and that sense of dependency they had on each other. They manage to survive a while on their own before a near disaster beings Tom into their life. A young soldier, Tom is much a mystery to us and has his secrets. Untouched by the disease or whatever it is that is affecting some people; Tom saves Alex and Ellie and soon becomes an ally to them. As we read the story we don’t know much about Tom, although I admit I love the guy. He’s so loyal and honourable and I love the makeshift family that develops between he, Alex and Ellie.
It’s really interesting watching them travel and live together as they try to piece together what has happened.

And that’s when things change.....
After loosing Ellie and then Tom too, Alex must go on alone again to help save him. It’s almost as though this is two different books. I feel as though the author has started out with something really incredible; beautifully descriptive, harsh and captivating and then gave us what she thought we wanted. I can’t say enough good things about the first half of this book; it’s a raw tale of survival in a world turned upside down that seemed different from the other dystopian books I’ve read. It was all about Alex and her two companions managing to survive in this new world, wild and free in the wilderness....... and then it just changed.

It’s almost as though the author gave us the teenage tale she believed we were expecting. The “Spared” were interesting, but I felt as though I’d seen it before. About halfway though we were introduced to a group of young people who appear to be immune to whatever is causing people to change and the town of Rule. The town of Rule and the laws and rules that existed within it seemed out of place with the rest of the story.
I was just very disappointed with the unnecessary change in the story. I mean, I understand the need for change and progression within the story, but the town of Rule seemed like an odd inclusion to a story that had up until that point focused on the survival of Alex and the friendship she had with her two friends. I didn’t like any of the characters we met. There were too many of them and they would be introduced to the story, but Alex technically already knew they from introductions that hadn’t been shown to us. I missed Ellie. I missed Tom. And I was angry with Alex for feeling something for Chris so soon after she had to leave Tom. I’m just sick of love-triangles and would have liked something more from this book.

Occasionally the story would feel disjointed due to the writing style at times too. With chapters appearing to end suddenly, there were a few parts I had to re-read because I had the feeling I’d missed something. It just seemed messy to me.
And yet through all the faults I found with this book, I really, really liked it. There’s something about it that’s so wonderful to read and if you can manage to get over the second half of the book (something I’m still struggling with) I truly think you will enjoy this book.
It’s addictive and I really can’t wait for more to see what will happen to Alex now that she’s escaped Rule. Fingers crossed she can find Ellie again and that Tom may be alive and that they can get back to how they were before.

Source: Sent by Pan Macmillan Australia (Thanks so much Charlotte!)
Format: Paperback
Recommend: Yes, if you're a fan of dystopian you should enjoy this
Recommend borrow or buy: Borrow
Cover: Oh, I love this cover. It's got this real old look and feel to it, with a beautiful shiny foil finish
Read sequel/continue with series: Yes, I will be


  1. Great review. I'm close to finishing this book and absolutely loving it. :)

  2. Thank-you. Glad you're liking it Erin! I really did enjoy it and can't wait for Shadows.....


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