ASHES (ASHES TRILOGY #1) by Ilsa J. Bick
YA - Hardcover, 480 pages
ASHES is the story of an orphaned 17-year-old named Alex. She’s got a brain tumor and doesn’t expect to live much longer. She’s recently decided to stop further treatments and is out hiking in the woods when an electromagnetic pulse wipes out every electronic device in the area. Shortly after, Alex stumbles upon two teenagers attacking and eating a person and realizes her lack of electronics isn’t the biggest problem she’s facing. Oh, and her sense of smell that’s been gone due to her brain tumor? It’s back. And it’s SUPERPOWERED.
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 was hooked within a few pages (tweet proof!) and couldn’t put it down. The descriptive writing draws you in to this lonely, desolate world. You’re dragged right down into this brand new, bleak place with Alex, who’s strong, smart, and determined to survive. Her first companion post-EMP is Ellie, a bratty 8-year-old who has lost too much (and eventually grows on you), and later they meet Tom, a sweet 20-something with obvious demons in his past. The story is about their continued survival when they have no way to know what’s going on elsewhere and there are people-turned-zombies prowling around.
There is an exact moment in the book, about halfway through, where one chapter ends on a cliffhanger then the next picks up three days later, and things drastically change. The book's blurb (up top) makes no mention of this part whatsoever. I won’t explain what it is, but I have no doubt you’ll know it when you read it. I will say that I was thoroughly disappointed to be left without knowing what happened during those three days. After that tiny (but significant!) time jump, the book takes on an entirely different feel. Suddenly, there are new characters everywhere, a town inhabited by some strange, post-apocalyptic, creepy-like-a-religious-cult people, and Alex’s life is entirely different. If you saw the TV show Jericho, it’s sort of like that… except way worse.
After zipping through the first half, obsessed with finding out what was going on, I found myself stumbling over sections post-time jump, and had to re-read parts just to keep the new characters straight. The last 50 pages or so were difficult to follow, only to lead to one giant cliffhanger. I understand that this is the start of a trilogy, but… holy lack-of-answers, Batman!
ASHES is dark and gory (seriously… I gagged a few times), but full of enough heart to keep from being entirely depressing and hopeless. I’m interested to see where the second book goes… especially to find out what went down in those missing three days and see where the all the love interest business takes us.
Thanks to EgmontUSA & NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy for review.