Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Category: YA/Action & Adventure
My Rating: 5*
Seventeen-year-old Alex is hiking through the wilderness when it happens: an earth-shattering electro-magnetic pulse that destroys almost everything.
Survivors are divided between those who have developed a superhuman sense and those who have acquired a taste for human flesh…
Alex meets Tom, a young army veteran, and Ellie, a lost girl. They will fight together and be torn apart, but Ales must face the most difficult question of all, in such a vastly changed world, who can you trust?
Wow! It’s been a long time since I read a book that swept me up and captivated me as much as Ashes.
Alex is a great protagonist. She’s everything you want in a main character – capable, guarded, bright, and yet retains a sliver of innocence. The story kicks off when we discover she is hiking through the mountains on a potential suicide mission thanks to a tumour (monster) in her head.
Immediately you understand her need to be left in peace and that desire to escape the rat race and be closer to nature. When she meets Ellie and Jack, you sympathise with her grumpiness because she hasn’t got the time (or patience) to deal with a grandpa and his eight-year-old brat of a granddaughter. As she struggles to make small talk with an inquisitive old man, there’s a ‘zap’ which causes horrific pains and bleeding from their eyes and ears. Jack drops dead, Ellie has stomped off and could be anywhere, and Alex is left reeling about what just happened.
Alex soon discovers that her sense of smell (which had vanished thanks to her tumour) has returned and is heightened to the extent that she can smell ‘everything’ in the mountains. A handy superhuman sense to have when avoiding wolves, bears, and other people. She also appears to have a connection/bond with dogs.
Accompanied by Ellie, the girls make their way towards the ranger station but come across something that changes everything. Not only did the zap cause Jack (and most middle-aged adults) to drop dead on the spot, it appears to have turned all but a few kids into flesh eating zombies. Fortunately, Alex can smell them!
Enter Tom, a young army veteran who saves their lives and joins them on their journey. For a time it’s just the three of them, but before long the small friendship group is torn apart.
None of your favourite characters is safe in this novel which makes it all the more nail biting to read. Alex’s journey takes her to a ‘safe’ commune which is where the pace slows, but the twists continue. We’re introduced to another group of characters, but still reeling from the first half of the book you join Alex in feeling wary of who and what these people are.
I didn’t dare blink when I was reading this in case I missed something! High tension, gut-twisting plots, and fabulously descriptive prose make for an incredible story. I’m a huge fan of fast-paced young adult novels, and this delivered exactly what I wanted – leaving me breathless at times!
The sticker on the front cover says ‘if you love the Hunger Games you’ll love this.’ I’d also say that any Walking Dead fan would enjoy Ashes too.
It ends on a massive cliff-hanger and with more unanswered questions than you know what to do with which means I’ve already ordered book two, Shadows (and book three, Monsters)!
Highly recommended for teens and adults alike.