Author: Ilsa J Bick
Series: Ashes Trilogy #1
Published: 29 September 2011 by Quercus
Length: 465 pages
Warnings: Zombies, sex references, 13+
Other info: Isla has written other, quite different, books. Book two in the Ashes trilogy is called Shadows, has no cover and should be published September 2012.
Summary : Seventeen-year-old Alex is hiking through the wilderness when it happens: an earth-shattering electromagnetic pulse that destroys almost everything. Survivors are divided between those who have developed a superhuman sense and those who have aquired a taste for human flesh. These flesh-hunters stalk the land: hungry, ruthless and increasingly clever... Alex meets Tom, a young army veteran, and Ellie, a lost girl. They will fight together and be torn apart, but Alex must face the most difficult question of all: In such a vastly changed world, who can you trust?
Review: Alex, a girl with a brain tumour, is out on a solo hiking mission, when the Zap happens. Obviously, she doesn't know what's happening. At the time of the Zap, she's with an old man and his grand-daughter, Ellie. The zap kills the old man, and she is left with Ellie and the dog, Mina. Soon, they come across Tom, and then it's a fight to survive. But there's something else. Alex, since the Zap, has been blessed with super-scent, while others that she occasionally runs across are essentially zombies. Alex, Tom and Elle have to go and explore to try and find a safe place to stay, so their entire journey is a quest to find somewhere to stay, someone to trust, and some way to stay alive.
The cover blurb weren't amazingly pull you in material, but neither were they major turn offs. The concept is interesting, a variation on most post-apocalyptic/zombie fiction, in that it gives some of the survivors of the original disaster a fighting chance. The blurb is slightly inaccurate, as not all the survivors get enhanced senses, but it's still a good premises that's worth taking a look at.
Alex, we get a good sense of her character, her rebellious streak and her determination from page one. The other characters we also get a good sense of soon after we meet them, but there are still some surprises you get after a bit.
The cannibalistic zombie people didn't feature as prominently as the blurb advertised. We were made aware of them, and we ran in to them a few times, but they weren't the most important thing in the novel. The characters and their interactions were.
As I said before, they were all strong characters, built up well and kept interesting. And then Isla wrote them out. I'm still quite annoyed at that. Two quite major characters are dropped at various points in the novel, pushed to the side and not really addressed again. I know that in that situation, that probably would happen. But I was getting quite attached to them, and was annoyed to see them go.
The writing style was good, but not really stand out. It didn't hinder the flow of the story, and kept me reading, but I was a little surprised when I started the book that it was in third person.
There were a few points where there was a change in plot that was incredibly random. But also unpredicted, so there was always something interesting. At the end, there's this huge revelation about this one society and what they are doing with their people and the zombies that I really wasn't expecting. So there. A big cliffhanger.
Overall: Strength 3 tea to a good post apocalyptic survival story that I really want to see how it plans out in book 2.