So I don’t want to ruin this for anyone which means this review won’t be filled with spoilers of any kind or really an explanation of what goes on in the story chapter by chapter. And wow are there a lot of chapters. To be honest, one of the only negatives I have about this book is that it feels like two different plot lines together in one huge book. Like the beginning of the book was book one and then the second half was book two. And we just got it in a jumbo portion. One half was about survival and the other about escape.
Alex is a refreshing female heroine. She fights back…with everything. Even when she’s in the wrong she still fights. It is very encouraging to see a female character with as much strength and bravado as Alex, especially as she doesn’t have like a superpower – unless you count the enhanced sense of smell. She isn’t Buffy, but she can kick some serious butt if she needs to. She’s stubborn and argumentative, but also humble and caring and quite willing to put people first. She was the ideal heroine for me.
This book did not pull any punches in the gore department. When an EMP shockwave is let off in America, it wipes out all electricity and switches something in people’s brains. In the elderly and very young, it pretty much leaves them alone unless your brain is malfunctioned, and it kind of kicks it back to life. In the middle aged, it kills you. Instantly. And then the young adults…mostly, it turns you into a flesh eating smart zombie. Some are spared. Most are not. The spared kids are valuable and Alex is one of them. Caught camping when this happens, the book follows Alex’s journey of survival. And wow is it a journey.
For the first part of the book we are hit with adventure after adventure after adventure. Bick doesn’t treat her readers like sheltered children. There are bodies being eaten on like a piece of chicken and Bick describes this. The reader is introduced to what Alex sees – and it’s horrific and slightly morbidly fascinating. People die. People go missing. Bad things happen. And I think that’s one of the things I loved so much about ASHES. It wasn’t easy for Alex and it wasn’t a fairytale ending for her. She has to fight and keep fighting. Even when she’s not sure what she’s fighting for.
For the romance lovers out there, you have two possible love interests – but not at the same time. So while there’s a hint of a love triangle, more so it’s an old love vs a new one. I am gasping for the sequel so I can find out how this is resolved. Because not only does Bick do gore and description well, but she also does characterisation exceedingly well. For example, Ellie. That character both irritated and enthralled me. She was a sensitive, brave little brat. Plus, who doesn’t love a novel where dogs play a huge role and are a help rather than a hinderance?
Another of my few complaints of this novel, however, was that towards the end, Bick would throw a lot of suspicion and accusations and secrets at us, and we had to bare this in mind though we never really got any answers from the previous questions raised. The ending (wow what a cliffhanger) didn’t resolve anything and instead of closing one part, we’re just given more things to think about. We’re not given time to piece together the bits of the puzzle because everything happens so fast and then it’s over. There’s no time for Alex to think about what she’s learned, and therefore the readers think – unlike everywhere else in the novel where Alex is constantly over thinking things – so now I’m sitting here thinking “was that crucial to the storyline and the sequel? Or was that just something to carry the plot forward? A way to build up a scene?”
All in all, a fantastic LONG read with lots of gore, lots of adventure, lots of mystery and romance and a real, honest look into human behaviour and the relationships that stick and the ones that slide. ASHES is not a book for squeamish people, or ones with short attention spans. But it will keep you thoroughly entertained.