Ashes by Ilsa Bick

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Ashes by Ilsa Bick

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A enjoyable entrant into the busy dystopian market. A strong female central character has both internal and external demons to deal with after a catastrophic electrical pulse destroys society as we know it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: September 2011
Publisher: Quercus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0857382624

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Alex is hiking in the wilderness when it all kicks off. Suffering from a brain tumour and with only Aunt Hannah to care about, she has a mission to complete before it's too late. She is enjoying - as much as she could enjoy anything - the solitude and her memories, cruelly truncated by the cancer, which come in tiny, sparkling, precious moments. And then comes the zap. A catastrophic electromagnetic pulse sweeps across the globe and destroys almost everything. There are few survivors and most of those who do make it through have become psychotic, flesh-eating monsters. Those who haven't changed are in terrible trouble. Society is in ruins, all communication has broken down, and the flesh-eaters are hunting.

Alex is a survivor. More than a survivor. She has lost the tremors caused by the tumour. She has her memories back. And her sense of smell has become almost superhuman. She can even smell emotions. With Tom, a young army veteran, and Ellie, a small girl whose grandfather died during the pulse, Alex must find a way to cope with this new world and a life suddenly returned to her...

I'm not at all bored with the dystopian genre yet, but I will concede that the niche is getting a bit too busy. New entrants need to find something fresh and the options are rapidly running out. Ilsa Bick has gone for zombies that aren't really zombies - they're still alive - and avoided viruses and global warming and the other much-used catastrophes to set up her armageddon. So that's good. She's also chosen a wilderness setting that gives her protagonists all sorts of survival difficulties that would have existed with or without the zap. So that's good too. And she has a strong-but-flawed central character with a great back story. Even better! The plot flies along and there are plenty of twists and turns.

There is a love triangle going on - not to my taste at all. Although many readers will find it an enhancement, I don't want the curse of teen romance to infect my favourite genre as it did the bitey and lycanthrope books! But this is a personal nit pick and Ashes is not a romance novel, so don't worry too much.

All in all, Ashes has a great deal to offer the fan of catastrophe novels. I really enjoyed it. We also have a review of the sequel.

I think you might also like D4rk Inside by Jeyn Roberts, an unusual entrant into the dystopian market. It doesn't bother with any worldbuilding, it just goes for the violence and frenzy of a disintegrating society. Its villains are also changed - and not for the better.

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Buy Ashes by Ilsa Bick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ashes by Ilsa Bick at


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