Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Publication Date: 09/25/2012
Even before the EMPs brought down the world, Alex was on the run from the demons of her past and the monster living in her head. After the world was gone, she thought Rule was a sanctuary for her and those she'd come to love.
But she was wrong.
Now she's in the fight of her life against the adults who would use her, the survivors who don't trust her, and the Changed who would eat her alive.
Welcome to Shadows, the second book in the haunting apocalyptic Ashes Trilogy: where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters.
The review for Shadows will have to be structured somewhat differently due to the massive cliffhanger that we were left with in Ashes and the differences that the subsequent book takes. Previously, a series of large electromagnetic pulses (EMP) of unknown source rendered all modern technology useless, killing millions and leaving the remaining population locked in a battle between surviving the elements and surviving each other. A mainly middle-aged population remains as most over 50 perished, and most under 20 have changed into feral beings that cannibalise corpses and hunt the rest for food.
Like a lot of people I loved Ashes, but was left grasping for connection upon reading the second half of the book. The first half was fast-paced and action packed, but there were few moments in the latter that hinted in a change at all, and as a reader you could almost see it as a plot transfer to a that of a tightly knit religious society. Though I can understand where people might be frustrated with that, the circumstances that Alex found herself in completely set up everything that happens in Shadows. We meet a handful of people in Rule that we see back in Shadows, a few of them having their own POV chapters. The switching of character voice is done smoothly and the transition is necessary in order to get a full sense of just what is happening in this new world. A limited perspective from Alex wouldn't properly be able to move the plot forward; some characters would inevitably be left behind due to the inability to tell their story.
It took me about a hundred pages before I got used to where the plot was going and the alternating views, but once I was there the rest of the book was an incredibly fast read. With every page we got to learn something more about another person in the book that helped to explain a past action, or about something that is happening simultaneously elsewhere with another POV character. And like Ashes, Shadows is ripe with gory descriptions and blood (including mentions of animal death); I often found myself wincing at the precision in which situations are described, though it really does help to put into perspective a world where anything goes and that every day is a fight for the right to live until the next.
Though chock full of completely unexpected twists and turns - Bick does an astounding job of keeping you on your toes, always guessing - it's an adventure that as a reader you continually want to take. Just as one chapter ends, something crazy happens making it easy to read another five more just to see where they'll take you (and Alex). There's not as much of a cliffhanger here as there was in Ashes, but that's actually almost worse because the ending of Shadows allows your mind to ruminate, speculating on the meanings of conversations and words that Alex and other POV characters had as the pages wind down. If you haven't read Ashes, you'll definitely want to read these two back to back because once you turn a page into this world it will be hard to pull yourself from it. Bick has created a grim and realistic vision of survival and perseverance, and I can't wait to see how it all comes together in book three.