But every second I’m alive is one more moment I still have a chance to do something.
(from Shadows, page 33)
Shadows is the second book in The Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick, centered on the survivors of an electromagnetic pulse that killed all the middle aged, revived the elderly, and changed most children and teens into crazed, animalistic, zombie-like creatures. Shadows picks up right where Ashes left off, and it’s definitely not a standalone novel. Please note that this review may contain spoilers from the first novel, but not from this one.
Whereas Ashes focuses on Alex, a 17-year-old girl with a brain tumor whose sense of smell is returned and magnified by the EMP, and how she and the people she meets along the way struggle to survive and adapt to the post-EMP world, Shadows follows so many people and so many subplots that it is hard to keep everything straight. While Alex fights to keep from becoming the next meal for a group of Changed, there is a struggle for power in Rule, the cult-like town that took Alex in during the latter half of the first book. At the same time, the various characters also must contend with bounty hunters and a militia led by a sadist.
With lots of blood and gore, and even some nauseating sex scenes, Shadows is a YA novel definitely meant for older teens. The Girl (age 12) really enjoyed Ashes, which was far tamer in terms of sex and violence, so I was glad that Jill informed me of the more adult scenes in this book. Because The Girl was so attached to the characters and wanted to know what happened after the cliffhanger ending of Ashes — and because it was our book club’s February pick — we read this one together, me reading it aloud and paraphrasing the more graphic parts.
Shadows is an improvement over Ashes in terms of pacing, and it definitely is an exciting dystopian novel. However, there are just way too many characters, and the overuse of certain adjectives (“ashen,” “shadowy,” and “coppery,” to name a few) made for some tedious reading at times. Bick made me curious about what’s going on with the people of Rule, but I’m craving more of an explanation about the EMP and its impact on more than just this town, which seems like it was kind of crazy even before the “Zap.” There also were a lot of short chapters and swiftly changing points of view between them, which I assume was to increase tension but got on my nerves after awhile, and many scenes that just seemed to be about the violence and the action but didn’t really further the plot.
Even so, I liked it enough to read the third book, Monsters, which is slated for release in September. And The Girl liked it way more than I did, but she’s always been a fan of horror and unrealistic gore. I wanted her to write up her own thoughts, but she’s been too busy with homework, soccer practice, and play rehearsals to write reviews. (At least she’s plugging along in her reading!) She says that even while she only cared about the main characters, Alex and Tom, and thought the book was kind of slow in the middle, she enjoyed it because it was full of action and suspense.
Serena has a comprehensive wrap-up of what our book club thought, along with her review, on Savvy Verse & Wit. I will be leading the March book club discussion on Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada…stay tuned for my thoughts!
Disclosure: I borrowed Shadows from the public library.
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