Release date: Out Now
The Apocalypse does not end. The Changed will grow in numbers. The Spared may not survive.
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 believed Rule could be a sanctuary for her and those she’d come to love.
But she was wrong.
Now Alex is 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.
*Blurb taken from Goodreads*
I have to warn you that if you have not read the first book in this series, ASHES, then you will be very lost and confused with this middle installment, SHADOWS. In fact I needed to have a bit of a refresher read of the first book to remind me of a few minor characters who featured in that book, but play a huge part in this one. This is a bit of a hard book to review because I enjoyed many of the facets in this series, especially the haunting, atmospheric and very scary tone this series has. But I have to say that unlike some of the flaws in the first book which was mainly due to TSTL character moments, SHADOWS was a totally different book in feel and tone with its approach to the narrative which I wasn’t really keen on. Whilst ASHES followed the POV of Alex, the main protagonist, SHADOWS follow a variety of different POVs. There was new characters with their own POVs in the mix as well, and I did feel at times that the pace was bit frenetic. I was also lost because this felt so out of the left field, especially since I was so used to seeing this via Alex’s eyes about a world that has crumbled due to mysterious EMP blasts, and the majority of the population dying whilst the majority of kids who did survive turn into live cannibal like monsters nick-named Chuckies.
With this instalment, it picks off straight-away with the killer cliffhanger of Alex escaping the strange settlement but heading into a trap where she faces a group of Chuckies. Despite commencing in a brutal fight of survival to escape, Alex is captured and taken to their encampment where she finds other people facing the same predicament. But the narrative then switches to other POVs, such as Tom (Yay! So glad he survived) who was presumed dead in the previous book, as well Chris who became a potential love interest for Alex in the last book.
It is hard to lay out the plot without going into spoilers and laying it out cohesively because SHADOWS is tightly plotted but dense, albeit very convoluted, because there were so many plot threads and twists and turns that I became overwhelmed by it. A LOT of things happened in the story. But at the same time questions about why did the EMP blasts happen, and how and why did it affect people this way wasn’t explored. Instead the plot focuses on the strange religious settlement that Alex encounters in the last book, and adds more twists on the people who live there who may not be as benign as they appear. And there is another faction who is a militia group introduced to the plot which adds another dangerous twist into the story as they also have their own agenda.
I think the main reasons why I was semi disappointed is that I loved Alex’s POV and her determination and common sense approach to surviving. It made her very likeable and I was very invested in her character. And I didn’t care much for the others, other than a few like Tom, who is determined to be reunited with Alex, and encounters a lot of obstacles and twists and turns of his own in his quest to find her. However, this is not to say that I disliked the book, but it definitely suffers from middle book syndrome and despite the fact there was two book’s worth of plot jammed in one. I was not as keen on the story focusing on the sub-plot involving the religious town and survivalist militia group.
But the concise and tense prose of Ilsa J. Bick’s and the horror elements (and seriously there is some beyond horrific scenes) I was totally sucked into the story, even though I was pretty frustrated at times. And I have to say, even though this is a YA book, the author does not hold back in graphic and gory scenes which especially covers a darker and primal side of the Chuckies, which really made this a chilling read at times.
There is also a bit of a love triangle, or should I say love quadrangle, hinted with Alex whilst it was set up with Tom and Chris in the first book. There is a new character who is introduced in SHADOWS which created an interesting dynamic in that aspect of the plot. Although I am not a huge fan of multiple love interests, I think Ilsa J. Bick’s approach to this subplot is multifaceted and I look forward to see how things develop. Although I am not keen on this potential new character because it was a bit squicky but I really hope there is a HEA for Tom and Alex.
I also loved how it tied in with the themes that runs in this series. While the first book was about facing Monsters; the inner and outside forces ones and the themes of doubles. In this book, it expanded on the twinned theme as one side as shadows and the fear of surrendering to it. I loved how this tied in with Alex’s fear of turning into a ‘Chuckie’ which was hinted in the first book. But also how it reflected on the aftermath of a world trying to recover from the catastrophic bombs and subsequent cannibal attacks. A world which is the shadow of itself.
I think SHADOWS is one of the most chilling, and terrifying YA books I’ve read and I love the take on the zombie and post apocalyptic premise which Ilsa J. Bick has created. It’s a truly stark and menacing world. Despite the issues with the plot which was convoluted at times, especially with several of the twists and the new characters that were introduced, I was really engrossed with the book and story. And despite another cliffhanger ending (how I hate those!) SHADOWS was a fast pace, heart-pounding and intense read. The dark eerie and shocking elements, made this series for me a memorable one and I am still digesting the plot and characters because it is one of those books/series that remain with you for a long time.
I give Shadows a C+
We also have a giveaway of SHADOWS up for grabs! All you have to do is comment below to enter and state who or what is your favourite monster? The giveaway is only open to those who reside in the US/Canada (sorry) and it will end on midnight next Friday the 18th of October. Good luck!