Lately I’ve been really into YA (Young Adult) novels. I kind of consider them “junk food” books in the literature department, which is probably why I love them so much! I have an awful sweet tooth after all. Regardless, I came across the Ashes Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick at the library a few months ago and can’t get it out of my head. If you are into the whole dystopian, apocalyptic genre, this is for you.
This is one of those trilogies that I’m happy I didn’t have to actually wait the books out on. I would have driven myself completely crazy waiting around for the next novel, so thankfully all three are out and available.
The first book is Ashes and follows a girl named Alex who finds herself hiking through the woods on her way to Lake Superior. Battling the reality of her short time left due to a brain tumor and the letting go of her parents, she isn’t prepared for what happens after she stumbles across a hiker and his granddaughter Ellie (a very annoying a spoiled child throughout most of the book). After a short time navigating the mind of Alex you are thrust into a very believable ‘apocalypse’ that will honestly change the way you think about certain aspects of your own mind.
It could happen tomorrow . . .
An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.
Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.
For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.
What is honestly so compelling about this story is how deeply real it is: from the studious aspects of what would happen if EMPs were to shut down the world, the navigation of brain functions to the frigid air that seems to seep out of the book and into your skin. Alex is everything that humanity ascribes to instinct. Outside of a few special occurrences, the characters are utterly raw and dark as open wounds. This is a story about clinging to what is left and Ashes not only navigates what becomes lost when everything shatters, but makes you feel how eerily void it is when it has left you.
Without ruining the story for you, Shadows comes in at the very moment Ashes leaves off and gives a deeper explanation to things such as the Spared and the Changed. Where Ashes seems to make you believe there can be hope, Shadows reminds you that behind every light there is a quelling darkness.
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 quickly learns that there are no safe havens anymore. Torn apart from Tom and Ellie, she’s on her own and desperate to find her friends.
In a post-apocalyptic world full of savagery, 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 Ashes Trilogy: where no one is safe and humans may be the worst of the monsters.
Shadows is probably my favorite book of all three of the stories. For one, Ellie stops being so annoying. I’m sorry, but I have never wanted a character to die in a book before but during the entire first novel I had really wanted Ellie just to find herself MIA. Thankfully no one listened to me and she grows up a bit in Shadows. So does everyone else.
Here we find what is really special about Alex when she is overtaken by the Changed. Although the Changed are murderous cannibal children, I had always had some empathy for them and their situation. There are some great surprises lurking in Shadows that if Ashes hadn’t hooked you, Shadows will certainly do the trick!
The final novel in The Ashes Trilogy is Monsters. This is an extremely gritty climatic book that every moment you feel like your heart is going to stop! You have no idea who is going to live, die or worse. There are some things that are worse than living and it is hard not to feel so overwhelmed by a lot that goes on in Monsters.
The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The End…is now.
When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn’t get much worse–until the doctors found the monster in her head.
She headed into the wilderness as a good-bye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a treacherous road of betrayal and terror and death.
Now, with no hope of rescue–on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won’t quit–she discovers a new and horrifying truth.
The Change isn’t over.
The Changed are still evolving.
And…they’ve had help.
What happens to the Changed in Monsters is insane, although what happens to some of the humans is worse. I will say there is one great moment when everything seems to come together before terrifyingly setting you on the precipice again. Alex is a force of nature in Monsters and it’s awesome to see her at the peek of her abilities. More than any other heroine, I really love this character. She’s deeply complex, bare to the bone and the author even leaves her room to create your own concept of her.
The end leaves you with a wondering… about yourself, our nature and who we really are. This is a great trilogy and although I was sad to see it was over, I do have to say that it ended perfectly. Ilsa J. Bick is an incredible writer. If you are looking for a story that will frighten you, make you laugh and feel the aching sense of love… you need to run to your book store and (or to Amazon).
You can find more information about Ilsa J. Bick and her other stories on the website. I’ve been keeping a list so I can pick up the next one!
Have you read The Ashes Trilogy?