Ashes: review

June 30, 2011 2011, 3 star books, horror, Ilsa J. Bick, undead 2

Ashes
by Ilsa J. Bick

It all starts with a cataclysmic electromagnetic impulse. Dead birds fall from the sky. Deer run off a cliff, maddened for unknown reasons. And people drop dead instantaneously and inexplicably–or they are miraculously, irrevocably changed, some for the better, and some for the worse.

The first half of this book is a phenomenal. 17-year-old Alex is transformed by the big event in ways that she can’t understand. She is saddled with an angry 8-year-old and an attractive ex-Army guy who’s hiding secrets, and they all must find safety and shelter from the other survivors who are no longer…human. The prologue is well-written and compelling, and I was drawn to the bleak, lonely mood and stark setting right from the very beginning. I liked the strong but fragile Alex, and I was thoroughly engrossed by the incredible suspense and visceral, shudder-inducing scenes that will be forever seared into my memory.

But literally halfway through the book, something really odd happens. During a tense standoff with a band of vicious kidnappers, one of the three people in Alex’s group is shot. This cliffhanger ends one chapter and when the next one begins, the story takes up three days later. WHAT? Talk about leaving your readers high and dry! From that point on, things stop making any kind of sense at all. The story changes tone completely, there is a whole new cast of characters, the story is poorly plotted, the writing became disjointed, and every single element I liked about the first half of the book was completely abandoned. Alex herself suddenly seems like she’s just stumbling from one random encounter to the next, and by the time it all ended with a somewhat interesting but predictable cliffhanger, I was ready to abandon them all to whatever horrible munchy fate might befall them.

It is such a shock to go from loving a book and then to being completely annoyed with it, so I had no idea what to do about rating this one. The first half of this book is literally a 5 star read for me (and I don’t give 5 stars that often), but the second half is maybe a 1.5. It’s as if the second portion was written by a completely different person! What a disappointment.

I really wish that these problems had been fixed in the outlining stage, but certainly they should have been sorted out by the time the manuscript made it through several drafts and edits and rewrites. I really regret the wasted potential of the amazing first 240 pages, as well as fantastic premise. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from the abrupt downhill hurtle that this book plunged down; I finished this novel 5 days ago and I’m still mad at it.

Release Date: September 6, 2011

First 240 pages: 5 stars + Second 240 pages: 1.5 stars ÷ incredible disappointment = lackluster 3 out of 5 stars
30-Second Synopsis: An incredible first half is unfortunately unmatched by its confusing, lackluster second half in this post-apocalyptic horror novel. An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

2 Responses to “Ashes: review”

  1. Wendy Darling

    Ah, there are so many better zombie books out there, Jo! Although I’d give decent money (or at least a pie) to see what kind of an ending you’d write for this one. ;)

  2. Jo

    Ouch, I’ve been looking at this one (part of my zombie craze that YOU started ;-)).
    Although by the looks of this review, I might just give it a miss… or… just read the first 240 pages and then make up my own ending!