Reading Is Good For You

Book Reviews, Literary News, and Thoughts on Life

Shadow by Ilsa J. Bick

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.

What. was. that? I’ll tell you what that was: one of the bloodiest, goriest, most violent and most-likely-to-induce-vomiting book I have ever stumbled upon.* Of course, I don’t generally wade into this territory all that often, so that statement probably doesn’t mean all that much. Still, don’t go into Shadows expecting puppies and rainbows (well, there are puppies, but the rainbows are still a no-show). In fact, I highly recommend not reading on a full stomach.**

Ashes, Shadows‘ predecessor, had a similar format, but had one thing that Shadows lacks: heart. Despite the general unpleasantness of the situations Alex, Tom and Ellie faced, the growing affection I felt for the three of them made all of that worth bearing. Learning about what made them tick, watching them grow as individuals and into a close-knit family unit made Ashes into so much more than just another zombie book and made it all the more agonizing when their world was wrenched apart at the seams.

Because the story was so much more plot-centric this time around — watch the Changed gnaw on someone’s neck, see sick, sadistic humans do sick, sadistic things, move character X from point A to point B, throw down a cliff-hanger at the end of every single chapter — I didn’t feel the human connection like I did with Ashes. There were scenes in Shadows that I should have been absolutely weeping for these characters and I just couldn’t muster up the proper response. One scene did come awfully close, though that was due in part to how heart-wrenching it was for [spoilers, Sweetie] to be separated from one another in the previous book.

And yet.

And yet, I found myself staying up until three in the morning to  finish this book, so Bick obviously did something right. I like a book that makes me think and wonder and question and this book made me do all three. What connection does this paramilitary group have to the community of Rule and why are they so hell-bent on its destruction, other than their obvious disdain for Rule’s shady practices (though do they really have any room to talk, given their own despicable experiments)? Just how did Rule come to be and what do the Amish have to do with it? Have the Spared really been spared from the horrors of the Change, or is the monster just laying in wait for the opportune moment to wreck havoc? Will these poor people ever get a moment of respite and a happy(ish) ending?

Given that this is the second book in a trilogy, we’ll have to wait for the last installment for more than a hint of an answer to those questions. I did, however, learn a valuable lesson from this book: if some of those crazy militia people come knocking at your door, you run as fast and as far away from them as you can. Because they’re, you know, crazy.***


*I’d like to take a moment to apologize to my poor mom for suffering through all of my cries of agony while I read last night. She kept asking what was wrong. You don’t want to know, Mom. You really don’t want to know.

**Or reading late at night, because boy did I ever have some weird dreams. Like Tiffany from So You Think You Can Dance leading the charge to Rule wearing a sparkly sequined dress and a cape made from the tattoos from people’s bodies weird.

***In other words, these are not the sort of people you want to have on your zombie apocalypse team, no matter how many weapons they bring to the table. You are better off without.


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