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.
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Let's begin by noting that I was not a huge fan of the first book. I was intrigued enough by the rather devilish cliffhanger to eagerly await this sequel's release on Audible, and keep waiting an extra two weeks beyond its print release date I might add. And unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, I was somewhat disappointed.
So here we are with the same characters and some new ones, trying to live through the aftermath of the EMPs and finding out things aren't what they seem. Some characters come more to the forefront, as Alex is no longer an exclusive point of view. Questions are answered with cryptic clues into a more complicated struggle that most certainly requires a serious accounting in the third installment. Along the way, you will meet new people friendly and not so much, and get glimpses at how other communities have dealt with the end of the world and hordes of savage children.
One of this series's strong points is that it gives you a bunch of characters with real flaws, and serious problems internal and external to overcome. The trouble is that it tends to dwell on these, and, aside from a few exceptions commented upon by the characters, our heroes don't seem to be learning from their mistakes. I love seeing the protagonists encountering new obstacles, being caught off guard by unforseen events and having to save themselves and each other through intelligent action. But when I am forced to listen to the same character barely make it through yet another similar scrape brought upon by their own lack of situational awareness, I can't really credit him/her for overcoming unexpected adversity anymore. There is also the fact that while this story has more action than its predecessor, it also consists of multiple POV characters going in circles, sometimes literally, often without much agency. I don't know, maybe that last part may make for an ideal young adult novel in retrospect, as these are books about children meant to be read by children, who are often deprived of the ability to make big picture decisions and just forced to make due with influencing their fates any way they can. The author is a child psychiatrist after all.
If you had trouble with the gore in the first book, expect even more this time around. If you liked Katherine Kellgren's performance last time , you'll be happy with it again; if you didn't, you'll despise this book, with its whimpers, screams, and other emotional accents.
All in all, I guess I can't say I was excessively disappointed, but I was left wanting something, more. And yes, even though we're not left with a huge shocker in the last few minutes like last time, I think I will pick up the last one, just to see what happens.
First let me say that I think Bick is a very talented writer - that's probably what got me hooked into Ashes. The writing in this is still of a very high quality and I will continue to look out for what she writes in the future. But this book just wasn't to my taste - particularly as an audiobook - and I abandoned it.
As a lot of reviewers have said - Ashes (the first book in the series) has a distinctly different tone in the second half of the book. Shadows seems to continue in the vein of the second half of Ashes - which is the half that I didn't enjoy so much.
There was a lot of blood and gore which I understand I should expect from a "zombie book" but it was so relentless it lost shock value and became... a bit gross. It taught me that I probably don't enjoy overly scary or gory Audiobooks - the constant crisis is just too much for me. Listening to it could be a good ploy if you're on a diet though... this book put me off my food a number of times..!
But one of the main things that caused me to stop listening was the fact that there were so many characters, I just couldn't keep up. This was particularly hard to deal with in audio - as opposed to when you have the hard copy in front of you and you can go back and reread to figure out who's who. There is also no recap of the Ashes storyline so if it's been a while since you read Ashes (as was the case for me) you may have trouble picking up the story again.
The performance was good, Katherine is obviously a talented actress. Her blood curdling screams terrified me at times but I'm sure if you like the story, you'll be happy with the performance.
Overall, great writing but too many characters and too much gore for me. If you like gory zombie action - and if you recap Ashes before you start - I think you'll like this book.