Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, published by Quercus on 29th September 2011
Alex has run away and is hiking through the wilderness with her dead parents' ashes, about to say goodbye to the life she no longer wants to live. But then the world suddenly changes. An electromagnetic pulse sweeps through the sky zapping every electronic device and killing the vast majority of adults. For those spared, it's a question of who can be trusted and who has changed... Everyone still alive has turned - some for the better (those who acquired a superhuman sense) while others for the worse (those who acquired a taste for human flesh). Desperate to find out what happened and to avoid the zombies that are on the hunt, Alex meets up with Tom - an Army veteran who escaped one war only to find something worse at home - and Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the electromagnetic pulse. This improvised family will have to use every ounce of courage they have just to find food, shelter, while fighting off the 'Changed' and those desperate to stay alive.
'Ashes' is a deeply terrifying, heart-poundingly scary, dark and twisted story which will leave your heart racing and your fingernails bitten down to the quick. Guaranteed! There are cliffhangers galore at the end of each section of the book and you will be truly terrified and mesmerised by the twists and turns which lead the characters down a very dark path indeed.
I loved this book! In fact I more than loved it - it's definitely one of the best reads of the year so far! Ilsa J. Bick has pulled out all the stops to ensure that the reader is constantly kept on the edge of their seat. Anything and I mean absolutely anything is possible in a story which shocks and scares but literally makes such compulsive reading that you won't be able to put it down.
The story is tightly plotted and mapped out perfectly and if you enjoyed either 'The Road' by Cormac McCarthy or the more recent 'Dark Inside' by Jeyn Roberts then this is the book for you. It's an awesome tale of survival against the odds which will make you gasp and cry. I constantly felt like there was going to be something around every corner as I turned the pages with sweaty palms and shaking fingers. I enjoyed seeing the main character, seventeen year old Alex, surviving on her own in the wilderness. Even with all she's confronted with she remains capable and level-headed, although her story is not one for the faint hearted. I loved the relationship which develops between Alex and Ellie, a young girl who Alex comes to the rescue of, as well as the blossoming friendship between Alex and Tom. People may be ripping each other apart around them but they're a unit and they're determined to survive together.
I've read a few reviews of 'Ashes' where people have felt let down by the second half of the book but for me, the suspense was maintained throughout. I thought it was an astounding story from start to finish and a real rollercoaster ride of a book. I couldn't put it down and when I did have to momentarily pause or put it down I found myself unable to think about anything but the plot and the characters' journey.
'Ashes' is quite literally incredible. I can't wait for more and I'm dying to know what's going to happen to Alex next. The follow-up is entitled 'Shadows' and will be out next year. How can I possibly wait that long?!