Saturday, 25 August 2012

Shadows

Shadows is the sequel to Ashes and therefore this review will contain spoilers for the first book.

“You need us and you get to be the boss of how we feel, who we decide to care about? We go out, we take all the risks! We die out there while you sit here in your robes and judge us, and it’s still not enough. You want everything.”

At the end of Ashes Alex had been sent out of Rule as an offering to the Changed. Shadows will keep you in suspense for a few extra chapters as the start picks back up with Tom, who Alex was convinced she had left to die in an old shed. Instead he has been taken in by an old couple and nursed back to health. But what he wants more than anything else is to see Alex again, if there’s any chance she’s still alive he must find her.

Meanwhile in Rule, Jess is in a coma and Chris has serious injuries. The girls are told he was thrown by his horse but there is something fishy about the elders’ story and Lena knows it. She might not be the brightest spark but her constant nagging soon gets her a bit closer to the truth. Is it safe for her to stay there?

And Alex, surrounded by the Changed; the children who now crave human flesh and are becoming organised. Dressed in wolf skins, they resemble a pack and have found themselves weapons and souvenirs. The leader of the pack, who Alex nicknames Wolf, takes a special interest in her and she is terrified that she recognises him. Is it possible? Is she about to be eaten by someone she once called a friend?

Shadows is action packed and filled with horror. It’s certainly not suitable for young readers and there are moments which will go beyond some people’s comfort zones. Cannibalism is not pretty and Ilsa J. Bick does not gloss over it in any sense, filling the pages with violence and gore. There’s a lot of half-truths and full out lies which can make the plot a little confusing at times. I’m still not entirely sure why Lena and Chris left Rule, except that as the reader with all that extra knowledge, I know that it’s a bad place to be!

I did enjoy the other perspectives this time. Still told in third person, the narrative focuses on three different groups of characters rather than just Alex. There are a lot of connections, between Rule and pretty much everything else, and you do need to pay attention to keep up. There is also a small portion given over to Peter and an experimentation storyline which didn’t quite fit here. Not that I don’t think it is viable in this world but just that it didn’t add anything at this time. I suspect it will fill out in the third book of the trilogy.

Why was Wolf keeping her alive? Just so he could be the one to end her? Terrific. This might not be any more complicated than what you did with an ice-cream sundae. She didn’t know a single kid who didn’t save the cherry for last.

Whilst the Changed (or Chuckies as they are often called) were portrayed simply as blood thirsty creatures in Ashes, they do start to form personalities here and evolve. Like Alex, you start to connect to Wolf in a tiny way and I was disappointed not to find out what happened to him. He was eating people alive and for some reason I care! There was something said that was either an outright lie by a character or could have hinted to Wolf’s current circumstances. I’m hoping this loose end get picked up in the next instalment.

I don’t think horses are quite as fragile as you would think from reading this. There are plenty of times when a horse trips up and, SNAP. I don’t think they would have been such useful domesticated creatures throughout history if they broke that easily and it’s not like they are all riding fine boned Thoroughbreds. Once, yes, believable but I found it was a bit over used. They could have just thrown their riders and run away.

Despite so much going on and a large cast of characters, the pace speeds along and the climax is gripping. The ending definitely feels like a lot of things have been left hanging for the next book but it isn’t a giant cliffhanger like in Ashes. I felt more disappointment on behalf of the characters than myself as a reader and I will be looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Shadows will be published in the US by Egmont (hardcover) and in the UK by Quercus (paperback) on the 25th and 27th September respectively. Thanks go to Egmont USA for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.

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