Alex is hiking alone in Michigan when the electromagnetic pulse hits. Of course, she doesn’t know what it is. She’s too busy being annoyed with young Ellie and her grandfather when the pain strikes. She’s no stranger to pain, she’s not got long to live with the monster that is inside her head. The tumour has taken away her sense of smell and taste and this trip is the one last thing she wants to do. But when Ellie’s grandfather doesn’t get back up off the ground, she realises she has someone else to look out for. And she can smell. Everything. Whilst the EMP may have given Alex a super-sense, others have now gained a taste for human flesh.

Ashes is close enough to believable to be scary. Our brains are firing little charges all the time so it makes sense that an EMP could disrupt them and permanently change the way they work. Alex’s new power isn’t over the top, animals are often sense to be able to smell emotions on people. The fact that a lot of the book is told through the description of scents makes it all the more enjoyable. Even if some of what she smells is repulsive because those that now eat flesh seem to have regressed to a more primitive state.

Without technology to help them, Alex and Ellie must learn how to survive the best they can. They are fortunate to meet Tom, a soldier with his own reasons to be out in the wilderness. He teaches them survival techniques and protects his new little unit. Alex has never had the chance to have boyfriends but she starts to grow close to him. It’s not at all a mushy story though and some things happen which send it in a new direction half way through. It really makes you think want would happen if we had to start everything over again and who would come out on top.

I’m not sure why it was written in third person though. The narrative never leaves Alex and it’s all about her thoughts without the perspective of other characters. It feels as if it should be first person so much that I sometimes forgot that Alex was the protagonist when her name was mentioned.

Did I say it was scary? It made me close the bedroom window on a hot summer night. There’s something about being alone in the wilderness where you know there are things out there that want to harm you and dangers that are a lot less passive. The final pages are truly terrifying so bear that in mind if you’re reading late at night…

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