Kazi's Reviews > Ashes

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick
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Nov 23, 2011

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bookshelves: 2012
Read in September, 2012

Alex isn't a typical 17-year old girl, which is what makes her such an interesting character, and is also what makes her not-so believable. As a complex character (she knows about guns and survival, has a lot of practical experience) who is carrying quite a bit of baggage (she has a brain tumor, adding to her maturity; both of her parents are dead) she could have benefited from a more careful construction. It's almost as though there wasn't enough time between her illness, parents' deaths and generally growing up for her to be able to learn all of this stuff.

Ellie, the annoying little girl which we are supposed to come to like later also works as a tool for exposition, though I'm not sure it was worth suffering through her tantrums for it. I have to say that Ellie's charms, if she had any, were completely lost on me.

The beginning of the book takes off at a rapid pace, though I thought that part could have done with a little more setting-up, if only to increase the creepiness factor. The first part of the book is quite good, the gore factor is high, which I quite like, and the descriptions of smells (Alex's special power) are very imaginative. I think the rationale for the disaster was kind of glossed over, but nobody really knows exactly what happened, and that's okay (for me, for now).

When Alex gets to Rule is when she really starts to fall apart as a character (earlier in the book she was freaked out by 'operating' on Tom, but now we find out she has specialized medical knowledge, including stitching chicken flesh). Initially, she seemed very independent, but now she's settled into something between a nunnery and a human trafficking ring with very little angst. True, she is planning to leave and assessing the situation and has become a bit numb, but for two months, she hardly seems to rail against the system, even internally. I guess the author has to construct the conventional YA love triangle (oh-oh, I have feelings for two guys and OMG I'm so conflicted), but I wish she hadn't gone there, it doesn't really fit with Alex. The village also seems kind of unrealistic - with so many old people and male casualties, I wouldn't think that leaving healthy young women at home, sitting around knitting would really be an option.

I liked the intrigue at the end, I just hope that this is not a sign that the story will follow too trilogy convention rather than doing something crazy. I'm less-likely to read the next book if the events feel formulaic.
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Kristina Thank you for explaining how I felt much better than I did!

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