This review will contain SPOILERS for the first book in the Ashes trilogy, Ashes. If you haven’t read Ashes, don’t read this review!!
Shadows picks up right where Ashes left off. In fact, it’s a little difficult for me to remember what happened at the end of Ashes, and what happens at the beginning of Shadows since I read them almost one right after another. Despite the short amount of time between books for me, I wish we would have had a bit more of a recap at the beginning of Shadows. A lot of things happened at the end of Ashes, and I couldn’t remember who all the different characters were, especially once we started meeting many more. That was frustrating, and made me less interested in some of the characters.
In Shadows, leading lady Alex and her friends are living in an apocalypse. No one is quite sure what happened, but some sort of EMP attack left most of the adult population dead. Only the very elderly and young children are left, and most of the teenagers are Changed. The Changed are horrifying, zombie-like former humans whose brains have malfunctioned somehow and now they hunger for human flesh. They have started to herd humans like cattle, who they then torture, roast, and eat. Alex is captured by a particularly gruesome group of Changed who wear wolf pelts, and spend whatever time they are not torturing people lusting after each other. I will admit, some of the descriptions of the horrors the Changed committed were not only terrifying but disgusting as well. Bick spares not a single detail when describing what the Changed like to do to people before they eat them, all made worse with Alex’s descriptions which include her enhanced sense of smell. I actually thought some of this was a little too intense for a YA book (it was certainly too intense for me!) but I guess Bick was going for shock value. She succeeded, that’s for sure.
A new feature in this book was the multiple perspectives, something becoming more and more popular in these sorts of YA fiction (Allegiant and Through the Ever Night which I just recently read were both like this). This was both good and bad for me. On one hand, we finally get to find out what happened to Tom, and we get inside his head which is pretty cool. We also get inside Peter’s head–although at the beginning of the book I didn’t remember who Peter was, he did end up having a storyline wildly different from the other characters and boy wasn’t that interesting. We also get inside the heads of Chris and Lena. This would have been cool, except I never really cared about these two characters and for the majority of the book they didn’t do anything except wander around in the snow complaining about being cold. I was so bored, I wanted to skip over their chapters. Even at the very end when they finally saw some action I didn’t really care, I was just glad SOMETHING was happening to them.
This book had a little bit of “middle book syndrome.” While it wasn’t a total set-up for book 3, there were parts of it that were VERY slow. We also didn’t learn much outside of the weather. (Clearly, the cold and snow was impressed upon me, since that’s what I think of when I remember this book). I still liked this book because I’m emotionally invested in Alex and Tom, and I want to know more about what’s happening to the Changed and why it’s happening, even if they’re gross. Hopefully the next book will have a little more excitement throughout instead of all at once at the end.