Review: Monsters by Ilsa J Bick

Monsters (Ashes #3)
Ilsa J Bick

Egmont USA
I received an e-ARC copy in return for an honest review
Releases September 10, 2013
688 pages
YA / Zombies / Action

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The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The End...is now.

When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn't get much worse--until the doctors found the monster in her head.

She headed into the wilderness as a good-bye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a treacherous road of betrayal and terror and death.

Now, with no hope of rescue--on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won't quit--she discovers a new and horrifying truth.

The Change isn't over.

The Changed are still evolving.

And...they've had help.

With this final volume of The Ashes Trilogy, Ilsa J. Bick delivers a riveting, blockbuster finish, returning readers to a brutal, post-apocalyptic world where no one is safe and hope is in short supply.

A world where, from these ashes, the monsters may rise.

I finished this book last week and I am still exhausted. Monsters, the final volume in the Ashes trilogy, is much like running a nonstop marathon with the zombies from 28 Days Later chasing after me – there is seemingly no end and no way for a happy resolution and yet you keep running, hoping to find a way to smash in the heads of all the super fast zombies chasing after you as the hope is leaking out of your pores. Reading this nearly 700 page tomb of zombie madness is exhilarating, exhausting and difficult to put down for fear that everyone is going to die while you’re away.

Ashes knocked me over, predominately because I didn’t know that it was the start of a series and the end left me running around the house, cursing at Ilsa J Bick while using all my self-control to not throw my iPad across the room. The second book, Shadows, split the very focused narrative of the first book into so many viewpoints that it was a bit jarring and spent a lot of time with people walking everywhere. I now know that Bick was saving all the real heart-pounding excitement for the last book in the installment.

SPOILERS FOR ASHES AND SHADOWS AHEAD

I have a horrible memory, especially when it comes to multiple story lines in a series I last read almost a year ago. I remembered Tom (of course) and Alex, where they were last seen and how I figured they would both be zombies or zombie bait by the end of the series. Everyone else, other than Ellie who disappeared in the first book and had yet to reappear, were a bit of a blur, so it took me awhile to process who was who and how they got where they were. But when I remembered? It was like somebody had punched me in the gut, especially when it dawned on me that Peter had been captured by a crazy guy, forced to cannibalism and turned into a weird zombie hybrid. It was like those reveals were happening all over again, so perhaps Bick has a point for not rehashing the events that happened before, instead plowing ahead to bigger and more dire events.

But the worst part of my inept memory is that I can’t for the life of me remember why everyone wanted to attack the town of Rule. They were obviously running low of supplies and it didn’t have the best defenses. It could have been for security or food. Was it really all an epically complicated revenge plot between old people? Because I couldn’t remember and there wasn’t any sort of refresher (which is understandable considering it would have just been a moment of epic exposition and no action), there was a tiny nagging portion of my brain that kept going, “But whhhhhhhy? What is the point?” But this is all my internal issues because my memory sucks.

I went in expecting a Red Wedding sort of ending. After everything these characters had been put through and the foreshadowing, I had a bad feeling everyone was going to end up dead, as a weird zombie hybrid, or evil. While I will not confirm or deny if my predictions proved true, I will say that the ending is bittersweet, full of all the emotions that had been put on hiatus during the zombie apocalypse and chase scenes. All the story lines flow parallel as characters continue to intersect, slowly condensing six different characters’ plots into one giant zombie mob of a monster ending. The final confrontation that brought all the remaining characters to one place was pretty epic, tense and satisfying after so much build up. I am not ashamed to say that there were tears shed as I finished out this series.

Bick’s writing continues to be kinetic, full of energy and tension that keeps building until I thought I’d break alongside the characters. Each new chapter brought another devastating element into play as people turned on each other and people came back from the dead. While the previous volumes used the imagery of ashes and shadows in multiple ways to a great effect, the number of things described as monsters in this final volume went a little overboard. The Changed are monsters, Alex’s tumor is a monster, the bad guys are monsters, shadows are monsters, history is a monster, everything is a monster. Had I started a drinking game, I probably would have been unconscious by the end (though I am a lightweight, so take that as you will).

Monsters is a great conclusion to this zombie series. Yes, there were a few stylistic elements that bothered me, but not enough for me to dislike this heart-pounding, emotional, anxiety-inducing and satisfying conclusion. Tom and Alex remain as relatable and sympathetic amidst an environment of crazy choices and potential death around every corner. The book pulled me in from the very beginning and refused to let me go, which is impressive for a 700 page zombie novel.

 

I received an advance e-copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. Thanks for the adventure Ilsa and Egmont USA!