Ashes | Ilsa J. Bick | Book Review

I have to say, it’s kind of cool hanging onto review copies that I just have not been able to get to, because when I finally pick them up to read them, my mind is cleared of all hype and you know, the copy still gets a review and if we’re lucky that convinces someone else to pick the book up and give it a shot. Anyways, I recently read Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick like two years after it’s release date. I am okay with that, because before blogging, I could have cared less about release dates, all I cared about was the cover and the back jacket copy. Friends, I remember Ashes as having pretty much all this hype in the summer and fall of 2011, but then it just totally faded out and I don’t know, I haven’t really heard or read many reviews of the second book or the third. Maybe these books are too long for some, I don’t know. That’s a damn shame though, because I found that I really liked Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick despite being freaked out by a lot of the zombie stuff. There’s one gory scene in particular that still makes me shudder thinking about it.

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick | Good Books And Good Wine

Alex is a teenage girl who is out on a camping trip by herself near Lake Superior. You see, she’s basically hiked out so far to die. Alex has rather advanced brain cancer. Along the way she meets an old man, a young girl named Ellie and an awesome dog named Mina. Alex is conversing with the old man when all of a sudden she feels this pulse. You see, there’s a giant electromagnetic pulse that basically kills all the adults except the very elderly and turns some teenagers and children into zombies. A few people have survived it though – notably children, teenagers, and the elderly. Dogs have changed as well. Oh, and Alex no longer has cancer. The old man though, he dies, leaving Alex with the care of Ellie who is a total brat and also a total stranger. Together, the two attempt to survive in the wilderness and hopefully find other people. The book is told in several parts, with the last half having a totally different feel than the first half of Ashes.

So, Alex is a capable girl and I loved reading that. I loved that she did not have to rely on some guy to save her. Instead, she sets her own traps, hunts, can forage, oh and she can totally shoot a gun too. She’s really awesome. There are parts where she gets kind of bratty, but it’s for good reason. Also? I think she must have some infinite patience for putting up with Ellie who is 7 and a giant pain in the ass. Seriously, if the end of the world happens, I do not want a small child in my survival party. Oh hell no. Anyways. I really liked Alex as a main character and seeing her sort through what happened and how surviving the EMP has changed her. She’s an interesting one for sure.

Ilsa J. Bick’s world building mostly makes sense to me. There are parts that confused me — like why do some people become zombies while others don’t. Why is it that only the elderly survived, as far as adults go. I really liked the bits of the book where Alex is surviving in the woods, especially when she interacts with this guy named Tom who used to be in the military and who actually works really well with Ellie. There is one scene involving a wild dog and a zombie and ugh, makes me want to puke just to think about it. So gross, I wish that it hadn’t been in there. I also made sure not to read this directly before bed because parts of it are certainly scary and gory. Finally, in the second half of the book, where things are totally changed, I am not too sure how to feel about that society and if it is a cult or not however there’s whispers of rebellion and as someone who likes that, I am interested enough to continue on with the series. Bick does an interesting job with building a society and creating a narrative for what happens if there is a zombie apocalypse with Ashes.

I’ve decided that for the most part, I am a fan of Ilsa J. Bick’s writing style, but I have some quibbles. First off, this book is long BUT it is fast paced. I am positive I would have read it way faster had my silly old life not interrupted my reading time. Instead, it basically took me a week or so to read. If you like short chapters, you are in luck. There are lots and lots of short chapters in Ashes which certainly make rushing through it much easier. The prose and the action is not very hard to follow. There’s a lot going on and I felt like there wasn’t really a lull in the story or anything. However, probably my main quibble with the writing is that there are a lot of foreshadow-y ‘LITTLE DID SHE KNOW’ type sentences. Those annoy me. That’s just a personal thing though. Otherwise, if you want a zombie book that’s good, appealing to both males and females (my boyfriend read this one way before me) and full of dogs and survival, be sure to check Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick out. It’s also usually on sale on Amazon Kindle, so a good inexpensive investment for several hours of reading.

Disclosure: Review Copy Provided A Long, Long Time Ago

Other reviews of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick:

The Book Smugglers – “an action-packed, gritty take on the apocalypse
Anna Reads – “the first half was so insanely strong
Pure Imagination – “The book revolves much more on action than romance

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I had mixed feelings about this book, I wanted to like it a lot, but I really had problems with the pacing of the story. I read until book 2, but I’m not yet sure if I’ll continue on to the last one.

    • Hmmm, that’s interesting to hear about your pacing problems — I’ll admit that a few bits were slow, but for me, overall I am content with how it was timed.

      To each their own, eh? 🙂

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I’ve read all three books. I liked Ashes the best. The second gets even more gory, which was OK with me. The last book, Monsters, is really LONG and part of the problem was that it had been too long since I had read Shadows. I recommend reading them close together, because there isn’t much review of the previous book.

    • Yeah, I am okay with gory as well but sometimes I have to read those parts really fast and just skip past it. I will keep your advice in mind regarding Shadows and Monsters — thanks for the heads up!