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Shadows by Ilsa Bick

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick is a better book than the first in the series, Ashes (my review), (if you have not read the first book, beware of spoilers in this review) as the writing is more descriptive and less reliant on the cliffhanger factor for each chapter than it was in the first book.  An EMP blast has caused much of the human race to change, leaving the elderly to rethink their lives and focus on the best survival plan they have.  Meanwhile, the young are scared that they will change into flesh-eating monsters like so many others and struggle to keep away from bounty hunters and others who would use the Spared for their own nefarious gains.

Alex, Chris, and others are thrown into a whirlwind fight for their lives as they are separated and sent on their own journeys where they will uncover the truth and learn more about the Changed than they ever expected.  Unlike the first book where readers follow Alex’s point of view for most of the novel, Shadows is made up of more than just some of the main characters’ points of view from the first book, but several others.  At first this can be disconcerting given that the chapters move quickly are immersed in nearly constant action and are very short in some cases.  However, once the reader adjusts to the constant shifts in POV, they are swept up in the action and the chase — and in some cases, merely speeding through certain aspects of the 500+ page book to get to the story lines they really want to uncover.

Oh God, help me, please, help me.  Alex felt her mind begin to slip, as if the world was ice and begun to tilt and she was going to slide right off and fall away into forever if she didn’t hang on tight.  Her heart was trying to blast right out of her chest.  She was shaking all over, the hay hook in its belt loop bouncing against her right thigh.  The pyramid, row after row of skills, loomed at her back:  all that remained of those who’d stumbled into this filling field before her.  And of course, there was the smell — that familiar reek of roadkill and boiled sewage.”  (page 21)

Minus a prologue in the beginning, the novel takes off right where Alex was left in the last book.  And readers who were looking for more horror and death than they got in the last book will get their just desserts here, with a little nasty sex thrown in for good measure.  It’s hard to believe this is a young adult novel, and readers should beware that this is a novel for older teens, rather than younger readers.  Bick’s writing is much improved over the last novel, and it helps to garner readers’ emotions and attachments to the characters of Alex and Tom.  However, there are still so many unanswered questions from the last book that are left unanswered.  Not only that, more questions and riddles are raised and left unanswered in this novel.  Bick is treading a fine line here, and unless the final novel in the series addresses a great number of these questions and mysteries, readers could be disappointed.

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick is an adrenaline rush that pushes readers to not only think about the heat of combat and the survival skills they would need in a post-apocalyptic world, but also about the concept of trust and family.  When is our best efforts to save those we love and help them enough and when is it time to let go and move on?  Do you trust those who are nicest to you or do you still treat them with a degree of suspicion?  For Alex and Tom, there is never enough effort, and a healthy dose of suspicion is what keeps you alive.  The horrifying aspects of this novel are likely to turn off some readers, while attract others, but there are deeper themes at work here, and it is clear that Bick is attempting to tell a story that pays homage to those soldiers racked with guilt and still living daily nightmares of war.

About the Author:

Ilsa J. Bick is an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories, e-books and novels. She has written for several long-running science fiction series, most notably Star Trek, Battletech, and Mechwarrior:Dark Age. She’s taken both Grand and Second Prize in the Strange New Worlds anthology series (1999 and 2001, respectively), while her story, “The Quality of Wetness,” took Second Prize in the prestigious Writers of the Future contest in 2000. Her first Star Trek novel, Well of Souls, was a 2003 Barnes & Noble bestseller.

What the Eclectic Bookworms Thought (BEWARE of SPOILERS):

Shadows by Ilsa Bick was the book club selection for February.  With the multiple perspectives in this book, the members expressed a hard time following all of them and/or whether all of them were necessary.  While some preferred to keep the perspectives to a manageable number, another observation was that with Alex, the main protagonist, in a different area and experiencing things outside of Rule, it would have been difficult to keep the book from only her perspective.  The gore did not bother most members, which made the second book in the series read more like horror and less like science fiction or fantasy; some were taken aback by the sexual chapter, with the youngest member of the group not reading those sections at all.

The member who nominated Shadows was angry that the book left readers hanging about the fate of some characters, but it was pointed out that cliffhangers are often the case in second books when a third book is planned.  One member really enjoys Alex as a character, while two others pointed to Tom as their favorite.  Meanwhile, the group members all speculated about where the third book would go with most of us agreeing there would be a battle between Rule and the other Amish-like society mentioned, as well as a possible three-way dual between Chris, Wolf, and Tom or at least Chris and Tom in a sort of romantic gesture to win Alex’s affections.

The group seemed split on whether the overall reason would be explained for why some kids changed into cannibals and some did not.  We’ve speculated that the brain chemistry of the changed had been closer to normal levels than those that did not change, though Lena — one of the characters pointed out as most annoying — seems to have fallen in the camp of the changed with this book.  Overall, it seemed as though at least two members liked the second book in the series more than the first, while three or four members liked it even less with a couple people giving it one star.  Two members were not interested at all in reading the third installment, while two expressed an interest in one member reading it and telling the rest of us what happens, and a few others considering the option of reading the third book.

  • There are so many things she needs to address in the final book! It did make for a good book club discussion.

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  • Glad you enjoyed this one more than the first, but I’m still not sure it’s for me.

  • Staci

    Just read about this one on Jill’s blog…very interested!!

  • I missed hearing about this trilogy. Sometimes I like horror, sometimes not. It’s a maybe for me.

  • Ti

    I skimmed as I did not read the first book but this is the first time I’ve heard of the series. These days I am steering clear of series. I just hate waiting for the next book to come out.

    • I really had no option as it was selected as a first book for book club, and then the second book for book club. I think the club may skip the final book though.

  • This is generally not my kind of book but you sure do make it sound exciting!

    • I’m glad I made it sound exciting…it’s definitely an adrenaline rush

  • My review is up tomorrow, and as you may see, I didn’t even say anything about it really because one couldn’t without being spoilery. But wow, what a series! I’m so glad Anna and crew talked me into it!

    • I wonder what direction the final book will take.