Audiobook Review: Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick

26 10 2012

Shadows by Ilsa J. Bick (Ashes Trilogy, Bk. 2)

Read by Katherine Kellgren

Brilliance Audio

Length: 13 Hrs 11 Min

Genre: YA Apocalyptic Horror

Quick Thoughts: Shadows is a rapidly paced, mind numbing follow up to Ashes. While the plot can become disconcertingly complex at times, it is full of gore, psychological terror and some truly stunning moments. Shadows won’t conclude any story lines in anything close to a satisfying way, but it definitely sets you up for what is sure to be a crazy end to the trilogy.

Grade: B

WARNING: This is a review of a second book in a planned Trilogy. While I try and avoid Spoilers, be careful before reading.

So, I have been thinking about Zombies. Strange, right? I have been trying to determine which is actually creepier, the traditional Romero style dead zombies, or the virus infused 28 Days Later living rage zombies. OK, before you get all up in my face, I know, I know, if they are not dead, then they aren’t really zombies. Not in the mood for that semantics argument. If you are about to be attacked by a mindless raging human, hell bent on tearing you to shreds and eat your tasty insides, I am more than willing to let you stop and take it’s pulse before you feel comfortable calling it a zombie. There is something inherently creepy about a dead, rotting corpse slowly shambling towards you, reeking of decay, yet hell bent on taking a nice big bite out of your meatier areas. Yet, I think live human variants of the traditional zombie come with its own level of creepiness. They are not dead, but changed. On some level, they are what they were before, just with altered thoughts or lack of them. With dead zombies, you can argue that they aren’t really human. Yet, live humans who attack, and consume us, no matter what their mental state totally gyrate on our most sacred beliefs and taboos. What is worse is the moral questions and the ambivalence. Your mom dies, and then rises again to eat you, well, put a bullet through that monster’s head. Yet, a living zombie is simply sick. Perhaps the sickness can be cured. How would you feel if mom changed, you pumped her head full of lead, and then the CDC announces that they have a cure for the changed the next day? My guess would be, pretty darn sucky. This is why I always find the living rage zombie creepy on its own level, and very dangerous. Any bit of hesitation and you could be lunch. I don’t want to be lunch.

When Ashes ended, Alex was in a precarious situation surrounded by The Changed. Alex is missing, but clues abound that she may alive somewhere, and Tom is assumed dead. Rule, the strange fundamentalist town that Alex was living in, is in chaos due to Alex’s escape and Chris’s return. Lots of strange revelations and realizations about the very nature of Rule happen. Then we wait a year in a cruel state of perpetual anticipation for Shadows to be released. . Shadows picks up right where Ashes left us off. Bick doesn’t ease us into anything, but throws us right into the turmoil and action. I’ll admit, at first it was a bit disconcerting. Part of me wished I had read the handy prep guide Bick posted on her website before reading Shadows. It took me a while to reintegrate myself into the world, and Bick leaves very little room for that process. Yet, once I managed to get myself straight, the story took off. Shadows is told from multiple perspectives, all which contains parts of the picture as a whole, and a whole lot of misinformation, at least for the characters. This is part of the beauty and also a bit of the problem with Shadows. No character has the whole picture, and many are suffering from misconceptions or outright deceptions about what it going on. This gives Shadows the feel of a complicated jigsaw puzzle where someone has happened to throw in a bunch of random pieces that don’t fit. It’s a beautiful mosaic, but one that clouds the complete picture. There are some truly stunning moments in Shadows. Bick is great at utilizing the complicated psychologies of her characters. She takes bits of their past traumas and forces them into situations where they most confront them. If I was one of Bick’s characters, I would hate her for what she is putting me through. Bick also ups the gore ante. This novel is not for the feint of heart. It’s graphic, tragic and often very, very disturbing. While I had some struggles with the novel, the ending sequence is absolutely riveting. No matter how cliché it sounds, I was literally leaning forward on the edge of my car seat, with my heart pounding during the final moments of this audiobook. Shadows is a rapidly paced, mind numbing follow up to Ashes. While the plot can become disconcertingly complex at times, it is full of gore, psychological terror and some truly stunning moments. Shadows won’t conclude any story lines in anything close to a satisfying way, but it definitely sets you up for what is sure to be a crazy end to the trilogy.

So much of the fun of this audiobook is simply listening to Katherine Kellgren perform. Kellgren is one of those rare narrators that simply goes for it. Kellgren just unleashes the full fury of her voice, and it is really a sight…err… sound to behold. There were moments where she was reading the novel so fast and so furiously that you just were waiting for her to stop and try and catch her breath. Yet, despite the speed of her reading the pace was always concise and easy to follow. Kellgren creates real tension with her voice, building on the written word better than almost any other narrator I can think of. Her characterizations are always well thought out and authentic. She just simply pulls you into the world and never lets you leave. At times it actually hurt to push the pause button and return to reality. It’s been nearly half a year since I last listened to a Kellgren narration, but listening to Shadows reminds me why she gets like all the Audie nominations. The amazing thing is, the three performances I have listened to by her this year, Dreadfully Ever After, Among Others and now Shadows, are all very different books, yet they all felt like the were made for Kellgren. Now, I must stop going all fanboyish, and just end with this. Even if you don’t love Shadows, it’s worth a listen simply for the narrator’s performance. Being that I liked the novel as well, it was a double score for me.

Note: Thanks to Brilliance Audio for providing me with a copy of this title for review.



2 responses

26 10 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

Okay, so I now really want to listen to this series.

29 10 2012

I haven’t started this series yet, but your review is convincing me to check out the audio. It’s great to find narrators that make the book even better with their performance.

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