Shadows (by Ilsa J Bick)

9 11 2012

When writers set out to write trilogies or other series-books, they tend to forget that people often read other books in the period leading up to the publication of the next one in the series. Michael Grant has a tendency to forget that, Veronica Roth forgot it too…and now Ilsa J. Bick has also forgotten there are so many other books out there. So often you get that confused feeling when you start reading that second book , especially when there’s no reminder whatsoever about what happened towards the end of the previous book. That’s OK, though…if you have the book at your disposal (which lots of readers just don’t).  But if you do, you can just have a look at the last couple of pages. If not, you quickly read a few online summaries or reviews and you’re all set to go. Grant’s Gone books and Roth’s Insurgent both grabbed the cat after about 10 pages again, but Ilsa J. Bick just didn’t do that at all…not even 230 pages into the novel, when I just called it quits.

Shadows was just too damn confusing from the get go and there is one main reason for that (besides getting no heads up about what happened at the end of Ashes): the multiple points of view and the myriad of characters that are thrown at you in a short span of time. Reading Shadows is a friggin’ chore. And if there’s one thing you don’t what your book to be it’s a chore for the reader to get through. It’s completely incomprehensible that there wasn’t an editor or an assistant-editor or anyone at all who pointed this out to Bick: “hey, I think you might be losing more than half your readership here… Tone it down on the characters, or at least flesh them out a little before you let them get into the action and the gore all the frickin’ time!” As a reader you have no time to connect to any of the characters because before you know , we’re someplace else, with another character that you don’t know, don’t know what their relation to Alex – the purported protagonist – is.

Despite the fact that Ashes was clearly a book with an immense flaw (namely the entire 2nd part of the book that was set in Rule), at least what you got was a consistency in the voice. In Shadows there’s nothing of the sort. It’s just one ugly complicated confused heap of action, action and more action.  There’s hardly any sort of continuation with regards to the previous book (in terms of character development, that is) because there’s never a point in the book where I dunno…nothing happens and there’s some chance to catch your breath as a reader and to reflect on what’s going on with the main character(s). Oh, the cat is sure the action and gore scenes are pretty well written, but she just felt herself skipping them because “OK, I get it, gore, gore and more gore, let’s get on with the actual story why don’t you? Or maybe some character development, if it’s not too much to ask?”

At the end of Ashes the cat postponed her judgment, primarily because the first half of the book was absolutely stellar: great sense of place, good pacing, interesting characters. The second half seemed to have been written by a completely different writer. Unfortunately Rule and its inhabitants play an important role in Shadows and since the cat didn’t care one bit for those characters, she’ll gladly give the rest of this series a miss.

P.S. Did I mention it’s about flesh-eating zombies?

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