Earth’s few remaining normal teenagers struggle to survive in this gruesome, bloody post-apocalyptic sequel.
The world’s gone completely to hell: All nonelderly adults are dead, and most teenagers are Changed into zombielike feral children who eat humans alive. Survivors huddle into protective enclaves and protect themselves with deadly force. The cliffhanger ending of Ashes (2011)—Alex flees from the strangely religious community of Rule only to stumble into the bone-strewn larder of a pack of Changed—takes 100 pages to resolve, mostly due to the shifts in perspective to other un-Changed teenagers driving these action-packed short chapters. Alex is a prisoner of the Changed, and as they drive her through the snowy wilderness, she sees that their behavior is, disturbingly, growing less feral: They use guns, make uniforms and practice profitless cruelties. The remaining adults seem nearly as cruel, practicing Josef Mengele–style experiments and killing children to cover ancient political feuds. Sometimes it seems like the only difference is that the Changed eat their prey, devouring them in sensuously described murder and torture scenes packed with fountaining blood and festooned guts. Nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, keeping the horror appropriately unending: “And then Spider squeezed the trigger.” “The knife hacked down with a whir.” “And then, it moved.”
Plenty of mysteries and betrayals set up the trilogy’s forthcoming conclusion, which fans will eagerly await. (Horror. 14-17)