Die deutsche Rezension findet ihr hier
.The review contains spoilers about the other books.
Alex left Rule, but what waits for her outside the city doesn’t make her very happy. As soon as the doors close behind her she meets a group of Changed that attacks and kidnaps her – at least she’s still alive. For now.
Those she left behind in Rule are wondering what has happened. Chris and Jess have been attacked; the latter is in a coma. Soon, Alex is blamed, but Lena and Chris quickly find out that there’s more than you can see. It might be this knowledge that will kill them.
Things don’t look great for Peter, who has been travelling with other men, as well. After an ambush he gets kidnapped just like Alex, though not by Changed but by humans who want to find out by any means what causes the Change and how it works. It’s a fate Tom doesn’t have to share which does not mean he can settle down. Hunted, he wants to find Alex – hoping she’s not dead, yet.
“Shadows” continues where “Ashes” finished. After a chapter on Tom’s fate, it tells Alex’ tale again. In those few pages two things get perfectly clear: first, things can get really nasty in this book, too. And second, this time we don’t only get to know what’s going on wherever Alex is but also where Tom, Peter, Lena and Chris are. Their paths cross every now and then, sometimes for a long time and sometimes not. Lena and Chris for instance spent most of the time together.
This has the advantage that the pace is somewhat faster. With only one point of view, so much of the story would have been lost and a constant uncertainty about other characters’ fate would have been very frustrating – but this way we even get a hint about Ellie’s whereabouts.
So, yes, it was a good choice to some extent. We can follow the action on several places, plus we get much more information than the characters themselves and have to ask ourselves again and again what the hell is going on.
Still, there’s a disadvantage. It’s just too jumpy sometimes; it gets difficult to follow some parts of the narrative. Especially when tension rises the author chose very short chapters, sometimes not more than half a page long, to change the narrator again and again and again. This doesn’t make it more thrilling, though, it’s just annoying. In that moment, I want to know what’s going to happen, so I definitely don’t enjoy being interrupted several times by another situation, as interesting as it might be.
Furthermore, that “Shadows” is quicker than “Ashes” doesn’t mean the pace’s perfect. There are a lot of passages that simply dragged on and I found myself wondering what they are there for.
As to the characters, I didn’t think there was much improvement. They’re still strangers I can’t connect to. This is by no means the result of the fact that they have to make uncomfortable decisions. To the contrary, this was something I really liked. But I still don’t know enough about them; I don’t even care about them. The only scene I actually felt something for them is at the end and it is so unnecessary long that I soon didn’t care any longer. In the end, there was some interest about how they would end up, but that’s as far as it got.
During the course of action, we get to know some information. Not about the Change or the origin of this catastrophe, but about the background of some characters and places. Those are surprisingly few for the length of the novel, which made me wonder whether we will be left with thousands of unanswered questions after book three or whether there’ll be an over kill of information. I’m not really looking forward to either of those options. Besides, Ilsa J. Bick very much focuses on local events, which makes it impossible to solve the whole problem – except if Rule’s behind everything. That’d be rather far-fetched, though.
At the end – which I thought was weird – I wondered about what the book wanted to tell me. What’s it leading to? Is this about Rule, because this city seems to be some sort of centre of the action? Then there’d be too few details. Is it about humanity and what can happen to us, what we can become? The book indeed shows many aspects of that: cruelty, madness, desperation, (understandable) egoism, heroism and stupidity ... there’s much to be seen, and I appreciate that. But do I really need 500 pages with barely a plot? I guess those who already liked book 1 will be satisfied with book 2, too. I thought it was slightly better, but for a good book there’s just too much missing.
“Shadows” is better than “Ashes”, because the whole action gets a little bit more dynamic through several perspectives. But at some point you’re used to people being bad and the surprising facts we get to know are not enough for the length of the novel. I couldn’t identify with the characters; I don’t know enough about them. That’s why I barely cared about them, even my interest in the story got lost the further I got. Sometimes the old saying seems to be right: brevity is the soul of wit. The book could have done with a few pages less. This way, it was only an average book for me.