15 July 2013

Review: Thunder and Ashes by Z.A. Recht

Thunder and Ashes (Morningstar Strain #2) by Z.A. Recht

Published: 21 April 2008 by Permuted Press

Pages: 304 (paperback)

Genre/s: Zombie, Post-Apocalyptic

Source: Own library

As the second book in the series, this review may contain spoilers for the first book.


A lot can change in three months: wars can be decided, nations can be forged... or entire species can be brought to the brink of annihilation. The Morningstar Virus, an incredibly virulent disease, has swept the face of the planet, infecting billions. Its hosts rampage, attacking anything that remains uninfected. Even death can't stop the virus-its victims as cannibalistic shamblers. Scattered across the world, embattled groups have persevered. For some, surviving is the pinnacle of achievement. Others hoard goods and weapons. And still others leverage power over the remnants of humanity in the form of a mysterious cure for Morningstar. Francis Sherman and Anna Demilio want only a vaccine, but to find it, they must cross a countryside in ruins, dodging not only the infected, but also the lawless living. The bulk of the storm has passed over the world, leaving echoing thunder and softly drifting ashes. But for the survivors, the peril remains, and the search for a cure is just beginning...

My Thoughts

I'm always a little wary of the second book in a trilogy, but reading Thunder and Ashes was a bit different than normal.  Although The Morningstar Strain is a trilogy, this is the last book in the series fully written by Z.A. Recht (the third one is partly ghost-written) and I've read it several years ago, so I was pretty much aware of what I was getting myself into.

The first book in the series, Plague of the Dead, is very much about establishing the characters, the virology and the collapse of the world in the wake of a zombie apocalypse.  Thunder and Ashes focuses more on just a few particular events, and how the remnants of the human race are faring as they try and survive.  There are goodies, baddies and several characters that cross the line between one 'side' and the other, but it does lack further character development. 

One thing that I did find very frustrating was that in the last book characters made mistakes because of emotional reactions which was realistic, however in Thunder and Ashes they made stupid mistakes that I couldn't understand - going into a town that obviously has seen some bad shit go down just to 'check it out' isn't something I would expect from a group of highly trained military.

In Thunder and Ashes, some of the characters that appear to be key characters in the first book start to fall into the background which is a shame, but the others start to really establish themselves as leaders, fighters and hardcore survivors.  There is a continuation of the focus on the military and the search for a cure, with both plot lines crossing into each other constantly.

Like Plague of the Dead, there are a lot of action scenes, and all of them exceedingly well-written with some heart-stopping moments as things hang in the balance, daring rescues take place and the defence of pockets of survivors take top priority.   Although there are action scenes in the first book, in this one the stakes feel infinitely higher and more personal, which I really enjoyed.

As a 'middle' book, it's not a bad book, but there were some disappointments for me in the character development, and although the pace is frenetic it didn't really feel like events were particularly moving forward.  However, this is definitely a book for post-apocalyptic and zombie fans and a good continuation of the series.


  1. Happy to see that even though this one wasn't perfect for you, you were able to enjoy it overall. I find myself frustrated with characters actions quite a bit in post apoc. books, they always seem to be doing something stupid that makes no sense just to make the book interesting *sigh*

  2. I read this one a long time ago. I should probably re-read it myself before reading the last but I do remember wondering why some seemingly important characters front eh first book weren't in this one. I was hoping it all came together int he third.

  3. Again... YAY! :)

    I definitely agree with you that Recht decided to forego character development in lieu of higher action, however, I was quite pleased with the sequel, myself. As I've commiserated with you before, I liked it so much better than the finale. And I will say this... I think while Recht took the spotlight away from some key players in the first book, he did allow others to shine here (i.e. - Stiles). I liked the idea of the two parties (East coast and West coast) not only fighting for their survival, but fighting for a way to meet up. Definitely a decent follow-up, but like you, the first was the best in this series for sure.



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