Fire and Ash (Benny Imura #4) by Jonathan Maberry
Published: 13 August 2013 by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 537 (paperback)
Genre/s: Young Adult, Zombie
Source: Own library
Benny Imura and his friends have made it to Sanctuary, they've found the jet and they've discovered that civilization is struggling to regain its foothold in the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse. Scientists are on the verge of finding a cure for the zombie plague. It should be time for celebration, but it's not. Benny's best friend, Chong, has been infected by an arrow dipped in the flesh of a zombie and he hovers between life and death and Dr McReady, a researcher who may have the critical formula for a cure, has gone missing. So Benny convinces Captain Ledger to mount a search and rescue mission to find the doctor and help Chong. But with the Reapers still pursuing their plan to turn all zombies into super-fast shock troops even if they can save Chong, can they save themselves? In the fourth book of the thrilling and emotionally charged Rot & Ruin series, the battle to end all battles is about to begin...
Straight after finishing the third book in the Benny Imura series, Flesh and Bone, I started reading Fire and Ash. It's quite rare that I binge read a series anymore - blogging tends to make it a bit too much of a balancing act, but once I had the momentum going, I really wanted to find out how this series ends.
As with the other books, Fire and Ash picks up pretty much immediately where the prior book left off. Benny, Lilah, Nix and their new friends, Riot, Eve and Joe, have found Sanctuary, where monks tend to the humans dying of diseases that would have been easily cured prior to first night, but the scientists are isolated from the survivors. This in itself poses an interesting question because more people are dying of disease than being bitten and rising from the dead - how quickly and severly would diseases such as TB, cholera and typhiod decimate survivors in any apocalyptic scenario once the stockpiled medicines and treatments run out?
I have mentioned previously that all the Benny Imura books follow a similar formula - what I didn't realise until reading Fire and Ash are that books one and two are closely linked, as are three and four - but the transition between books two and three is actually the biggest directional change in the whole series. This helps break up the feeling of rinse and repeat, and also allows more room to expand on the two major scenarios of this series.
The major introduction in Flesh and Bone is the religious zealots who believe that murder of the human race is the only answer to the zombie problem - and in Fire and Ash their intentions are really notched up a level - in both books I had a macabre fascination with them, but particularly in Fire and Ash I was shocked at the lengths they were willing to go to in the name of their cause.
Relationships continue to develop and change as they did in Flesh and Bone, but in particular, Benny and Nix begin to reevaluate their relationships as adults rather than teenagers, and are incredibly mature and measured in their approach. For me, this is the biggest arc in the growth of the characters - a theme that began with book one and ends perfectly in book four. Looking back and realising how the characters have grown, changed and adapted both physically and emotionally is bittersweet but also a great example of how Maberry can develop characters from immature teens into independent young adults.
I was once again excited to see Joe Ledger reappear in Fire and Ash and take on a far more pivotal role. By doing this, Maberry has also got me excited to continue the Joe Ledger series itself - I was reminded of how much I enjoyed Joe as a character as well as being curious as to whether the tie-in runs in both directions. Joe is an extra bonus for Maberry fans, but it's definitely not necessary to have read the Joe Ledger series to appreciate him as a character.
Fire and Ash is pretty much non-stop action, and it definitely kept me entertained all the way through. The fight scenes are particularly intense in relation to the rest of the series, and it also reflects again the growth and evolution of the characters.
The reason behind the zombie plague is touched upon for the first time in Fire and Ash, and there is also a lot more delving into the long-term plans of the survivors and the science that started to emerge in Flesh and Bone is finally explained in greater detail, and it makes for fascinating reading.
I'm quite sad to say goodbye to Benny, Nix, Lilah and Chong, but I really enjoyed the journey I took with them, and seeing them grow. This is a series that has it all for zombie lovers - there's lots of new zombie ideas, great characters and action scenes that keep all the books flowing but without sacrificing some of the other aspects of the storyline.