Thursday, August 22, 2013

More Left Behind than Just Fire and Ash

Benny, Nix, Chong, Lilah, and Riot have been in our lives for three years now. They have loved, lost and survived. But most of all, they have grown into strong, fabulous individuals who aren't ready to lose their world to the zombies or the evil people who still live and breath but bring just as much death as the zombies. In Jonathan Maberry's conclusion, Fire and Ash, we see a bunch of kids who are no longer children. They have accepted the responsibility of their world and are not about to give up like so many of the world's adults have. 

When they found the plane, Benny and the others thought they had found all the answers to saving the world. They were wrong. They almost died. They were saved by Joe Ledger. Brought to Sanctuary where the monks believe the zoms are the meek who shall inherit the earth and the scientists who don't leave their bunker, the group hoped a cure would be on its way, but things are more complicated than that. The material collected from the plane is incomplete, and without the final documents, it is impossible to see where the original doctors were going with their experiments. But there are bigger problems afoot than the lack of a cure. The zoms are changing. They have evolved. Something has happened and now there are zoms who are really fast, really strong, and scariest of all, those who can think, reason, plan, and even use tools to get what they want: fresh meat. 

While the people at Sanctuary are hoping for a cure, Saint John and the reapers are hoping to play out their final leg of armageddon. They want to kill every living person on earth and final rejoice in the death of all. Saint John doesn't have to rely on faithful followers joining his ranks. When faced with slow, painful death or joining the reapers, the choice usually isn't that difficult to make. Now with tens of thousands of reapers and at least twice as many zoms controlled by the reapers, they are marching from civilization to civilization to exact their final plan. What Saint John and his followers didn't expect, however, were a group of kids who might be underestimated frequently, but are never underestimated twice. 

Loving a series is a special experience. You grow to count on the next book being released for another connection to the characters you love. You wait with baited breath to find out the conclusion to the world you have loved for so long. And when that conclusion comes, it is terribly bittersweet. You know it is the end, but you are so happy to see how it ends. This was my relationship with Maberry's Rot and Ruin series. I absolutely loved this series, and for me, this was the most perfect conclusion. I find myself stunned by the conclusion and yet so happy with it that I feel the need to thank Maberry for bringing such an amazing ending into such a hopeless world. As with the rest of the series, you will have some heartache and people you love will be sacrificed to the Ruin, but overall, you know that this is the way it has to be. We grieved with the loss of Tom Imura, but we also knew the rest would carry on his legacy. In Fire and Ash, we experienced triumph and loss simultaneously. 

The transformation of the characters from start to finish of the series is one of the more dramatic and more realistic of the YA series out there. What was most interesting to me was how over the execution of the series, the zombies essentially became the backdrop to an incredibly rich, well-developed character driven story with deeper rooted evils than just the walking dead. This is the work of a master who knows there is more to the story than just the obvious. I have had great success in giving this series to students who are reluctant readers because there is more to it than just mindless chomp and chew. So, in all, I couldn't think of a better execution of Benny's story. I am incredibly sad to see this series go, (and I am not afraid to beg to see it continue!) but I loved the way Maberry ended the world I grew to love. And if you are an overall Maberry friend, you will be very excited to see an old friend, Mr. Joe Ledger!

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