Earc courtesy of netgally and MIRA
Awakening in a bleak landscape as scarred as her body, Cass Dollar vaguely recalls surviving something terrible. Wearing unfamiliar clothes and having no idea how many days – or weeks – have passed, she slowly realizes the horrifying truth: Ruthie has vanished. And with her, nearly all of civilization. Where once-lush hills carried cars and commerce, the roads today see only cannibalistic Beaters – people turned hungry for human flesh by a government experiment gone wrong. In a broken, barren California, Cass will undergo a harrowing quest to get her Ruthie back. Few people trust an outsider, let alone a woman who became a zombie and somehow turned back, but she finds help from an enigmatic outlaw, Smoke. Smoke is her savior and her safety. For the Beaters are out there. And the humans grip at survival with their trigger fingers. Especially when they learn that she and Ruthie have become the most feared and desired, of weapons in a brave new world...
The main character, Cass has not always been good or heroic. She is a recovering alcoholic who still struggles to beat her addiction. The one light of her life that gets her through is her daughter Ruthie, who has been taken away from her, first by her mother and stepfather and now due to the zombie apocalypse. Sorry, not zombies but beaters (or body eaters). This book is her journey to recover her daughter. And what a journey! While the main plot is a deeply personal struggle, both with her past and current circumstances, there is a well thought out and realised world set after the worst has happened. Some people band together to help each other, some create a new religion, others tough it out on their own, some want to rebuild, while others take advantage. Each situation is explored and the plot never lacks for pace or adventure.
There is plenty of action and violence with the beaters chewing on flesh throughout, but this is balance by the love of Cass for Ruthie and her increasing faith in Smoke, the guy who helps guides her on her journey. There is some real heart and emotion in this story and the world feels so real with each person reacting differently to their circumstances. I felt like you can see the whole gambit of humanity – both good and bad. I was enthralled throughout and at the end I wanted to get my hands on more. I was delighted to find out that this was the first in a planned trilogy as although there is a satisfying ending I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Cass and Storm – or the Aftertime world. More please!
Recommended for fans of Nancy Holzner and Mira Grant. 9 out of 10.