Fire & Ash

This is the fourth and final book in Maberry’s gritty, enthralling Rot and Ruin series and you’ll need to read the others first.

It marks the end of the journey for Benny Imura and his friends across the zombie-infested wasteland known as the Rot and Ruin. They’ve finally found the mysterious jet whose flight led them out here, away from their homes. Having arrived at the military base known as Sanctuary, they find hope of a cure to the plague that brings the dead back to life. But the Night Church cult, an army of fanatics led by the chilling sadist, Saint John, are intent on finishing what the zombie apocalypse began, ushering in the end of human life. Rather than the zombies, these are the true villains of the piece. As if this wasn’t enough, the questionable motives and behaviour of the military personnel at Sanctuary and the fatalistic monks who tend the dying – and believe the zombies are the meek who are destined to inherit the earth – all conspire to ensure Benny and his friends continue to face one trial after another.

Maberry’s writing is engaging and compelling throughout, with convincing characters, complicated relationships, fast-paced narration, lively dialogue, gripping action and moments of shivery horror. There are times when some of the characters wallow in speechifying that detracts from the narration, becoming too long and drawn out, especially given some of the situations they face. And, as with the previous book, their sympathy for the zombies – after they’ve fought them in their droves over a period of months – is a nice touch, but feels forced and overdone at times. On one hand we know the trauma the kids have endured has left them hardened, while we’re still asked to believe that they endanger their own lives as they hesitate, pitying the dead who attack them. There is also a practical issue I’d have with the execution of the climactic scene, but it would spoil the ending and this is too good a series to quibble about little details.

Fast, thrilling and action-packed, this is still a thoroughly thoughtful horror epic with characters who’ll draw you deep into the story. Highly recommended for anyone of 12+.