Goodreads ratings
3.64 / 5

"Ashes" Summary

By Kathryn Lasky

historical fiction | 465 pages | Published in 2011

It could happen tomorrow . . .An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.Author Ilsa J. Bick crafts a terrifying and thrilling post-apocalyptic novel about a world that could become ours at any moment, where those left standing must learn what it means not just to survive, but to live amidst the devastation.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

In a post-apocalyptic world, two siblings must navigate dangerous landscapes and make difficult choices to survive.


"Ashes" by Kathryn Lasky is a historical fiction novel that takes place during the American Revolution. It is the third book in the author's "The American Revolution" series. The story follows the journey of two children, Isabel and Curzon, as they navigate the challenges and dangers of the war-torn landscape. Set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War, the novel provides a gripping and insightful portrayal of the struggles faced by individuals during this pivotal period in American history.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview and Setting

The story is set in 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. The setting is the war-torn landscape of the Thirteen Colonies, where the battle for independence is being fiercely fought. Against this backdrop, the lives of Isabel and Curzon, the two young protagonists, unfold as they grapple with the harsh realities of war and strive for their own freedom.

Main Characters

IsabelA young African-American girl who is fighting for her freedom from slavery.
CurzonA courageous young man who is determined to secure his own liberty and seek justice.

Chapter Summary


The novel opens with Isabel and Curzon seeking refuge in Valley Forge, where they encounter the harsh conditions faced by the Continental Army. As they struggle to survive, they find themselves embroiled in the chaos of war.

Chapter 1-5

Isabel and Curzon continue to face the challenges of life as they navigate through the war-torn landscape. They encounter various individuals who shape their perspectives and experiences, and they are forced to make difficult decisions in the pursuit of freedom.

Chapter 6-10

As the war rages on, Isabel and Curzon find themselves increasingly entangled in the conflict. They witness the brutality of battle and experience the devastating impact of the war on the lives of those around them. Their determination to secure their freedom is tested as they confront the harsh realities of the Revolutionary War.

Chapter 11-15

The characters' journey takes them through the treacherous terrain of the Thirteen Colonies, where they encounter both allies and adversaries. Their resilience is put to the test as they face danger and uncertainty at every turn.

Chapter 16-20

Isabel and Curzon's paths intersect with key figures in the Revolutionary War, and they become involved in the struggle for independence in unexpected ways. As they navigate the complexities of the war, they are confronted with difficult choices that will shape their destinies.

Chapter 21-25

The novel reaches a climactic point as Isabel and Curzon find themselves at a crossroads, where their loyalties and beliefs are put to the ultimate test. The stakes are higher than ever as they confront the challenges of war and strive to carve out their own destinies amidst the chaos.

Main Events

The novel is filled with significant events that shape the characters' experiences and the trajectory of the story. From their harrowing journey through the war-torn landscape to their encounters with key figures in the Revolutionary War, Isabel and Curzon are swept up in a series of pivotal moments that test their resilience and determination.

Themes and Insights


  • Freedom and Justice: The novel explores the characters' relentless pursuit of freedom and justice in the face of oppression and adversity.
  • Resilience and Survival: Isabel and Curzon's journey is marked by their unwavering resilience and determination to survive in the midst of war and chaos.
  • Identity and Belonging: The characters grapple with questions of identity and belonging as they navigate the complexities of the Revolutionary War and their own personal struggles.


The novel offers a poignant exploration of the human spirit's capacity for resilience and courage in the face of overwhelming challenges. It sheds light on the harsh realities of war and the enduring quest for freedom and justice that defines the American Revolutionary War.

Reader's Takeaway

"Ashes" offers readers a compelling and immersive portrayal of the American Revolutionary War through the eyes of two young protagonists. It provides a poignant exploration of the human experience amidst the tumult of war, and it resonates with themes of freedom, resilience, and the enduring pursuit of justice. The novel's rich historical backdrop and engaging storytelling make it a captivating read for those seeking a deeper understanding of this pivotal period in American history.


In "Ashes" by Kathryn Lasky, readers are transported to the tumultuous landscape of the American Revolutionary War, where the lives of Isabel and Curzon unfold amidst the chaos and uncertainty of war. The novel's exploration of themes such as freedom, resilience, and justice offers a compelling and insightful narrative that resonates with readers. Through its vivid portrayal of the characters' struggles and triumphs, "Ashes" provides a poignant reminder of the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity.

Ashes FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Ashes'?

    Ashes is a historical fiction novel that falls into the young adult category.

  2. Who is the author of 'Ashes'?

    Kathryn Lasky is the author of 'Ashes'.

  3. What is the setting of 'Ashes'?

    The story is set in the aftermath of the American Civil War, primarily in the South.

  4. Is 'Ashes' part of a series?

    Yes, 'Ashes' is the first book in the 'Ashes' trilogy.

  5. What is the main theme of 'Ashes'?

    The novel explores themes of resilience, survival, and the impact of war on individuals and society.