Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin was such an amazing read! It was the group read for the Dystopian Reading challenge and I’m so glad it was. In April we read the first book of the series and I had every intention of continuing whether they picked it or not. For fans of dystopians or post-apocalyptic novels, you NEED this series on your TBR list. It should be your next read 😉Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
Published by Tanglewood Press on 2012-10-16
Length: 580 pages
Reviewing Paperback from My Book Shelf
It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this trilogy. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe at all during Mike Mullin‘s Ashen Winter, the second book in the Ashfall series. Like Ashfall, this book moves at a break neck speed with one bad thing happening after another. It’s been almost a year since the Yellowstone caldera blew its top and Alex is living at his uncle’s farm in Warren. His parents are still missing, scurvy is rampant, and flensers are a scary reality. When a gang of flensers arrives at the farm toting the shot gun his uncle gave Alex’s parents, Alex and Darla make plans to head back into Illinois in search of them. You know what they say about the best laid plans?!
Alex is one of my favorite male leading characters. The author has done a great job of balancing a teenage boy who has had to grow up way too soon. Alex thinks like an adult but still has the hormones of a teen. He’s a quick thinker, kind, and loyal. Despite the awful things he has witnessed so far in the series, Alex has kept his morality and his sense of decency. He cares for others and tries to do the right thing above all else. View Spoiler »However, doing the right thing is what gets him and Darla split up so I can’t help but wonder how this will affect his moral compass in Sunrise. « Hide Spoiler
The plot moves at a rapid fire pace. When I opened this review saying I didn’t breathe while I was reading it, I’m almost 100% sure that is accurate. I caught myself multiple times holding my breathe, then gasping with relief or shock. I was fully engaged with Alex’s adventures. I even caught myself hunkering down a few times like that would help him or something 😆 Alex and Darla set off to find his parents at the opening of the book. Like Ashfall, I was numb to the violence. It’s hard to imagine a life like they live. Another blogger (this was a group read for me) mentioned that it gave her The Walking Dead vibes and I whole-heartedly agree. It was one thing after another, violence begetting violence and it was all I could do to tear my eyes away.
I liked that Darla and Alex revisit several of the areas they crossed through in Ashfall. It made their journey more realistic for me. I enjoyed seeing Worthington surviving and held my breath when Black Lake resurfaced. The flenser gangs were the boogie man in the first book and reality in this one. It was horrific and I felt the author did a fantastic job of creating horror and edge of your seat action when facing the cannibal gangs. View Spoiler »At one point Darla and Alex are separated in the book. I actually enjoyed this. I know many readers may not. BUT I liked seeing Alex alone and how he handles it. He relies SO much on Darla that I was curious to see if he could actually survive without her. « Hide Spoiler
Overall I really enjoyed this installment to the series though I’ll admit not as much as the first. The violence keeps getting me. There’s so much and it is SO violent that I’m numb to it. But as I type that I believe it is an ingenious ploy of the author’s as this is how the characters are feeling as well. Brilliant!! If you enjoy post-apocalyptic, dystopia, or you’re looking for a thrilling read, I highly recommend this one.