Novel Review: Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

I was pretty luck to come across Ashfall last year (see review here). When I found Ashen Winter on NetGalley, you better believe I scooped it up. 🙂 So the blurb:

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 series. 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.

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One of the things I loved most about Ashen Winter is the emotional connection between the characters. I could really feel the love. It was more than just lip service. The love was shown in actions even to the point of sacrifice.

The realism in this work was awesome. Alex is a perfect example. He’s a kid, and most kids know very little about survival. Despite going through hell in Ashfall, Alex is still pretty much clueless most of the time, and it shows. My boy Alex had a heroic complex. Problem with his heroism was he usually puts himself and everyone around him in danger.

Usually it’s an insult to say a character is too stupid to live. Okay… it’s still an insult. 🙂 But in the case of Alex, even he recognized it. Some of his choices infuriated me. Yet at the same time, most wouldn’t have even survived what he’d survived. Alex did the best he could with the limited knowledge he had.

I’ve seen some authors counter their character’s stupidity with unbelievable luck. Mike Mullin had enough respect for the reader not to play the coincidence game. When Alex screwed up, people suffered, people got hurt, people died.

What about the other characters? Darla was sensible to the point of being a major drag. But after dealing with the consequences of Alex’s actions, sensible would have been great for them. 🙂 After awhile, I started to miss Darla’s innovation. One thing for sure, she’s a tough chickadee.

Mom and Dad also made an appearance. I didn’t like them. They were no-nonsense in a scary way. Really, they were the kind of parents who frustrate children until the kid yells, “You never listen to me!” I wanted to throttle them at times. Yet I couldn’t deny they were parents through and through. Unfortunately for them, Alex had grown too much to be treated like a child. Despite all the stupid decisions Alex made, I was thankful he manned up to his parents and did the right thing.

Anyway, Ashen Winter was even better than Ashfall. This book was harsh, gritty, and at times it brought tears to my eyes. Other times it had me dying laughing. I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. 5 star read.