Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Posted on: May 17, 2012

ASHEN WINTER is the sequel to ASHFALL and is the second in a planned trilogy. Quite often, I have problems with the middle book in a trilogy. Usually, it serves primarily as just a bridge to get the reader from the beginning of the story to the final climax. In other words, it is usually the weakest book of the set.

If that holds true to this trilogy, the final book is going to have to be one of the best post-disaster books ever set to print! I say that because there is absolutely no sophomore slump here. ASHEN WINTER exceeded all of my expectations. Regular readers here know how much I dearly loved ASHFALL. It remains one of my all-time favorite disaster books.

As I go forward with my review of ASHEN WINTER, I guess a few spoilers for those not familiar with how ASHFALL ended are going to be inevitable. If this is a concern of yours, I’d suggest you not go forward with reading this review and instead get a copy of ASHFALL and read it first, then come on back. You have some time to do so as ASHEN WINTER won’t be available for purchase until mid-October. The publisher, Tanglewood Press, was kind enough to send me an advance copy for review.

Ok, so with all that out of the way, on to the awesomeness that is ASHEN WINTER. Our heroes, Alex and Darla, along with Alex’s sister, have been staying at Uncle Paul’s farm. Darla has been hard at work cobbling together contraptions to help ease the workload for everyone while the family tries to eke out something of a life. Alex’s parents still have not returned, having set out weeks prior to look for Alex. The love between Darla and Alex has deepened considerably and they’ve begun talking about their future.

The farm is attacked by a small group of raiders and in the aftermath, Alex discovers a clue to where his parents may be. He determines it is time to hit the road and find them. Darla insists on coming along, which is as it should be given their relationship as well as their history together. Soon after setting out though, disaster strikes and they are separated. The majority of the book covers the attempts Alex makes to find and rescue Darla, as well as his parents.

Throughout the story, we find there are large numbers of people who have turned to “flensing” to survive. Simply put, these are cannibals who prey upon living people. Gangs of flensers have set up camps and are trading with each other. We also learn how, in this new world ravaged by an unending winter, people who have seeds and the means to grow them are truly among the most wealthy. A couple hundred kale seeds are valuable enough to purchase enough supplies to outfit an entire expedition. Given how rampant scurvy has become, due to the lack of fresh greens, this does make sense.

There is a lot that happens in this book and it all takes place in a rather short period of time. The story moves along quickly and it isn’t until the last page has been turned that the reader may realize just how little “story time” has taken place. Alex is almost constantly on the move, working toward the next goal, the next step, the next leg of his journey.

As in ASHFALL, the characters here are believable and have realistic motivations for their actions. Few characters are merely cardboard cutouts or stage dressing. It is obvious the author took time to flesh them out, if only during the background phase of writing, so as we are introduced (or re-introduced in some cases) to them, they come across as real people.

Among the new faces introduced are Alyssa and Ben. Rescued from a camp, Alyssa is about Alex’s age and has been through Hell at the hands of her captors. Ben is her older brother, an autistic genius. Alyssa’s actions and dialogue in particular ring very true, given what she’s experienced since Yellowstone blew. At once both confident and vulnerable, there are times the reader may despise what she says or does, but at the same time the reader should see the reasons behind her actions.

I only have two complaints about ASHEN WINTER.

1) Darla is a wonderful character and I wish there had been more of her in the book.

2) Now I have to wait Lord knows how long until the final book in the trilogy comes out!

While the book won’t be out in the stores until October, you can preorder ASHEN WINTER from Amazon here. I couldn’t possibly recommend this book highly enough.

3 thoughts on “Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

  1. That was a very helpful review. So many reviews these days are just a quick blurb of opinion that don’t tell you anything about the book.

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