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.
**May be some slight Ashfall spoilers. I’ll try to avoid, but read at your own risk.***
OMG. If I had to pick my top five most anticipated books of this year, Ashen Winter would definitely make the list. I loved Ashfall so much it was absurd…after all, what’s not to love? Supervolcanoes! Bandits! Post-apocalyptic road trip! So needless to say when I saw that Ashen Winter was available through ATWT I pounced on it like a puma. And I am happy to say that I was definitely not disappointed. AT ALL. Quite the opposite, in fact. I liked this one even more than I did Ashfall.
This book begins several months after the events of Ashfall, and the action starts right away. I think it was like page seven or nine or something and I was already white knuckled. And then Alex and Darla get back on the road in search of Alex’s parents and shit really goes down. As distressing and action-packed as the last book was, this one ups the ante drastically. It’s almost too much at times – it’s like there’s no break, no time for the reader to catch his or her breath. Almost too much. But not quite, because I was loving every minute of it. I was basically doing the book equivalent of covering my eyes and peeking through my fingers.
In Ashfall, I loved Darla. She’s so strong and smart and useful. And as much as I thought she was an amazing character, I just thought Alex was ok. Don’t get me wrong, he was certainly likeable enough and he had his moments where he kicked ass, but he was somewhat in Darla’s shadow in my opinion. In Ashen Winter, Alex finally steps out of her shadow and becomes a badass himself. I was glad to see it. He does have moments where he’s almost too reckless and causes more trouble for them than anything, but he really grows as a character in this book and comes into his own.
This is definitely shaping up to be one of my favorite series. It’s not for the faint of heart – there’s plenty of scary stuff like cannibalism, murder, rape (implied, no actual scenes where it takes place), human slave trade, internment camps, starvation, and any number of horrifying things. In fact, I found myself actually getting creeped out more than once, especially when reading it after dark. Basically, it’s how I imagine life would be in a bleak post-apocalyptic world where people have to struggle just to survive.
And this is just a personal thing – I would like to thank Mike Mullin for writing a YA book that actually deals with the issue of safe sex. I feel like so often this is an afterthought in YA books and this one really addresses the issue that condoms are vital and pregnancy would have immense consequences (even more immense than usual, considering the state of the world).
It ends on a major cliffhanger that has me wanting the next book noooooow. I can’t wait to see how this trilogy wraps up, although I will be very sad to see the end. Mike Mullin has created a series that I genuinely enjoy reading.