I blogged on Mike Mullin’s debut novel Ashfall in April, and I have been anticipating the release of the sequel Ashen Winter ever since. In Ashfall a supervolcano erupted under Yellowstone National Park and sixteen year old Alex sets off on an odyssey from his home in Iowa to find his family in Illinois. The ash has destroyed the plants, killed the livestock (from breathing the ash), and poisoned the water. In Ashfall some people are kind, and Alex meets Darla who will become the love of his life. Ten months on in Ashen Winter people’s desperation is growing. No summer came, possibly presaging the beginning of an unbelievably long and cold volcanic winter. Stored food is running out, and the last supplies of necessities we take for granted like antibiotics and gasoline are also running out. Alex struggles to stay true to the values he didn’t even know he had. In a world full of human cruelty and even cannibalism he wants to save everyone who is innocent. Even his previously mild, spineless father resorts to violence leading Alex to think, “The disaster had warped the landscape of our minds – perhaps even more than it had altered the physical landscape.”
Ashen Winter is as dark as Ashfall and goes at the same breakneck pace. The problems of survival are just as intense, and the characters continue to change and grow in a believable way. I find some apocalyptic books, movies or TV series fascinating in the beginning as the characters deal with how to survive their disasters. Then too many of them descend into soap opera, where the story centers around who is hooking up with whom, rather than who will actually be able to survive to be able to hook up with anyone.
Like its predecessor Ashen Winter is an apocalyptic read that is a good choice for both older teens and adults. It may be too violent and disturbing for younger teens. Try it if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or older apocalyptic titles such as On The Beach or even less well known books like Monument 14.
Ashen Winter was so eagerly anticipated that it had a Blog Tour before its official release date. One blog, My Reading Room, had an interview with Mike Mullin. When asked who is his favorite character in Ashen Winter, Mike Mullin replied “I love Rita Mae, because, well, she’s a librarian.” For a librarian, obviously this is the best answer he could give and shows his good sense and taste!
Check the WRL catalog for Ashen Winter