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.
Description taken from Goodreads
If you are familiar with the term “sophomore slump” then you know that it means that the second item in a series fails to live up to the first, whether or not it is a book or an album or a movie. And if you aren’t familiar, well I just told you, so now you know.
Ashen Winter does not fall into this category. I thought that it was leagues better then Ashfall and it really made me want to continue with the series.
Ashen Winter starts right off the bat into the story. There is little to no back-story about what happened in the previous novel, which I loved. I didn’t have to skim a few paragraphs reading what I already knew happened wanting to get to the good stuff.
The characters are ten times better. We meet the sibling duo, Alyssa and Ben, who brought an immense amount of emotion to the story. Ben has Autism (probably closer to Aspergers) and he has a great knowledge of all things military. He is the brains of most of the operations throughout the majority of this book. He was definitely my favorite character so far in this series. (A close second is Rita Mae, the Librarian).
Alyssa, Bens’ ‘Sister Unit’, reminded me a lot of Annie from the show "Copper". If you watch "Copper" than you probably know what I’m talking about. Both characters had to grow up way too fast, went through a disturbing ordeal and often still live in the horrifying past when they feel like they need to keep people close.
Alex and Darla are the same Alex and Darla. They are a tad stronger, physically and especially when they are together. Their drive to protect one another is commendable and I can finally start to believe them as a couple.
Yes, shocking, I know. Considering how much I hated their romance in the first book.
The story itself is also a lot better than Ashfall. Things actually happen throughout the book and we aren’t just reading about them traveling along the road wondering when and if they are going to starve or freeze to death. I just can’t get over the action; there is so much of it. Definitely not too much though, I found myself turning the pages as fast as I could to get to the next part.
And the ending left me wondering what the next book will be about. Is it all going to be about whether or not the winter will last? What about Black Lake? Are they going to try and overthrow that government? There are just so many directions Mr. Mullin can take the third book and I really can’t wait to read it.
There were still some things that didn’t sit right with me, but I can’t mention those because they are major spoilers. I’ll just say that there are some arguments between a couple of the characters that annoyed me. There was an alliance made that I wish was a little more fleshed out. And something BIG happens at the end that I really did not enjoy. But other than those things, I don’t really have any complaints. Was it THE book. Sadly, no. But it was really close. So, YAY for that, right?
4 out of 5 hearts
You can find my review of the first book in the series, Ashfall, right here.