Thursday, July 4, 2013

Review: Ashen Winter (Ashfall #2) by Mike Mullin

Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Source: Stolen From Neighborhood Kid
Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Facebook

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.

I don't hand out five stars very easily anymore. Years ago, I wasn't as picky, but now it's rare to never that I find a book worthy of the 5 STAR label. It's me!

Ashen Winter is one of those few books that is so freakin' awesome it actually deserves the whole five. Have you read Ashfall, yet? If not, stop reading this review and go get it. Now.
Are you seriously still sitting there? Move your ass! Go, go!

If you're still reading this, I'm going to assume that you've already read Mike Mullin's stunning debut novel. Or possibly you're just being stubborn. 
At any rate, the first book was so good that I almost didn't want to taint it's goodness with Second Book Syndrome. You know, 1st book rocks, but the 2nd one sucks. We've all been down that disappointing road, right? Fortunately, a friend of mine's kid forced me into action. That's right, a kid made me read it. 

Here's what happened:
A month or so ago my friend's son comes over and asks me, "Miss Anne, have you read anything lately you think I'd like?". I mull it over for a second, and it occurs to me that Ashfall is one of the best books I've read (YA or otherwise) in the past year. So I say, "Logan, go get Ashfall! Now. Move your ass! Go, go!". And then, because he's not my kid, I don't think about it anymore.
Fast forward two weeks, and he shows up (uninvited) at my doorstep. Naturally, I assume the little bastard is sniffing around for baked goods, 'cause not only am I kind and caring, but I can rock some chocolate chip cookies.

Anne's Free Tip of the Day: Never let the kids in the neighborhood know you can cook. Those little fuckers are harder to get rid of than stray cats. And due to some bleeding-heart liberals, it's apparently illegal to take pot shots at children. Go figure. Then again, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around...

So was he looking for food? Well, yes. But he also told me that he loved Ashfall so much that he already read the second book. Only it sounded like this:


Lucky for me, I have kids of my own, so I was able to translate. Also lucky for me, he had it with him and offered to let me read it. Or maybe I hit him over the head with my cookie tray and snatched the book. Mwahahahahahaha! Sometimes I black out....

Anyway, was he right? Is Ashen Winter even better than Ashfall? Unbelievably, it is!

In the first book, a supervolcano in Yellowstone goes ka-boom, and the end results are freezing temperatures, a technological return to the Dark Ages, and (as an added bonus) groups of marauding cannibals. Yes, evidently if when bad people get hungry, they'll eat anyone. It's total chaos, and without any real form of government, it's each man (or woman) for themselves.

Alex was just an ordinary teenager until the ash started falling. Now he's a veteran survivor who's only goal is to find his parents. The end of the last book was so bittersweet. He and Darla finally made it to his uncle's house, only to discover that his mom and dad were out there somewhere searching for him. He agreed to stay put and help his uncle in the hopes that his parents would return.

Ashen Winter opens with Alex and Darla finding a clue to the whereabouts of his parents. They leave the relative safety of his uncle's farm on a rescue mission, and, of course, things quickly take a turn for the worse.  

Ok, Darla is undeniably my favorite character. To say the least, she's got mad skills when it comes to surviving an apocalypse. Is there anything this chick can't do? No. No there is not. She's the perfect counterbalance for Alex's soft-hearted nature. And after reading this, I will never underestimate an injured girl with a screwdriver.

That's not to say that I don't love Alex. He is such a good guy. A reallyreallyreally good guy. Unfortunately, in this kind of world, you just know his decent nature is going to cost him eventually. And it does. He makes a choice to help some people, and because he does...well, you know what they say about good deeds going unpunished.

What happened, you ask? Oh. My. God.
Nooooooooooo!MikeMullinyoubetterbekiddingwiththisshit! Suddenly it's a race against time to...

Anyhoo, Ashen Winter is an amazing ride from start to finish. I'm not doing this book justice with my crappy reviewing skills, but you're just going to have to trust me. Also, this is mature YA, so don't go out and get it for your favorite 10 year old nephew. There are lots of adult situations that include off the page rape, and fade to black sex scenes.

Oh, and ten dollars says that by the time you get done with these, your new favorite hobby will be planning which annoying neighbor to eat first!


Ning said...

Great review!! I enjoyed Ashfall, but it wasn't really my favorite. It was kind of slow and depressing and I just couldn't think of reading anymore depressing things after Ashfall. I'm still giving it a time before picking this one up!


Well, you're right. It's definitely not a fast and fluffy read. I usually prefer happy stuff,and I usually hate 'realistic' end-of-the-world stuff, but I really loved this one for some reason.

Mike Mullin said...

If your write a book like this, you even know how you're going to SEASON that annoying neighbor.

Amber Riffey said...

Amazing and accurate review. Loved the humor and sarcasm input. This series is actually my number one favorite series unfinished as of yet (and I'm what you would call a book Eater...I seriously cannot get enough of books. yum rumbly in my tummy.) But enough about me, this is a small tribute to Mike Mullin, thank you for researching this meticulously making it lifelike in the natural surroundings and human nature of a post natural disaster on a global scale.

Bea said...

Great review! I was also worried about second book syndrome and was so relieved when Mike didn't succumb. I want book three NOW!

Mike Mullin said...

Aww, thanks, Amber. It's been a lot of fun to write. I really enjoy research.

I've got about a hundred pages to go in my fourth rework of book 3, SUNRISE. Then it will go off to the tender mercies of my publisher.


I would personally love the recipe for the special 'seasoning'. Perhaps you could tack it on at the end of Sunrise? My neighbors look like they might taste a bit tough and/or gamey.

Mike Mullin said...

I went to a pig butchering party with an Argentinian butcher for precisely this reason. (Pigs are similar to humans both in anatomy and taste, but you don't get thrown in jail for making prosciutto out of them.) It was fascinating--we used sage, rosemary, habanero peppers, and about a metric ton of salt.


Oh. Yeah, of course! I was totally wanting to use the seasoning on pigs. Sure. I mean, just 'cause someone takes your parking spot and plays Guitar Hero until 3 in the morning, doesn't mean I'm planning on eating them if things go sideways. No, that's just silly...

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