14 January 2013

Review: Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter (Ashfall #2) by Mike Mullin

Published: 16 October 2012 by Tanglewood Press

Pages: 576 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Post-apocalyptic, YA

Source: Publisher for review

As the second book in the series, this review may contain spoilers.  You can read my review of Ashfall here.


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.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Ashfall, when I read it in 2011.  Mike Mullin's characters are likable and realistic, and the storyline is frighteningly plausible.  With my own hatred for winter, snow and ice, this series pretty much reflects the most frightening of apolcayptic scenarios for me.

Ashen Winter picks up a little after Ashfall ends, with Alex and Darla working on his uncle's farm, trying to survive in an ice-entombed world, where little grows and the worst sides of humanity is showing it's ugly face.  Again, I was pulled in by the characterisation of Darla and Alex, who both felt like real people, with hopes and fears for the future, as well as being perfectly matched in personality, and there were more than a few fabulously sarcastic moments.  I did have the feeling in Ashfall that the romance between Alex and Darla was a little bit insta-lovey but Mike Mullin does present it in a way that makes it more realistic as people are thrown together in exceptional, difficult circumstances they form a stronger, more intense connection to other people around them.

New characters are also introduced, and one that I particularly liked was Ben, the autistic brother of one of the girls Alex meets on his journey.  I loved the fact that Mike Mullin used an autistic character, and his research into creating Ben was very detailed and added an extra dimension to the story, whilst helping with some of the plausibility.

Ashen Winter is a non-stop ride from the first pages - as Alex and Darla search for clues to the locations of his parents, encounter some hideously twisted survivors and return to places visited in the first book, I tore through the pages, unable to put the book down because I just wanted to see what happened next.

My only (small) complaint is that at times the things that they were able to achieve without freezing to death or getting killed seemed a little unlikely.  Sure, Alex is a Taekwondo student and Darla grew up on a farm and has an inherent knowledge of machinery, but up against some of the resources of the more organised bandits, they got lucky more than a few times. 

Ashfall is a great, realistic, post-apocalyptic series, that is based on a real environmentally catastrophic possibility, without the addition of paranormal elements or technological advances, with a real focus on survival and characterisation.  Ashen Winter continues the series really well, without falling into second book syndrome, and I'll definitely be reading the next book.


  1. I loved this one too! Although a bit more than you it seems, but still you loved it, YAY! I really like how kick ass Darla is, and I love that she steps up when Alex can't. I'm really excited to see where this series goes next.

    1. Darla is an awesome character, and they are really quite perfect for each other! I like Mike Mullin's writing, it's engaging without being over-the-top and this one was so action-packed!

  2. They really should have died, mostly because Alex is a dumbass. He has no survival skills. He's smart and strong, but that does not parlay into being useful in this situation. STOP GIVING HIM GUNS.



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