Monday, March 17, 2014

Review: Ashen Winter - Mike Mullin

Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
Series: Ashfall Trilogy #2
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic
Published on October 16, 2012
Published by Tanglewood Press
Pages: 576
Read From: 3.6.14 - 3.9.14

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 dark, cold, and primitive world. 

It's also been six months of waiting for Alex's parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they 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. 
With the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? The continued simplicity and themed covers are a great plus for me. I love the cover art; I only wish my love for the series could extend to Ashen Winter.

Characters: Ah, what to say about our beloved protagonists? Not much. In Ashfall, I liked Alex relatively well. He was funny, he was resourceful, and he had a kind heart. His resourcefulness and kindness continues in Book #2, but I no longer cared whether or not he lived or died. Why? I don't really know - I just no longer cared. I tried, but I didn't. And the same goes for Darla, though my indifference morphed something akin to actual dislike with her. Darla was strong and practical in Ashfall. She had a sharp tongue, but it never felt like The Attitude; it just somehow fit her. In Ashen Winter, I got tired of it real quick. She snapped at everyone, was always crossing her arms, and was ready to be offended by everything anyone said. Enough already, Darla - you don't have to always have the tough act. I really didn't like Alyssa, with her clingyness, shrieking, and slutty behavior. I don't care if selling her body was how she survived the cannibals - I got tired of her always trying to force herself on Alex. And she also came with Ben, her autistic brother. I am going to sound really horrid for a moment, and I don't mean to offend or diss anyone, so please don't take it that way. Retarded characters slow books down - they just do. Ben was useful, and he wasn't severely autistic, but every time he started having a fit, or even when he talked, I felt nothing but annoyance. The fits always came at a very inopportune moment, and when he talked it was like having Data from Star Trek along with them. I don't like Data. Don't get me started on Alex's parents, either. They just slowed things down, too.

The Romance: I guess we're supposed to assume that Darla and Alex's relationship is a mature one because they spend so much time hunting for condems so Darla doesn't get pregnant and bring a child into a devastated world. Oh my gosh, how hard is it to keep one's trousers on?! You guys are living in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster ever and you're seriously thinking about sex?! That's all that the romantic relationship boils down to: finding condems so Alex and Darla can sleep together. And while Alyssa doesn't really create a love triangle, Alex does have a hard time resisting her charms. Y'know, he loves Darla, but his body needs to be satisfied . . . . *roll eyes*

Plot: It's been six months after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted, plunging the world into the Dark Ages. Alex and Darla have been living at his uncle's farm, trying to survive a bitter winter growing kale and salvaging whatever they can find. But when a gang of men called flensers - cannibals and human traffickers - attack the farm, Alex discovers evidence of where his parents might be. Together, he and Darla set out to track them down and bring them back to the relative safety of Warren. But the dangers they faced six months ago in the trek to Alex's uncle's farm have only increased. Not only do they have to dodge the FEMA soldiers and their refugee camps, but gangs of flensers as well, who would turn Alex into a side of meat and sell Darla to men for company. When Darla and Alex become separated, Alex has to pull on his last reserves of strength to not only rescue her, but his parents as well. With cannibals wandering around, Ashen Winter should have be awesome. It wasn't. Half of the book is essentially a retelling of Ashfall. Long hours of trekking through snow, hunkering against bitter winds, dodging hostile towns and FEMA soldiers, foraging for food, losing supplies, finding supplies, losing them again, and getting injured in every possible way without any of it actually being fatal. Seriously - the number of injuries in this book was ridiculous. Survival is always interesting, but even I got really tired of reading about the same old stuff over and over and over. Especially when Alex gets into a lot of scrapes due to his own rash actions and stupidity. When Alex actually has to face down the flensers, Ashen Winter starts to get a little more interesting. But what ends up happening is a ton of peril and build up that doesn't go anywhere. It maintains that high, suspenseful note for a long, long time, but . . . . nothing really happens. Boring!

Believability: And this is where I still have to give the Author props. He has believable survivalist skills, injuries, and endurance. Is it bad that I feel a grudge, having to give the Author props on anything with this book?

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Because I no longer care about Alex, I got tired of his narration voice. Very. Quickly.

Content: 12 s-words, 4 g--damns. Alex and Darla grope each other, Alyssa and Alex grope each other, other people grope Alyssa. There's a very intense torture scene. I was squirming the entire time.

Conclusion: Care chases - I refer to the above Moriarty picture to express my feelings about this. There's a way to do car chases; this isn't how. The end was climatic, but somehow it just made me yawn. What a disappointment. I did like Ashfall, but I had doubts about a sequel ever since finishing it. Ashfall dragged; how could a sequel be anything but dull? Not only that, but I ceased to care about anyone! I'm really not looking forward to slogging through Book #3 - Sunrise.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, nineteen-and-up.

Others in This Trilogy:
2)Ashen Winter

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