Ashen Winter is the fantastic sequel to Ashfall. Ashfall dealt with the aftermath of the supervolcano in Yellowstone blowing it’s top, and the ash cloud spreading east. Alex, at home in Iowa when the waves of concussions hit (his parents were in Wisconsin, a neighboring state, visiting his uncle and aunt at their farm). The rest of that story details how he travelled, on foot, through the ash, snow and cold, as the ash began to block out the sun and the long winter began. He endured many travails and trials, becoming stronger and more adult as the time went on. While on the road he hooked up with Darla, a genius mechanic girl, 17 to his 15, and together they braved internment camps, bandits, and just plain desperate people who would do anything to survive in a country where anarchy was on the loose. Warning!! SPOILER about Ashfall: He made it to the farm finally, but found his mother and father had left his younger sister there, and set out to go back to Iowa and find him. So Ashen Winter deals with his and Darla’s struggle to go back and find his parents. The world has sunk further into anarchy and flenser gangs on the the rise, gangs that kidnap girls and use them as prostitutes or slaves, and then “flense” or carve the skin away, leaving the meat of a person for eating. They have become cannibals. He meets up with old friends, new camps, and worse villains than ever before, and adds two new people to his party as he searches for his family. Gripping, raw, intense, and not for the squeamish or faint at heart, this story of a young man’s determination to save those around him, despite the cost to himself, is worth the read. I had put off starting it, thinking it couldn’t be that great, sequels rarely measure up, etc. I had been in the grip of a Matt Reilly reread, and still wanted action. Well I got that in spades. Hoping another book is on the way.
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