Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wake Me Up When Winter Is Over...

Expected Publication:  October 16th, 2012
Ashen Winter (Ashfall # 2)
By: Mike Mullins
Tanglewood Press
ISBN-13: 9781933718750

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.

     When we left Alex and Darla at the end of Ashfall, they had finally made it to his Uncle's farm only to find out that Alex's parents had already left to find him shortly before they got there.  This book picks up six months later and his parents still haven't returned to the farm.  When they are attacked by a bandit who has gun that belonged to Alex's Dad, they decide to get any information they can and follow a trail that will (hopefully) lead them to his parents.  They thought it was bad when they were out on the road before, but in the last six months things have only gotten worse.  Food is scarce, some of the surviving factions have turned cannabalistic, the weather is twice as brutal and morality has pretty much been thrown out the window with slavers snatching people up to make a profit.  When Darla is shot and kidnapped, it's up to Alex to rescue his parents from the government camp where they're prisoners and prevent Darla from suffering a fate worse that anything they could imagine.  I was truly looking forward to this one since the moment I finished Ashfall, which I thought was probably the best dystopian book I read this year (that was published in 2011).  Darla is still a very strong and rational balance for Alex's less thought-out and more emotional actions/schemes.  I liked that they finally decided to go after his parents, but I was mad that Darla was gone for almost half of the book's main narrative.  Her kidnapping did provide a lot of pivotal action for the plot though, and Alex's struggle to get her back kept things moving along.  I liked the inclusion of Alyssa (a desperate teen girl, forced into prostitution to protect her autistic brother) and Ben, her brother who has high-functioning autism.  How would such a thing be handled during the apocalypse?  Mullins gives a very respectful and realistic look at the possible answers to this question.    One of the things that really irked me were the way Alex's parents treated him like some helpless kid who had been playing video games through the apocalypse and was too stupid to take care of himself/understand danger.  Seriously?  He'd been separated from them for SIX FREAKING MONTHS!  What, did they think the stork took him back while they were gone and took care of him again?  Puh-lease.   Also, the way Alyssa persisted in trying to seduce Alex while Darla was missing and she knew he was taken, plus she'd basically been raped repeatedly and completely traumatized rang very false.  It also made her come across as a mercenary, unsympathetic whore (at least to me personally).  The non-stop action with no even pacing also got on my nerves.  I felt like things were constantly being thrown at me and I should take notes or something.  It lacked balance.  I liked this book overall and felt that it managed to escape the sophmore slump of most second books in trilogies.  But it wasn't nearly as good as the first book.  I will be eagerly awaiting the third book though, to see what happens next! :)
VERDICT:  3.25/5  Stars
*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is October 16th, 2012*

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