The Wolves of WinterThe Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

an aftermath novel set in canada where a family protects their seeeecrets and struggles to survive in the snowy wasteland with no way of knowing the state of the wider world, the number of remaining humans, whether the sickness that kicked off the apocalypse is still a threat… the only way this book could have courted me harder would have been to have made all the survivors also be red pandas.

although endangered, we survive, wheeee!

this lists and is priced as an adult title, but there’s definitely crossover appeal for a YA audience: the POV-protagonist is a crossbow-wielding 23-year-old woman named lynne (née gwendolynn, but that’s the worst name you can have in a wilderness survival novel – it’s a long dress getting caught on things) and there’s a romance angle that’s full of complications, which is another tick in the “teens’ll dig it” column.

it’s a post-apoc survival story with a SF filling, but its closest genre-pal is the western; lone man drifts into a town of people suspicious of lone men, wounded but too manly to accept assistance until the womenfolk insist on nursing him back to health, attracting the interest of the fetching young daughter although he is aloof and taciturn and hints about his dark past and things seem to be settling into a routine until, you know, it turns out that hell followed with him. reckoning commences.

but of course in this case, the “town” is only five people (and one ‘cross the way), and the fetching young daughter is blood-related to two of the three men, so her interest in the mysterious jax is partially rooted in the serious lack of romantic or even sexual options at the end of the world. (because the one ‘cross the way is a unappealing in every possible way) and jax may not have a horse, but he does have a dog, named “wolf,” because he did not know it was a dog. and he has never tasted strawberries. which spotlights both a lack of imagination and an oddly sheltered past, but again – lynn’s not looking this gift horse in the mouth, and as it happens, jax has other attributes of the badass variety that are going to come in handy when the uneventful but safe life her family has enjoyed for seven years is compromised, secrets are exposed, lives are at risk, and the “town” is suddenly under siege in the most spectacular western-y fashion.

lynne is herself medium-badass – she’s good at killing animals with her crossbow, setting traps, and other assorted wilderness skills her late (and sorely missed) scientist father taught her. but she’s fairly sheltered herself, physically small, and she reads a lot younger than 23 on the page. a lot of it comes down to her never having been tested in particular ways, so she never had to develop certain skills, and as the book progresses, she comes more into herself, but she can be a frustrating character at times for a reader who wants her crossbow-heroine to kick ass and take names on every page.

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my one other complaint is that the ending was a little too tidy.View Spoiler »

still – it’s a fine book, and my complaints are really just the personal preferences of someone who reads a lot of stuff like this and has seen pretty much every variation on the theme. this one is particularly strong in its descriptions and atmosphere-building of the natural world; the silence of the wilderness and the isolation and just the nothingness is great. there’s a real presence to it that’s profoundly haunting. honestly, you write like that, you don’t need the bells and whistles of the world ending to flesh out a harrowing survival story. nature’s already scary enough if you’re unwary.

read my reviews on goodreads

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