Book Report: Our highly scientific analysis of a book, from the characters to the writing style to the swoon. See More...

And The Sky Is A Hazy Shade Of Winter

A review of Mike Mullin's Ashen Winter, in which we discover the sad fact that whole families can be torn apart by something as simple as an apocalypse.

And The Sky Is A Hazy Shade Of Winter

BOOK REPORT for Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

Cover Story: I'll Never Let Go, Jack
BFF Charm: Still Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: Blow By Blow
Bonus Factors: Safe Sex, An Apocalypse, Scary, Scary Individuals
Relationship Status: This Book and I Run Daily Apocalypse Drills

Cover Story: I'll Never Let Go, Jack

This cover is nicely chilling, simple, and stark. It also totally represents the story.

The Deal:

This is the second book in the Ashfall series.  Check out my review of the first.

Alex and Darla are as happy as a young couple living in a post-apocalyptic world, working on Alex's uncle's farm could be. But that's before bandits attack, and Alex discovers that one of the bandits has the rifle his dad carried, when his parents set off looking for him. So, of course, Alex's hero complex strikes yet again, and he decides he HAS to go looking for his Mom and Dad. And, of course, Darla goes with him. And, of course, things get real, real bad.

BFF Charm: Still Yay!

Of COURSE I still love Alex and Darla. EVEN THOUGH I wanted to strangle Alex for his heroic impulses on MULTIPLE occasions!!!!!!! I mean, REALLY! Just PAUSE and think things through, Alex! My blood pressure can't take it! Ahem.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

I love how realistic Alex and Darla's relationship is -- under the circumstances. It might seem too mature, if they weren't trying to survive a volcanic winter after the end of the world, but that sort of experience tends to mature a person. Mullin also keeps things feeling real with silly banter and awkward jokes. There's something so touching about moments where Alex is trying to make Darla smile, and knows he's making an idiot of himself while he's doing it.

I also have to give kudos to Mullin for writing a believable interaction that some might consider cheating, but which I felt was actually quite sweet, and cemented in my mind Alex's commitment to Darla.

Talky Talk: Blow By Blow

I mean this both literally and figuratively. Mullin writes in such detail as things happen, but it also feels like you're taking a beating as you read. Because OH MY GOD, the stress. This book should probably be put in an apocalypse survival pack, because it has step-by-step instructions on how to do lots of things -- described to us as the characters figure out how to solve problems. So, you could probably learn a lot from this book. Also, it kills you, when you just want them to gas up the truck and get away from the flensers already, but it takes a DAY to dig out the propane tank!!!!!!!

Bonus Factor: Safe Sex

Hurray for a portrayal of teens who think ahead! And three cheers for condoms! Which should also be included in an apocalypse survival pack.

Bonus Factor: An Apocalypse

There's not much I love more than a good apocalypse, but MAN can they be stressful! I mean, sometimes just even talking about what we'd do in the event of an apocalypse causes some major marital issues in my house, because my husband's unwavering plan would be to set out from Texas and travel all the way to Maine to try to save his family, which, of course, is the MOST CLASSIC MISTAKE of all classic mistakes. I however, would want to stockpile pick-axes and shovels, find the safest nearby location, and start building windmills and growing food. Obviously these two plans don't work together, but I guess the good news is that (hopefully) only an apocalypse could break us up.

Bonus Factor: Scary, Scary Individuals

What could be scarier than the above image?  Well, not a lot.  However, I mentioned flensers in the Talky Talk section above, and won't go into detail about so you can find out for yourselves, but let me tell you this: it's scary to think how quickly some people would devolve into monsters during a time of hardship. And if you don't believe me, watch this.

Casting Call:

I stand by my initial casting choices:

Saoirse Ronan as Darla

Alex Esmail as Alex

Relationship Status: This Book and I Run Daily Apocalypse Drills

Yeah, we're serious. We've got our stockpile of canned goods, our water purifier, our tools, gas masks, and extra blankets. Some people might ridicule us now, but this book and I are going to be PREPARED. Plus, there's a chance we're going to be featured on an episode of Doomsday Preppers. So there's that.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from the author. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!). Ashen Winter is available today.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
K