Sunday, 25 March 2018

REVIEW - THE WOLVES OF WINTER BY TYRELL JOHNSON

Title: The Wolves Of Winter
Author: Tyrell Johnson
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Mystery
Publisher: Scribner, Story HQ, Harpercollins UK
Release Date: 2nd January 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.


PURCHASE LINKS

REVIEW
To be totally honest I originally thought just from the title that this would be a shifter book, but I was totally wrong there though when I read the blurb I decided I still really wanted to read this one. I loved a good post apocalyptic read. I also enjoy reading debut authors so had to give this one a go.

The cover shows a bleak landscape with lots of snow on the ground and snow falling too. There are thin spindly trees featured on the cover. I love the bold style of the title as well as blocky effect of the font and how it dominates the book cover. The "I" in winter is also replaced by a lonely figure walking in snow, which when you read the book you just know the figure is the main character of Lynn McBride.

The genre's I have seen listed for this book are Sci-Fi, Dystopian, and Mystery which I totally agree with but I would also definitely add post apocalyptic. The other sub genres that are featured are climate change, genetics and virus. After reading the book I would be tempted to add futuristic too. 

This book is set in a bleak future where war has decimated the world and its population, and where a flu virus created on American soil has killed off many people both intended in Asia and unintended back in America along with the weather going kind of crazy makes the world a harsher place to live. Where the climate is warmer the flu is more virulent so naturally some people opt to move to cooler climates even if this means a harsher, more difficult style of living. One family that has made this difficult move is that of Lynn McBride. Lynn lives with her only surviving parent, her mother, her older brother Ken who treats her more like a friend/buddy than his younger sister. Also in their family group is Jeryl, Lynn's Uncle on her dads side of the family. Jeryl has become the leader of their group and father figure since her own father died.  Last but not least is Ramsey, the son of John-Henry, best friend to Jeryl. When John-Henry died it seemed only natural for Jeryl to take in Ramsey.

The book starts with the 26 year old Lynn discovering one of her traps has been triggered yet is empty and surrounded with blood. Lynn immediately presumes one of three things has happened. One, The animal could have gotten loose, Two, Wolves had gotten to the animal caught in her trap or Three, the most likely explanation is that Anthony Conrad had stolen her kill!! Lynn checks the animal tracks and identifies that the animal caught in her trap had been a deer. A deer meant a great catch and a good meal. Lynn had even pulled her sleigh all the way out to her traps to drag anything back to her family. Naturally Lynn is fuming and decides to confront Anthony Conrad who is her families nearest neighbour. The confrontation doesn't go well and ends up with Anthony Conrad surprising Lynn by striking her and then pinning her to the ground groping and threatening her. 

Back at the settlement Lynn and her family live in there are four buildings strung together in a narrow valley which is surrounded by hills. Lynn and her mom live in the largest building which is a log cabin, it was the first thing her family group built. Initially they all lived in it until the other buildings were ready. Now things have changed with the addition of extra buildings. Jeryl and Ramsey have their own cabin. It took a while for him to decide but Ken decided to construct his own cabin too which he has to himself, giving him some independence from living under his mom's rule. The remaining building is a multi use building, for storing the firewood and equipment and for the animals that they had managed to bring with them from their previous home. They have two goats called Hector and Helen that provided milk and cheese as well as an early warning system, telling them when wolves were about too. The other animal they brought was a musk ox that Lynn called Stankbutt as she thinks it more fitting than Jebediah which is what everyone else calls him. The Ox was old and provided very little for the human keepers, though Jeryl and Ramsey had ox fur coats. 

This books timeline jumps about quite a bit which I ended up labelling in my book notes as "Present Past" and "Present Now". So to share a little more about the book the "Present Past" covers the fact that the McBride family once lived a fairly average, normal life in Chicago. Then when Lynn was around twelve years old they moved to Alaska which was before the bomb hit New York. Everything changed then, fires started, TV's stopped working, planes stopped flying and then things just continued to get worse. The War began, nuclear strikes, sides were taken by different countries having to choose to be pro or against America. Then as all this progresses America uses biological warfare by sending a form of flu to Asia, only they fail to realise that the flu will spread so easily and it actually ends up claiming victims back in America too. To try to control the flu spreading a taskforce is created and called the DCIA: Disease Containment and Immunity Advancement, though people refer to them as the "Immunity" or "Immunisers". These people dressed in a in a uniform that has white stars on the shoulders went into schools and businesses giving out containment rules and masks. People were told that the Immunity were doing research but all they seemed to do was blocking off zones they perceived as safe. The Immunity had trucks, soldiers and guns too! Sadly whatever the Immunity were meant to be doing was too little, too late as the flu spread like crazy. International travel stopped, communication faltered when the mail stopped, then the schools and hospitals were closed. Following this the fighting and looting began, people were moving around in attempt to find a flu free place to settle.

Lynn was lucky in a way, as she was kept pretty sheltered by her parents. The only differences in life she initially noticed was when he biologist father began working from home in their basement. In fact she became very curious about what her father was doing down there. Sadly Lynn becomes seriously ill hallucinating that a bee stings her and then she slowly gets better each day but unfortunately the flu hasn't finished with this family when her dad gets the flu he doesn't recover, he dies. That's when Uncle Jeryl takes over as head of the family and self appointed protector of the family. He literally saves the family as when Lynn's dad dies of the flu her mum slips into a trance like, just existing state. Uncle Jeryl has to be blunt and perhaps a little cruel and hard hearted to snap Lynn's mum out of the the just existing state she has gotten herself into. Once she has snapped back to harsh reality and the fact they must move from Alaska to survive as to stay would mean more risk of the flu or the immunity researchers, Lynn's mum becomes harder, tougher and more determined to keep the remainder of her family close and safe.

This book has so many great characters that I grew fond of in different ways for all sorts of reasons. One of the character's I have to mention is Lynn, at age 23 she is still sheltered by her mum, Uncle Jeryl and even her older seemingly indifferent brother Ken. At times in the book seems more like she is in her late teens! Personally I wouldn't have guessed she was as old as we are told within the book. I would have put her age at 19. She sulks and though she has a fairly safe steady paced life with all any one can hope for in these dire times by having "enough"food, "enough" wood, "enough" clothes and a large portion of her family with her. Lynn longs for change, she envisions travelling around the stark landscape and finding other survivors. Someone should have told Lynn to be careful what she wished for because whilst out setting traps she meets Jax, who at first seems innocent enough but as the book goes on we realise he has many hidden secrets that will draw dangerous people to him and anyone harboring him. Having said he is "trouble" he really is what Lynn needs, a fresh face, a new crush, someone who reveals that there are other survivors out there. A snap decision by Lynn almost costs her, her life when she gets stuck outside far from home in a snow storm. Then she is caught by a group of people claiming to be immunity. This is when we meet another character I really grew fond of Braylen, quickly even though she is only in the book for a short time. I honestly think in slightly different circumstances Braylen and Lynn could have been a long lasting friends living within the same community. Another character I have to mention who I instantly felt affection for was Ramsey, the son of Jeryl's best friend John-Henry. Ramsey is younger than Lynn and seems to still have a crush on her even though she doesn't appear to see him that way. So when Jax arrives on the scene Ramsey is naturally jealous of him and the friendship he rapidly builds with Lynn. I guess Ramsey also notices that Lynn shows Jax a lot of attention and seems to have a crush on him too.
I should give a small mention to the character I loved to hate which is Anthony Conrad, he certainly makes you think of the saying "keep your friends closer and your enemies even closer". Lynn and her mothers instinct about him are proven justified.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I particularly enjoyed the sections from Lynn's point of view of what she misses from her "before life". Though the book does tend to jump about from what is happening in the present, things that happened in the near past and then the odd part from the farther back past. Once you get into the book this isn't a problem at all. I would have loved to have had the backstory of Lynn and her family travelling from Alaska to the Yukon revealing what horrors they saw, what they had to do to survive and how they coped dragging the animals with them. Maybe that could be told in a prequel? This book read well as a standalone but I really hope it's the beginning of a series. 

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that this book left me wanting more, much more! Please tell me it's the start of a potentially wonderful series!?

This is the debut of Tyrell Johnson and I have to say I want to read much more by this author! I found this book to be addictive reading, I hated having to put the book down! The mixture of genres within this book were brilliant, it had the post apocalyptic landscape and way of life along the the genetic elements and the threat of the out of control flu virus. There's so much more to this book than I have revealed. I would have to say I would put this book up there alongside Year One by Nora Roberts. Yep! I enjoyed this book that much!


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