Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin
ARC made available by the publisher, Tanglewood Press - release date October 16, 2012
It’s June but winter still has a firm grip on the weather. Sky-born ash from the eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone blocks most of the sunlight from heating the earth. As the winter continues, Alex and his family along with Darla and the community of Warren continue to work together and adjust to the changes in their lives. Darla rigs up one machine after another to enable life to endure. Of course, not all people are working together to survive…
Bandits try to kidnap Alex’s sister and cousins and, in the struggle, the bandits leave several weapons behind. One is the shotgun Alex’s parents took with them when they went back to Iowa to find Alex which prompts Alex and Darla to leave to go look for them.
What Alex and Darla find in their search is even worse than they expected. Towns barricaded against gangs who trade in guns, drugs, and human flesh; refugee camps run by the infamous Black Lake military contractors who look the other way when the gangs kidnap young women; and, in between, families living hidden in their homes trying to avoid disaster. Everywhere Alex and Darla turn it’s as if another layer of humanity is stripped away though some still manage to carry their dignity with them.
As the story progresses, Alex (who needs rescuing several times himself) ends up having to rescue Darla as well as his parents but in the process frees Alyssa, a slave to one of the gangs, and her brother, Ben, a high-functioning autistic military expert who is as handy to have around as Darla.
In the end, the climax of this dystopian novel will leave readers on the edge of their seats waiting impatiently for the thrilling sequel in the Ashfall series.
Submitted by Wendy Lamos, Teacher Librarian, West Fork CSD, Sheffield and Rockwell, IA