Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Review: Ashen Winter

What if a supervolcano erupted in the United States?  According to CNN, a supervolcanic eruption would be “at least 25,000 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption.”  If the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, "’devastation would be complete and incomprehensible’...After the initial eruption, clouds of gas and rock would burn everything in its path...Ashfall would cover the western United States and also enter the jet stream with the potential to cripple air transportation and threaten the world's food supply” (  This is exactly what has happened in the Ashfall series, by Mike Mullin.

Ashen Winter continues where Ashfall left off, with Alex and Darla staying with his uncle’s family and living as well as they can off of the snow- and ash-covered land.  When they unexpectedly get a clue to his parents whereabouts, Alex and Darla decide to return to devastated Iowa to try to find them and bring them home.  Along their journey, they are met with obstacle after obstacle, including bandits, Black Lake soldiers, and slave traders, not to mention the frigid weather conditions, lack of supplies, and cannibals.  Will they ever make it back home in one piece and bring Alex’s family back together again?

For lovers of Ashfall, readers will not be too disappointed.  The book is full of action and adventure, along with development of relationships and the addition of a few interesting new characters, as well as revisiting a few favorite characters from the last book.  However, the series takes a bit of a downward turn in this book.  It has been just six months since the eruption, and conditions are not improving.  In fact, they are depressingly and disturbingly awful, with little hope for improvement. There are few high points in the novel, and an open ending may be frustrating for readers.  However, lovers of apocalyptic novels like Life As We Knew It, by Susan Pfeffer, will enjoy this series as well.