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Review: The Wolves Of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

The Wolves Of Winter
Tyrell Johnson
Harlequin AUS
2018, 320p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

A captivating tale of humanity pushed beyond its breaking point, of family and bonds of love forged when everything is lost, and of a heroic young woman who crosses a frozen landscape to find her destiny. This debut novel is written in a post-apocalyptic tradition that spans The Hunger Games and Station Eleven but blazes its own distinctive path.

Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive in the endless white wilderness beyond the edges of a fallen world.

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

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 brings with him dark secrets of the past and sets in motion a chain of events that will call Lynn to a role she never imagined.

Simultaneously a heartbreakingly sympathetic portrait of a young woman searching for the answer to who she is meant to be and a frightening vision of a merciless new world in which desperation rules, The Wolves of Winter is enveloping, propulsive, and poignant.

There were a couple of things that made me want to read this book. Firstly, I love a post-apocalyptic story and this sounded surprisingly plausible in the current climate and political situation. Also, the setting. I’m pretty obsessed with areas like Alaska and northern Canada and the way in which people adapt to survive in those environments. I love watching TV shows and reading books that are set in remote and harsh locations. I also am interested in reading anything homesteader or self-sufficient lifestyle.

In The Wolves Of Winter, first the bombs started as the world powers struggled for supremacy. Then a mysterious virus known as the Asian flu wiped out epic numbers of the world’s population. Those that hadn’t died within a few weeks of being exposed to the virus were generally considered to be immune but few had ever recovered. Lynn and her family had retreated to Alaska even before the first signs of trouble, her father’s work having alerted him to problems. Then they retreated further to the Yukon, building cabins and surviving on potatoes, carrots and what they could catch and kill. Their location is isolated, only a neighbour nearby so when Lynn runs into a man whilst out in the woods, it’s unusual. Very unusual. And when more men come looking for him, it ends in an ugly way.

Whilst I could have no trouble imagining the events that led to the way things became in this novel, I can’t really say the same for the events of the actual novel. Lynn lives in like a “family compound” – she shares a cabin with her mother and also part of their group but living in separate cabins are her uncle, her brother and the son of her uncle’s friend. When Lynn comes across the stranger – a man named Jax – in the forest, the plot changes from a basic survival type of story to something that encompasses the fate of humanity, or what is left of it. Jax is different, on the run from a group known as Immunity. And Lynn suddenly realises that her mother has kept secrets – her deceased father was working on something, something important. Why won’t anyone tell her what it is? Why does it seem to involve her? I didn’t really enjoy the Immunity story to be honest and it detracted from the parts of the book I was most interested in. It changed the book for me, from something that was ‘hey this could actually happen right now’ to something different.

For me, the most interesting part of this story takes place before the book actually begins. It’s glossed over mostly – the events that led to countries dropping bombs on each other, the virus that swept the world, killing huge numbers of the population. People doing whatever it took to survive and for Lynn and her family, that meant retreating even further than they had. I’d have liked to read more about that journey and their settling in to their new place of residence, adjusting to the way of life with no electricity and living solely off what they could grow, hunt and catch. That’s the sort of stuff that interests me and I thought there’d be a bit more of it. Instead the book is more focused on the arrival of Jax, the fact that he’s mysterious and being hunted and just precisely what the group hunting him are really up to. I have to admit I struggled to maintain interest the deeper the story delved into Immunity and what they were doing and I honestly didn’t see the point of all the secrecy surrounding Lynn’s father and what he’d been doing and how Lynn, who was a teenager at the time, was so vague on it. Some of it seemed deliberately blocked out, as the death of her father had been very traumatic for her and I guess some is typical teen oblivion. But there were quite important things that Lynn didn’t really seem to remember and when she did/was told, I didn’t really see the need for such furtiveness.

There’s a sort of, well I’m not going to use the word romance, because it doesn’t really come across that way but I’ll say curiosity, between Jax and Lynn. It’s natural really – Lynn has spent her late teen and early adult years living with her mother, her uncle, her brother and another boy who is basically family anyway. Her only other interaction with the opposite sex in years has come in the form of their neighbour, a disgusting man who threatens to rape her. Jax is young, strong, fast and mysterious. However for me a real connection was lacking. It was more like aforementioned curiosity and circumstance, rather than any real bond. However the end of the book seems to suggest that if this one does well, a sequel will probably be forthcoming and perhaps we’ll get more of Lynn and Jax as there seems to be much more to their story and what they’re going to do.

This was an okay read for me but I didn’t love it.


Book #11 of 2017


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