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Ashfall #2

Ashen Winter

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It's been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It's also been six months of waiting for Alex's parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex's parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.

576 pages, Hardcover

First published October 16, 2012

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About the author

Mike Mullin

15 books1,646 followers
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really hoping this writing thing works out.

Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. ASHFALL is his first novel.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,117 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
September 9, 2018
second-reading review is now included after this adorable picture of me!


first of all, i have this ARC.

5 months before the book comes out, right? but what if i told you i have already read it?? because mike mullin let me read it in manuscript form and give him feedback way back in december! and it was great! but now i have to read this ARC because i was promised a character was named after me in the revisions! but i am told i do not come to a good end! thanks a lot, mike mullin!


so, yeah. go ahead and be jealous. full review after i read this ARC and see all the changes. but i bet it is still going to be awesome.because: SUPERVOLCANO, Y'ALL!!!!

so i reread this book on the plane into anaheim, and it was one of the best plane rides i have ever experienced.

this is so much better in its edited form. not that there was anything wrong with the MS; it was excellent, but this is so much tighter and tougher and just brilliant. every bit as good as the first one. plus, this one has meeee! well, not me-me, but a "karen" character that was put in for me (p. 421 - squeeee!), and i am thanked in the acknowledgments! no one ever thanks me, even though i am so delightful!

so, i return the favor: thank you, mike mullin for writing so convincingly about snow and cold as we are in the middle of a heat wave, and i swear your words made it easier.

and thank you just for writing another kick-ass book.

the characters are great. i love darla and alex. even though darla gets a little yelly at alex sometimes, and even though alex occasionally is a bit too "good" for his circumstances, i root for them with pleasure.darla is one of the best characters to ever have been saddled with a frivolous-sounding name. time and again she surpasses alex with her skill set, and is an excellent older-woman match for him, romantically.

"Why do you suppose so many houses are burned?" I asked.

"Probably people took shelter in them and lit fires in places they shouldn't have," she replied. "You build a wood fire in a house that's only designed for a gas log, you'll burn the house down quick-like."

of course you will!! but it's so cool that a teenage girl knows so much practical shit, and is put in the position where she can educate her man, unlike so many other books where it is the lady who is all "tell me about the gas logs, you big strong man..."

so for them to become separated is a big deal for alex - who has his own store of abilities,for sure, but her knowledge is just so much deeper and more practical.it is even more dangerous alone.and so frustrating for the reader!

mike mullin does all the right things in playing to his audience and setting himself apart from a lot of the teen fare out there. he subverts the expected gender roles. he elevates the character of the librarian. he doesn't talk down to his readers. he includes a ton of factual information about medical matters and scary nature. he doesn't spend a whole lot of time talking about how attractive his teen characters are. these are regular kids, living in irregular times. they don't smell great or look clean and resplendent. they are cold and tough and they are going to survive, yo.

and their skills are not preternatural.darla isn't some kind of savant, she has a great deal of survival information because she grew up on a farm, is smart, and flipped through a couple of boy scout books and other survival materials while holed up on the farm. she doesn't seem contrived; obviously a girl like her would survive.alex is trained in martial arts and is resourceful and not usually impulsive. these are great character traits to have in the aftermath.

the action is gripping, the new secondary characters are refreshing, and you're probably going to learn a lot about guns.

it is all all all good.

i will probably revisit this review again after it is published, so i can be a little more free with the plot, but just know that mike mullin has done it again, and i cannot wait for the third volume. it's gonna be epic...

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,574 reviews5,911 followers
February 14, 2015
3.5 stars

The super volcano has erupted and we are six months later. It feels like so much has happened that it can't be just that short of a period. Survival is hell, folks.
The ashen winter has set in and it's never frigging ever warm. (Smart reading when it's cold as hell outside)

Alex and Darla are going looking for Alex's parents. So they saddle up Bikezilla and head off into that frigging cold world.

(Yes, I don't like cold so that part stands out in my head)

Then the book starts running like a tweeked out meth head. So much is going on. These kids can not win. I think they are going to get ahead and nope. Something or someone smacks them back down. They take on the cold, no food, bullet wounds, and a bunch of people eating gangs.

One thing I didn't care for in the book was the cliffhanger type ending of every chapter. I mean every-single chapter. I felt like I was back in the day and watching Knot's Landing.
My copy of the book was a library copy that had a sticker in it. Stating the book was a fourth grade level reading book. This is some strong stuff for most fourth graders. It gets pretty violent and well there is some people eating going on. I don't censor though so if a fourth grader wants to read it..so be it.

This book does make you appreciate the life that we have, and food. The frigging food situation makes you go into your kitchen and do this.
Profile Image for Maja (The Nocturnal Library).
1,013 reviews1,889 followers
November 19, 2012
Let me tell you guys, if a supervolcano ever erupts and world as we know it comes to an end, I want Darla by my side 24/7. That said, I postponed writing this review for as long as I could because it was hard to pin down exactly why Ashen Winter didn’t work for me as well as Ashfall did. It’s still hard, but I think I have some idea, at least.

With Ashfall, Mullin set pretty high standards for the rest of the series, and although he met them with Ashen Winter, he failed to bring anything new into it. To me, Ashen Winter didn’t feel like a new book, but rather an extension of its predecessor. It became just an endless string of action scenes and they all blended into one. This lack of oscillations in the pacing bothered me in the first book as well, although the problem wasn’t quite as pronounced.

In addition, I expected this one to be just a bit more emotional. In Ashfall, Alex was still learning to be something other than a protected and pampered boy. He was brave, but he still thought like a teenager, for the most part. By the end of book one, and especially in Ashen Winter, everything he went through gave him a level of maturity one doesn’t usually see in sixteen-year-old boys. Because of that maturity, I expected a better emotional connection between me and Alex, but unfortunately, I didn’t get it.

Alex is very serious by nature and, truth be told, he had very little to laugh about in Ashen Winter which made his occasional humorous remarks all the more entertaining. Mullin used this wisely to break the tension in all the right places and make the book a bit lighter where it would otherwise have been too horrible to handle.

"The men didn't help at all-just kept playing cards. That seemed awfully sexist to me, but I guessed they weren't the enlightened kind of canibals."

I’m not sure whether Mike Mullin always intended for Alex and Darla to have this steady, mature relationship or he’s just very good at listening to his readers, but reading about these two, their relationship dynamics and their appreciation for each other, is a rare and true pleasure. Alex often says that he already feels married to Darla, which would sound positively ridiculous coming from any other teenage boy, but his overall maturity allows for such statements. They both carry around so much responsibility it’s only natural that it reflects on their love life as well.

The third book already has a title – Sunrise, and should be released in 2013. I love that title, it gives me great hope for Alex and Darla’s future.

Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,366 followers
October 14, 2012
Ashfall - one of my favourite books of all time - could not have had a better sequel in Ashen Winter. Picking up 6 months after Ashfall's ending, we are thrown into a deep desolation; the dark, cold aftermath of a Supervolcano eruption.

Alex and Darla, the fabulous couple who met in Ashfall are leaving the routine and relative safety of the farm to go find Alex's parents. What we have here, friends, is a non stop--and I mean, zero freaking breaks!--action packed thrill ride that will leave you so exhausted with excitement that you might literally just find yourself breathless. Every single page of this novel is filled with intense suspense. Not the type of suspense that leaves characters as little more than words on a page, this series is suspenseful and will make your heart literally backflip because of its characters. You care about them, you want them to live and find their loved ones. Darla and Alex are the perfect team who are both amazingly competent and determined. Their strength makes me feel incompetent! The emotional investment in these people is so poignant that I found myself mimicking their state of minds; Their pain was my pain, their fatigue was my own. I honestly felt their unrelenting weariness from being thrown into their shoes while reading this novel.

A Supervolcano eruption is no unrealistic event. Sure, if it even erupts at all, it probably wouldn't happen for decades--or maybe it will. Ultimately, mother nature does as she pleases. The aftermath of such a disaster that has been created in this book and it's predecessor is unlike anything I've ever read. Sure we have dystopians and zombie novels, but nothing makes a story more compelling than one that could happen at any moment. One that makes you truly fear the possibility of this world invading our reality. Mullin doesn't sugar coat it either. It's gory, it's raw, it's violent to no end; it made me squirm and grimace. Ashen Winter is not for the faint of heart. Blood will be the least of your worries. It's the end of the world, ladies and gentleman, get ready for it!

What this unhindered reality gives us is an in depth, realistic look into humanity. Some people, after a disaster to such degree, after having seen their friends and families die without being able to do a thing about it, after living with a hunger so deep that it affects your mind, will become nothing more than savages. Cannibals. It definitely makes you think on what people will do to survive. In a world where everyone is struggling to see the next day, the worst side of human kind will show its face. And it's not pretty, people. It sickens me, and the worst part: I completely believe it.

This series is one you simply Can. Not. Miss! It's completely, unbelievable fantastic. Even the author's notes left me a little unsettled. The only thing missing, is a number for a much needed psychologist.

Bravo, Mike Mullin, you are a genius at life!

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for review.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Trudi.
615 reviews1,418 followers
July 9, 2012
That was exhausting. I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, and hugely disappointed. Writing a review for this one is gonna hurt.
My problems with this second installment of Mike Mullin's Ashfall series are many I'm afraid to say, and too big to ignore. I really like this guy, and I wanted this novel to be great in the shadow of its awesome predecessor. Not. Even. Close. Without any spoilers for Ashfall or Ashen Winter, here is some of what's caused my sadness and frustration.

Anyone who knows me even a little, knows I'm a Stephen King fangirl. I love the man, okay? Not in a creepy Annie Wilkes I want to chain him to a bed as my "pet" sort of love, but his books are like meth to me. I'm hooked. I gotta have 'em. But that doesn't mean I can't put my critics hat on when need be too. I don't slaver and drool over everything the man writes. And contrary to popular critical opinion, I have no interest in reading the man's grocery list. Which brings me to one of my more recent King disappointments (it does happen). Under the Dome for me was good, but far from great. And here's why. I bring it up now because it's the same effing problem I have with Ashen Winter:
Under the Dome starts with a bang...and maintains its narrative momentum throughout. It hurtles along at an almost break-neck speed, but for a book that's over a 1000 pages, such a pace begins to wear in places. It becomes an at-times uncomfortable frenetic pattern of -- and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.
Ditto Ashen Winter. It too starts with a bang and hurtles along at lightening speed for (in my opinion) a bloated 600 pages. The action sequences are too many to count, and exhaustively and excruciatingly described.

As with Mira Grant's book Feed, I fear Mike Mullin has fallen in love with his research and wants to include every single thing he has learned. What's worse, no detail is too small. In my review for Feed I write that: "I respect any author who goes the extra mile to "do the research" and "get the details right" but sweet holy Moses, there is no need to put EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER LEARNED into the story." I didn't think it would be possible, but that's even doubly true here.

Another thing that annoyed me and took me out of the story too many times to count are the cliffhangers which come at the end of almost Every. Single. Chapter. It's cheesy. It made me feel like I was reading a middle school chapter book or a "choose your own adventure" type deal for the kiddies. This is such a sharp departure from Ashfall I really don't know what to make of it. Ashen Winter may feature cannibals and sex slaves but it still felt ultimately "childish" to me.

Now I am woman enough to admit this could be more my fault than the book's fault. I am NOT a fan of action movies. I barely (if ever) go to the movies over the summer because the gigantic, exploding, frantic, mostly special effects all style no substance blockbusters just don't do it for me. I'm more likely to walk out with a headache and a scowl on my face, than jittering with excitement and awe. That's what happened here with this book. Mullin can write action, no doubt of that, but there's just TOO MUCH action and not enough dialogue or genuine suspense. Suspense ONLY works if it is paired with tension and release. Nobody understood that better than Hitchcock. If it's ALL release -- a go, go, go, fast and furious approach -- then you really miss the tension, that vital inexorable build that is so critical to creating suspense.

Okay, last criticism. Because this book is chock full of action, Alex and Darla (Alex especially this time) are running around behaving like movie action superheroes -- jumping, leaping, dodging bullets, getting shot, breaking in, breaking out -- at one point hanging on to the bottom of a MOVING TRUCK Robert DeNiro style à la Cape Fear. Really??? C'mon!!!! As each disaster and run of bad luck kept piling up (fodder for the chapter cliffhangers), I began to think it should have been subtitled: a series of unfortunate events. In my review for A Breath of Snow and Ashes I write: "how many times can any handful of people escape from prison, mob scenes, near death, kidnappings, etc, etc." I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, trust me, but even this was too much for me I'm afraid.

Okay, so that's the ugly truth of the bad news. The good news? Mullin is a very talented writer, and despite my disappointment here, I will continue to seek out his books. The other good news? While I'm not recommending Ashen Winter, I will continue to highly recommend Ashfall; it is awesome, and succeeds in every way where its sequel does not.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,920 reviews69.3k followers
February 14, 2015
I don't hand out five stars very easily anymore. Years ago, I wasn't as picky, but now it's rare to never that I find a book worthy of the 5 STAR label.
It's special...like me!
Ashen Winter is one of those few books that is so freakin' awesome it actually deserves the whole five. Have you read Ashfall, yet? If not, stop reading this review and go get it. Now.
Are you seriously still sitting there? Move your ass! Go, go!

If you're still reading this, I'm going to assume that you've already read Mike Mullin's stunning debut novel. Or possibly you're just being stubborn.
At any rate, the first book was so good that I almost didn't want to taint it's goodness with Second Book Syndrome. You know, 1st book rocks, but the 2nd one sucks. We've all been down that disappointing road, right?
Fortunately, a friend of mine's kid forced me into action. That's right, a kid made me read it. Here's what happened:
A month or so ago my friend's son comes over and asks me, "Miss Anne, have you read anything lately you think I'd like?". I mull it over for a second, and it occurs to me that Ashfall is one of the best books I've read (YA or otherwise) in the past year. So I say, "Logan, go get Ashfall! Now. Move your ass! Go, go!". And then, because he's not my kid, I don't think about it anymore.
Fast forward two weeks, and he shows up (uninvited) at my doorstep. Naturally, I assume the little bastard is sniffing around for baked goods, 'cause not only am I kind and caring, but I can rock some chocolate chip cookies.
Anne's Free Tip of the Day: Never let the kids in the neighborhood know you can cook. Those little fuckers are harder to get rid of than stray cats. And due to some bleeding-heart liberals, it's apparently illegal to take pot shots at children. Go figure. Then again, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around...
So was he looking for food? Well, yes. But he also told me that he loved Ashfall so much that he already read the second book.
Only it sounded like this:
Lucky for me, I have kids of my own, so I was able to translate. Also lucky for me, he had it with him, and offered to let me read it. Or maybe I hit him over the head with my cookie tray and snatched the book.
Sometimes I black out....

Anyway, was he right? Is Ashen Winter even better than Ashfall?
Unbelievably, it is!
In the first book, a supervolcano in Yellowstone goes ka-boom, and the end results are freezing temperatures, a technological return to the Dark Ages, and (as an added bonus) groups of marauding cannibals. Yes, evidently if when bad people get hungry, they'll eat anyone. It's total chaos, and without any real form of government, it's each man (or woman) for themselves.
Alex was just an ordinary teenager until the ash started falling. Now he's a veteran survivor who's only goal is to find his parents. The end of the last book was so bittersweet. He and Darla finally made it to his uncle's house, only to discover that his mom and dad were out there somewhere searching for him. He agreed to stay put and help his uncle in the hopes that his parents would return.
Ashen Winter opens with Alex and Darla finding a clue to the whereabouts of his parents. They leave the relative safety of his uncle's farm on a rescue mission, and, of course, things quickly take a turn for the worse.
Ok, Darla is undeniably my favorite character. To say the least, she's got mad skills when it comes to surviving an apocalypse. Is there anything this chick can't do? No. No there is not. She's the perfect counterbalance for Alex's soft-hearted nature.
And after reading this, I will never underestimate an injured girl with a screwdriver.
That's not to say that I don't love Alex. He is such a good guy. A reallyreallyreally good guy. Unfortunately, in this kind of world, you just know his decent nature is going to cost him eventually. And it does. He makes a choice to help some people, and because he does...well, you know what they say about good deeds going unpunished.
What happened, you ask?
Oh. My. God.
Suddenly it's a race against time to...

Anyhoo, Ashen Winter is an amazing ride from start to finish.
I'm not doing this book justice with my crappy reviewing skills, but you're just going to have to trust me. Also, this is mature YA, so don't go out and get it for your favorite 10 year old nephew. There are lots of adult situations that include off the page rape, and fade to black sex scenes.
Oh, and ten dollars says that by the time you get done with these, your new favorite hobby will be planning which annoying neighbor to eat first!

Profile Image for Barbara (VampAngel).
169 reviews134 followers
December 8, 2013
The ARC of this book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I started reading Ashfall before going to bed. That was a BIG mistake. I ended up being up all night reading. And, not satisfied with looking at the sun coming up while tired as hell, I just couldn't stop. So, I picked up Ashen Winter and began reading it that morning. WITHOUT ANY SLEEP. Yes, I'm crazy. Nothing new here, so let's move on. I read the two books in a row and was done close to 1pm. Let's just say I slept until the next day, after I was done thinking about both books.

Although, I did quite enjoy Ashfall, Ashen Winter is a better book. That's ok. After all, on a first post-apocalyptic book you have to spend time with the world building and explaining all about the natural disaster. On a sequel you can focus on the ACTION and putting your characters through a lot of crazier shit. Plus, you're already invested in the characters. You KNOW them and you care a lot more about what happens to them. They're like friends. You worry about them, you cheer them on, and sometimes you want to slap the shit out of them. You know, the usual.

I grew to really like Alex. He's a great hero. He's courageous, softhearted, loyal, can kick your ass with Taekwondo, and sometimes a little stupid. When I say stupid, I don't mean that in the usual YA literature way, the "I'm only capable of thinking of the hotness of my love interest and nothing else". No, I mean the best kind of stupid, like "I'll put my life and limb at risk to save someone I don't even know in the middle on an Apocalypse, because I'm just too good a person". Alex's good heart is one of his best qualities and one of his worst. I wanted to smack him a couple of times, but I completely understood where he was coming from. I'm just not that noble. But I rather my heroes be noble, than hardhearted. Isn't that what makes a hero, a hero? Being nobler than his circumstances would usually allow? I have no problem reading about people that are way better than me. I actually prefer to.

Meet Darla:

Yes, things just explode around her because of the power of her awesomeness.

Darla. What can I say about Darla. I know: I LOVE THE SHIT OUT OF HER! I can't put how much into words, so this will have to serve as a representation of how much I like her:

Mike Mullin did something original here. Something that I wish more male authors would do, but especially female authors. He inverted the usual gender roles. Darla is not a simpering, helpless female who needs her man to save her. OH NOES! We usually have the Alpha male saving and teaching the useless female lead. NOT HERE, NO SIR. Darla is THE BRAINS OF THIS OPERATION. ALEX himself admits this. She saves his life quite often and besides that she is the one full of life-saving/useful information. She's also older than him, though not by much. She's the one with an amazing mechanical ability. She can build things, machines that make their life easier. She was a farmer and is fucking strong. At one point in the book someone asks them who is the stronger physically, and Alex doesn't hesitate to say it's Darla. Darla, herself thinks Alex is stronger, but throughout both books it's shown that Alex is probably right. She is also mentally strong. She loses her mom in a horrible way in the first book, but after a day of being a little out of it, she keeps going. Keeps saving Alex's ass. ALEX WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO STAY ALIVE IN THIS POST APOCALYPTIC WORLD WITHOUT HER HELP. Sure, he saves her life sometimes too, and he is pretty kick ass with taekwondo and all, but if I had to chose between the two of them for a partner during an apocalypse, I'd chose Darla. No doubt about it.

That brings me to my ONLY complaint about this book. I NEEDED MORE DARLA IN IT. Mild spoiler ahead:

However, with less Darla we get some cool new characters. I completely fell in love with Ben. We meet Alyssa and Ben, who are brother and sister when Alex saves them thinking he is saving Darla. Although, I like Alyssa, Ben is the one who steals the show. Ben is a high-functioning autistic teen and he's adorable. He's in love with anything military and rants on and on about military/weapons facts. He's quite useful to have around. In one of the most priceless scenes in the book he saves everyone by criticizing the attackers wrong attack formation at great length and correcting their approach to it. Needless to say, I now want a Ben.

His sister Alyssa is a kind of tragic character. To keep her and her brother safe in this crazy new world, she has to use her sexuality. She's so used to doing it now, that it seems she can't stop. It's the only thing she has to barter with, and although that is quite sad, I respect her for it. It's in a bizarre way tragic and empowering. It's quite a dichotomy. I don't like to see women that are only as important as what they have between their legs, but the book does a good job of condemning it and showing how wrong that is. How very tragic women as sexual objects are. But, I don't see any difference between what Alyssa does and what French woman did in WWII. French women used to seduce Nazi officials in occupied France and pass what information they could gather to the French Resistance. It's the age old story of women doing what they can to survive and save their loved ones. And as a woman I cannot show them anything but respect and I'm sadden that some of my fellow women judge them for it. So, when Alyssa

The plot. Well, I'm going to summarize it as not to spoil you. Alex and Darla decide to leave his uncle's farm to go find his mom and dad, who left the farm in the last book to go find Alex. Alex gets a clue about their whereabouts and he and Darla (of course) go after it. Then shit hits the fan and it's again a fight for survival, for love and for freedom. It features a prison invasion, car chase with the hero on the roof of the car (AND a snowmobile chase across a frozen Mississippi river), a slave ring, cannibalism, escape from a refugee camp, black ops mercenaries, and various rescues operations. Oh, and some romance. It has non-stop action and heart. It's quite moving at times. I cried at different points in the story. Mostly, I was sobbing when . I was bawling my eyes out. Pretty much like this:

I think I already convinced you to read this novel (if not, you're a lost cause). So, I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead.

Before reading the book:

I swear to God that if Darla dies in the book I WILL LOSE MY SHIT!!!! I'll fly to US, find Mike Mullin, and BEAT THE SHIT OUT OF HIM! Ahem.

Anyway, off I go to read it. THANK YOU, NETGALLEY!
Profile Image for Ashley Marie .
1,240 reviews385 followers
June 26, 2015
Buddy read with Amy, Melissa, and Sarah!

4-4.5 stars

Not quite as good as the first one but still immensely enjoyable and compulsively readable (god I sound like one of those starred reviews from Kirkus or Booklist or whoever). Anyway, don't be discouraged by the size of these books. The chapters are short and damn near every time they end with a cliffhanger of some kind so you HAVE to keep going. That's one of the things I love about Mullin's writing. As with the first one, this felt very realistic. I liked the addition of Alyssa and Ben in particular; Alyssa took a LONG time for me to appreciate her (I still like Darla much better) and Ben is fascinating. Unfortunately, Alex's parents weren't my favorite people; I could understand their worries, because this is their kid, but he's survived on his own for nearly a year. Give the boy some credit. And then to be discounting his relationship with Darla was just bullshit. So excited to read book 3!
Profile Image for Greg.
1,109 reviews1,844 followers
August 10, 2012
I'm so far behind in reviewing books I've read. This might not sound like the end of the world, but it's the only way that I have a chance to remember what I've read and what I thought of for at least some of the books I've read a year or two down the road. For example, today someone voted on a review of mine and the name of the book didn't even ring any bells. Even after seeing the cover of the book and reading the review I didn't remember having read it. It sounded like a fairly interesting book though, and if I hadn't apparently read the book I might consider reading it. What would I do without my internet out-sourced memory to keep things straight?

In an effort to save my past for myself I've got to get my ass in gear.

Welcome to one of my reviews, where I talk to myself a lot and say things that aren't very relevant to the book or anyone else.

The great thing about an intro to a review like this is that I can put off for a few more minutes what book I'm going to say I'm 'reviewing'. No, I'm fucking with you, I know exactly what book I'm going to write about, and nothing that I've said so far has any relevance to it.* Of course, you, the reader, know right now what book I'm 'reviewing' while what I'm intending to review could be different from what you are reading right now. I'm very envious of your knowledge. I could have been lying about knowing what I'm going to do here.

No I'm not.**

Review time. Seriously.

This is the sequel to a very enjoyable book about a super voclano erupting and sending a large portion of America into a catastrophic winter. I hate to say it, but this wasn't as good as the first novel in the series. But, my opinion might be different from yours. I really like the premise of the series, and I like the characters and the survival element is top-notch. I even like the TKD (although the main character's skills have seemed to branch out a bit from traditional TKD in this book to incorporate some Judo and BJJ, it's good to see a fighter developing into a well-rounded Mixed Martial Artist). I especially loved the autistic character. He was amazing. What I would have liked was a more character driven instead of action and plot driven story (which seems to be a strange request to make for a dystopian action novel, but I can still kvetch about things). As I've said in some other reviews (which I'm sure you already know because everyone reads each and every review I write and takes copious notes to use against me in threads that I'm not even involved in, in order to follow my future reviews that make call-backs to older reviews, and so they can be possibly be the proud winner of the inevitable contest over who gets to be the editor of my collected and annotated reviews), my eyes tend to glass over when there is too much action going on. I just stop following what is happening. I try my hardest to keep being an attentive reader but instead I start to skim. I can't help it, I just don't get into action heavy writing. There are chuncks of this book that move non-stop from one action sequence to another, and there were some spots where I wanted to yell, please stop (not literally, but this is the sort of thing where I could say literally if I were the type of person who literally says literally everytime that something isn't literally happening), and fortunately (for me, maybe not for you, maybe you love action sequences) they would abate and some fairly interesting plot and character development would jump in. Then I would be happy with the book again, and overall I ended up being quite happy with the book. Maybe you will be, too.

This might be the best sequel you read this year that has a fairly high amount of cannibalism going on in it.

P.S. Thank you so so so so so so so much to the publisher and author of this book for helping me achieve my dream of attending BEA and scoring bags and bags of free books (including this one!). I know you were helping out Karen and probably don't know who I am, but thank you anyway!

* This could have been a review for some book on the effects the internet has on memory or something. Not that I would probably actually read a book like that but still the introduction could possibly have some relevance to some review.

**One (maybe you, definetly me) could pose the question, how many more times are you going to try to get away with this nonsense? Just write your fucking review already.
Profile Image for Literary Ames.
828 reviews396 followers
April 12, 2012
First, I'd like to apologise for cussing out Mr. Mullin's name for the first third of the book. I told myself it was only a book but it got to me. Action, terror and death almost from the very first page. I was on edge, longing to shout at Alex to shut up and listen to his woman. I decided to go without sleep at about 33%, sleep is for the weak anyway. I needed closure and I needed it NOW! I saw some of those bad things coming, they were inevitable. But...but...I got scared. Alex + Darla = formidable team, so when they got separated, in a most terrifying manner...MUST READ NOW!

Alex arrived at his uncle's farm in October, it's now April and they're experiencing a perpetual winter. No effort has been made to rebuild infrastructure or establish order. The US still appears to be in political turmoil and rumours abound. Finding Alex's parents and rescuing Darla has us re-tracing their path from Ashfall; passing through another FEMA camp and reuniting with old friends like the fearless old librarian Rita Mae from Worthington (great woman) and old enemies like Black Lake and Colonel Levitov.

"Without children we don't have a future."
"Without freedom," Rita Mae yelled back, "why would we want a future?"

When I thought over Alex's actions leading to his separation from Darla and everything up to that point I realised he wasn't just an overly generous softie and arguably stupid (which he freely admits: "I'm too stupid to live. I should have never dragged Darla back out here, not for anything." ). The negative adrenaline-pumping and usually deadly consequences could have unexpected silver-linings. He gains allies, information and supplies as well as lessons in future dangers by observing other towns and meeting new people. Like I previously mentioned in my Ashfall review there's a delicate balance of luck and karma. If the characters are praying for something good to happen there may be a miracle but there will always be payment. Nothing is free.

However, I could only hold my breath in desperation and fear for these characters, whilst they were apart, for so long. I couldn't maintain that level of anxiety and slowly I became detached and less interested in what was happening. And so I turned to skimming. Darla was sorely missed although I completely understand how her absence played so well into the plot and the original mission: to find, and if alive, bring home Alex's parents, as well as the subplot involving missing and presumed kidnapped, girls. The way everything just slots into place gives the illusion of mild predictability when really it's a natural progression of events.

I love Darlex (Hehe, that's so Dr. Who but much better than Peniss) having built a strong relationship in the first book (ETA: Emeli Sande's Next to Me describes it perfectly), have it tested and re-affirmed (thankfully) in this one. Absence made the heart grow fonder despite my worry to the contrary.

"If we're going to die anyway, I want to die with you. And if we live, I want to live with you."

I sincerely hope they manage to achieve their dreams of one day marrying and having children when life becomes stable and prosperous. But on a sidenote: those childbirth death certificates were heartbreaking.

I have a new favourite character -Ben. Ben suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder with social and communication problems, is incredibly intelligent and is an expert in all things military. He's a huge asset. One time he corrects his hostage-takers on their strategy, advising them on how to tighten up their formation. Jaw-droppingly hilarious. I sympathised with Alyssa, Ben's carer and "sister unit", and her attachment to Alex. Oh, that was sad. I was both shocked and as uncomfortable as Alex when she enacted her strategy with the gang. That took courage. She was stronger than she knew.

I've got to give the author props for his increasingly sickening and gory yet realistic portrayals of the fight for survival. Ripping away childhoods and replacing them with the cold, dark and horrifying reality. Showing how any decent and honest person can become an unrecognisable monster. Alex's father may have been on that slippery slope when he does something that requires the suspension of compassion i.e. torture.

The emotions, action and characterisations in these books are superb. I'm eagerly awaiting the next book. Go, Warren! Go!

P.S. If you ever hear the words "flensers" and "long pork buffet", RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

3.5 stars.

***My thanks to Tanglewood Press for the ebook in exchange for an honest review.***
Profile Image for Ariana.
938 reviews1,303 followers
December 13, 2014
3.5 stars.

Define loss:
The disappearance of something cherished, such as a person, possession or property.
Define hope:
The emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life. Despair is the opposite of hope.
Define human nature:
It refers to the distinguishing characteristics, including ways of thinking, feeling and acting, that humans tend to have naturally.

So what makes us different when we lose all those characteristics, when the hope is gone and the loss of our loved ones is the only lullaby we hear before falling asleep... What makes us any different when we act like the animal inside in a world where only the strong ones survive, where people fight for the same piece of food and they need to steal, to hurt, to kill?
Or does it even matter when you are freezing to the bone and you can barely save yourself? Because when all this happens you lose strength, you lose hope.. But what about the bits of humanity you struggle to keep so badly?
"I can't handle it. Everything's gone to ash. I don't know how to make it right again."

Alex's life has never been easy, but as long as he has Darla by his side everything can be possible: they can stay alive, they can fight bad guys, they can search for his parents, they can share food and medicine and survive another day; they have love and hope and something that people around them seem to forget or lose: humanity.

It is that feeling that can make you help someone that tried to kill you, that feeling that can make you want to change the world, that feeling that can remind you that life can be different, that violence is not the only way to obtain things.. But when things go terribly wrong how can Alex make them right again? When all things become impossible does he have the strength to make wishes come true again?

The good:

There is something about this story that I really love: it is the fact that it defines the human nature with the good and the very bad, through the happy moments and the despair. It can show you the paths you can take in such a situation, and even though some of the characters make terrible choices and you are horrified by their actions, you know that this is how things would work out in real life too. It's sad, it's terrifying, but it's true even on its darkest.

The story takes us a few months further in the glacial future after the eruption. We see people struggling to make a life of what it's left of this world, we see other people losing what is left of their humanity, but what remains the same is the relationship between Alex and Darla and how much Alex wants to meet his parents again.
If you think about it, while Ashfall was more about the phycology of the post-apocalyptic world, Ashen Winter is more about the actions of these people without hope that can do anything (and i mean anything!) in order to stay alive.

If you wanted more action in the first book, this story might be more to your liking.. It starts right in the middle of an action scene and it has a faster pace than Ashfall. Maybe you will feel at some point that they are running in circles, but it will still hold your attention anyways. Also, you will see again some characters from the first book (I liked Alex's uncle) and you will meet some other people on the way - off course, you will be happy to know some of them but you will also try to scream for Alex to get away from some dangerous dark places.

The not so good:

Now, I don't want to spoil anything for you (and it's hard to do so - that's why you should NOT click on those spoilers), so my negative thoughts won't make much sense, still I need to take them out of my mind as quick as possible:

1. The parents:
Alex is really a kid and he got the chance to stay in a safe place with his uncle and other relatives, but deep down he still wanted to find his parents because they were his priority. He would have done anything and would have stopped at nothing to find them, because except for Darla's safety (not only the girl he likes, but the one that saved his life various times) there was nothing more important for him than his family… But what about his parents? They have left the safety of the farm as well to find Alex, right?
Right. But what could change the priority order in their lives? I tell you only this: nothing that could/would change mine in any possible way. Yes, I am selfish like that, and so is Alex... Does this make us less human? Well, I am not so sure anymore. (Cryptic much?)

2. Alyssa:
She is a girl Alex finds at some point in his journey. She has had a difficult time, trying to stay alive and to keep her brother safe. But the way she acts around Alex makes really no sense considering her experience . And her actions are really confusing, making it hard for me to understand her.. You might call it mystery, I call it just a bit of underdevelopment, but I hope to understand more in the next book.

3. The dialog:
At times it felt really unrealistic. Again I can't spoil anything but it is related to the first 2 items on the list among other things. At some point some overprotectiveness made me want to scream

4. The good luck:
Yes, it is mostly good luck that keeps these characters safe (or as safe as they can be). But it was the same in the first book and I wanted to see them (in fact Alex) grow to have better skills in this art of survival. You see, Alex does all these dumb things and he only has a good idea when he wants to impress someone (*cough* a girl *cough*). Sometimes he acts like an adult (and he gets out of some difficult situations using his brain - because yes, he really has one), but some others he acts just like a silly kid, complaining and making mistake after mistake… after mistake (isn't Darla already sick of this?).
"You do anything that idiotic again and I'll shoot you myself to save the heartache of watching someone else do it."


Ashen Winter is quite a good sequel to Ashfall, one that will leave you with the need to see how (or if) things will go back to normal again. There are some answers that you get and some others that are being raised and it's a matter of time until things get settled down and maybe our beloved characters will have their well-deserved happy ending.

* This review can also be found at ReadingAfterMidnight.com
**Book source: Advanced copy received from the publisher. Thank you!

Blog (EN) | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Bloglovin' | Blog (RO)
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,165 followers
September 15, 2012
It is a well known fact that the second book in a trilogy tends to be the weakest book of the series. It drags, it sets up the story for the epic conclusion, and it is simply an all-round fest of boredom for the reader. Mike Mullin’s Ashen Winter however, is (thankfully) one of the few exceptions to this rule. Ashen Winter is filled with danger, romance, and heart-pounding action that is certain not to disappoint.

While Ashfall followed the story of Alex and his journey to reach his parents in Warren, Ashen Winter follows the journeys of Alex and Darla as they struggle through the freezing cold winter to find Alex’s missing parents. The story opens with the two finding a gun that belonged to Alex’s father in the possession of a bandit – a rogue who clearly has information about the current whereabouts of Alex’s parents. However, if Alex and Darla found travelling through the snow to reach Warren to be difficult, this endeavor only proves to be more of a challenge this time around as now the people are more desperate, more ruthless, and the weather has only turned more brutal. Furthermore, the support they have always depended on from one another just may be ripped away and Alex may find himself searching for more than just his parents in this scintillating sequel.

In all honesty, I did not enjoy Ashen Winter nearly as much as I enjoyed Ashfall. That being said, I still think that Ashen Winter was an extremely respectable follow-up novel to Mullin’s surprising debut and like its predecessor, it managed to keep my attention while I flipped frantically through its pages, unable to stop reading. What I liked best about Ashen Winter though, was the fact that Mullin really took human nature into account. In this novel, we are exposed to the more savage, unrelenting side of humanity and are shown to just what extents people are willing to go to get what they want and live. Ashfall showed us some of these extremes, but Ashen Winter truly went deeper. As more time passes by while humans are forced to survive in the raw wilderness that is now their home, a far more brutal and ugly side of despair and what it can do to you is shown. I felt as if all this was very realistically and effectively portrayed through Alex, who proves to be an engaging and empathic narrator once more.

Speaking of Alex, I really enjoyed seeing his character development throughout this novel. The volcanic eruption that turned his life upside down also managed to make him into a tougher, strong-willed, and more morally aware human being. His interactions with Darla, his family, and other complete strangers all slowly exposed different sides of him that we weren’t able to see as much in Ashfall and I think the manner in which he grew was very realistically portrayed as well. There is a lot more I wish I could say on the matter of Alex, but I would hate to reveal any more for fear of spoilers. Thus, I can only assure you that Alex continues to be the determined and faithful protagonist that we all fell in love with in Ashfall and Mullin only makes it easier for us to side with him, root for him, and revel in his unique narration.

That being said, Ashen Winter did have a major flaw that I was unable to reconcile with. One of my absolute favorite characters was not present for over half of the novel and this loss was felt very keenly. Although I did like seeing the impact this had on Alex and how it drove the original plot-line of the story, I definitely would have enjoyed this book more if that character were present for just a little bit more of the book. In addition, I felt as if some areas of this story tended to drag and only the last couple of hundred pages truly seemed to pick up the pace. Yet, these are small qualms to have with such a brilliantly written novel and although I frowned upon them, I still managed to enjoy this novel despite it.

Ashen Winter is a truly spectacular sequel to Ashfall - one that leaves you satisfied, on the edge of your seat, and waiting for more all at the same time. I can definitely admit that the most difficult part about reading this book will be waiting for the third installment in this amazing series to release. Mike Mullin has quickly become not only one of my favorite authors, but an author to definitely watch out for. Not only is his work extremely well researched, fantastically written, and remarkably balanced out with action, suspense, romance, and relationships, but he also does not hesitate to reveal the darker aspects of humanity and the gory parts of human survival. This series has quickly become one of my most anticipated reads every year and I can guarantee that fans of Ashfall will not be disappointed by this far-from-disappointing sequel!

Thank you to NetGalley and Tanglewood for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Morris.
964 reviews164 followers
August 7, 2014
“Ashen Winter” is a solid second installment in the “Ashfall” series by Mike Mullin. Wasting no time, the book picks up a few months after the first has left off. Spring, or what can be called spring, has arrived and Alex decided it’s time to set out to find his parents.

Unlike its predecessor, “Ashen Winter” is a page turner from the very first chapter. I carried it around for a day, reading every second I could, and would have recommended it to everyone I came across if I could have put it down long enough to speak. In fact, the only problem I have with it is that there is one point that it becomes a bit repetitive, though I even enjoyed those bits. Anything to get more of Darla and Alex.

Beware, “Ashen Winter” is not for those with weak stomachs. The attention to detail is incredible and realistic, but that does mean that things are not at all ok in the post-Yellowstone Super-volcanic world. People under the best of circumstances are capable of horrible things. Under apocalyptic conditions humanity takes a total nosedive. Mr. Mullins is not afraid of the gore that ensues.

Along with the gore, I feel like this is a perfect manual for an introduction to Doomsday Prepping. The things that are essential make perfect sense, but I would have never thought of them. In fact, I am fairly certain I will be one of the first to be flensed. At least I will have Chapstick now. (Really. Buy Chapstick.)

The characters are still wonderfully flawed and well-developed, with more being added in seamlessly. Darla may be my favorite heroine in literature. If this were the Hunger Games, Darla would take out everyone at the Cornucopia and be elected President of Panem before even leaving the arena. Even Katniss looks weak in comparison to her.
Profile Image for Bonnie.
1,371 reviews920 followers
November 15, 2015
Ashen Winter was kindly provided to me by Netgalley for Tanglewood Press.

"If we're going to die anyway, I want to die with you. And if we live, I want to live with you."

Ashfall was one of my favorite reads of 2011 and after reading was promptly added to my Goodreads shelf 'full-of-wonderful' so suffice it to say I was pretty ecstatic to finally get my hands on the follow-up story. I don't go all fangirl often but fangirl I did for Ashen Winter.

The story of Alex and Darla and the search for his parents in the harsh winter world the planet has transformed into continues! Ashen Winter maintained authenticity despite the crazy (and at times incredibly creepy) things that occurred. With the transformation of the world, the people that managed to survive begin resorting to any method to maintain their existence including cannibalism and human slavery. Was it pretty? Heck no. Was it jaw dropping at times? Oh yes. Did it fit completely with the horrible state of the world? Absolutely. Mike Mullin’s has created a dystopian world that really manages to get under your skin because of how unnervingly realistic it all is.

The characters continue to develop well and I still love Darla to death. Darla is the brains of operation ‘survival. Alex totally would have been a goner months ago without Darla there to save his ass. She’s the one that gets things done. She’s a total badass and she’s not even trying. She’s a powerful and strong-willed character that you can’t help but admire. And… that’s the reason for my 4 star review (compared to my 5 star review of Ashfall). Darla wasn’t even introduced in Ashfall until mid-way through the book or so but I had no idea what an integral part of the story she had become until she wasn’t there. No spoilers but it’s mostly Alex for the vast majority of the book and Darla was sorely missed. I think that even though I didn’t agree at the time, in retrospect I think it was important for Alex to go through what he did alone since it really helped him grow as a character. A few new characters are introduced that I quite liked but they were certainly no Darla. Fingers crossed for more Darla-time in book 3.

Thrilling and action-packed, Ashen Winter was a fantastic follow-up that fans of Ashfall will enjoy (even though admittedly it does have a teensy bit of middle-book syndrome, but honestly, I don’t think that can be helped. I personally think it’s the mentality that readers have (I know I’m guilty), knowing that there is only one book left since it’s a trilogy we want the conclusion and we want it now, dangit!). But regardless! I’m a huge fan and cannot wait for the final conclusion.
(Hey Mike – Don’t kill Darla, please. Thanks. –Your Biggest Fan)
Profile Image for Empress Reece (Hooked on Books).
915 reviews79 followers
June 8, 2016
Kale, Corn Pone & Dandelion Greens...

Sound yummy?! Not to me either but that's about the extent of their daily diet after the supervolcano eruption, that is unless you're a Flenser aka a Cannibal. : ) I would have to pass on that too!
One of the things though I like about this series is how in-depth the author gets with their survival tactics & resourcefulness. They've built everything from a grinding mill and greenhouses to a bike with skis to traverse the snow and ash and a truck that runs off of propane. They build everything with whatever supplies they have on hand or can scrounge up. Never in a million years would I be able to come up with some of the ideas they do so if I had to survive through a volcanic winter I would definitely want to do it with this group, not the Flensers of course : ) but with the main characters, Alex and Darla.
There's a never a dull moment in this series and they're always on the move from city to city getting into something which is fun. I like the changes of scenery. The author also introduced a character with autism. His name is Ben and I absolutely loved him! He was my favorite character in this second book so I hope to see more of him in the next one. 
Profile Image for AH.
2,005 reviews370 followers
October 24, 2012
That was intense!

Imagine the unimaginable – the huge super volcano of Yellowstone has erupted. The Midwestern US is under a foot or so of volcanic ash. It’s cold. Winter is extra-long, extending into the summer months because volcanic ash blocks out the sun. Resources are virtually non-existent. Society, or whatever is left of it, has changed for the worse.

Ashen Winter takes place 10 months after the events of Ashfall. Sixteen year old Alex and his girlfriend Darla have been reunited with Alex’s aunt, uncle, sister, and cousins in Warren. Alex’s parents left the farm to search for Alex and are now missing. Alex plans to leave the relative safety of the farm to look for his parents. And so begins a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, and completely breathless.

Ashen Winter is an action-packed read. So much stuff happens in this book that I was literally flipping the pages as fast as possible. It is a bleak world with people taking extraordinary (and often disgusting) measures in order to survive.

Alex grows and matures a lot in this book and while he does make some horrible and often impulsive decisions, I do admire his tenacity. In fact, if the volcano at Yellowstone did erupt (and I hope I never see that in my lifetime), I would want someone like Alex on my side.

I loved the strong female characters in this book. Darla (or MacGyver as DG likes to call her) was just amazing. Hand her a few parts of a broken down whatever, and she builds and entirely new contraption perfect for traveling on volcanic ash. Her mechanical aptitude was unsurpassed.

Ashfall and Ashen Winter are definitely on my top 10 young adult reads. I am very excited to hear that there will be another book in the series, as well as a novella about Darla coming soon.

Check out Mike Mullin’s guest post on Badass Book Reviews.
Badass Book Reviews discusses our thoughts on Ashen Winter here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tanglewood for a review copy of this book.

Profile Image for Faye, la Patata.
492 reviews2,115 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
February 19, 2013
Did not finish after 30% :( So, so, sorry! Here's a rundown why I didn't like it enough to finish it (but I won't give any rating):

* I find it highly annoying that Alex is such a wussy. He's all talk, but he doesn't walk the walk. He tries to act all tough, but it's always Darla saving him. Aside from that, he's too carebear for me. Hello! You're in a post-apocalyptic world where it's every man for himself. Why are you still nice to someone who tried to kill your freakin' family? What a nutjob.

* Main character is also too impulsive. I know, I know - it's fiction and I should suspend my disbelief, but given the situation they were in, I expected he'd be more calculating... I hate stupid heroes/heroines the most, the type that don't think before they act. I guess this is a tactic in order to keep "events" popping, but it backfired on me, and I hate that he keeps getting both of them (Darla and Alex) into trouble.

* All tell, not showing. I'm tired of the constant "I said this and I did that then I went there and I cooked this" etc. etc. It's really tiring to read. I don't want to make reading a chore, so I deemed it was best for my, ahem, well-being to drop this. It's unfortunate, because I actually liked the first book!
Profile Image for Trisha.
4,651 reviews161 followers
October 20, 2016
By far, one of the more bleak post apocalypse books I've read. But I also think that's what makes this a very good series. I think it's realistic. People will become their worst when they are starving and frightened. They will believe that you have more than them (whether true or not) and will seek to take what you have. Some people will always want more - some will want to rule over others.

This world is so dark and awful. And Alex just keeps running headlong straight into it. At times, it's very frustrating and I wanted to shake him. But Alex doesn't waver with who he is. And Darla is still as resourceful and amazing as she's been.

And a new ragtag bunch has joined the Darla and Alex forces. I like that this one held up the uglier side of both people and humanity at it's worse, but it also left Alex with hope - that they could make something better. That something has to get better.

I'm looking forward to the next one!
Profile Image for Arah-Leah.
74 reviews17 followers
June 30, 2015
I really wanted to love this, but in comparison with Ashfall this was a let down. What didn't I like about it? First off, there is way too many action sequences, and not only that, but they are over the top ridiculous and unbelievable. Yes, I'm talking about the whole truck scene that went on and on to name only one. Now I realize everything in fiction doesn't have to be based on reality but I never felt that way with Ashfall. I did believe it and it could happen ..this was just the opposite. There was far too much of it and this made it drag in sections. I missed the character driven scenes that balanced out the plausible action in Ashfall. The cliff hanger endings of every chapter got annoying and some how felt cheap. Over all I was rolling my eyes too much and just really put off, especially because I loved the first one so much. Here's hoping the conclusion proves fit!
Profile Image for Giselle.
1,057 reviews907 followers
April 5, 2016
An Electronic Advanced Reader Copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for review. Quotes have been pulled from an ARC and may be subject to change.

This is the second book in a series so it may contain spoilers if you haven't read Ashfall.

Honestly I didn't know how I was going to write this review again. I erased it by accident. And it was finished, and ready to be coded. Complete fail on my part.

The trials and tribulations that Alex and Darla go through are intense to say the least. I didn't really understand their fast paced relationship, but I'm only guessing they had to mature quite quickly because of their current situation. I guess you form quick relationships when you're trying to survive! There's non-stop action in this read and I happen to love stories that keep on punching out scenes that have your heart racing.

This post-apocalyptic book is written well with the research with such a realistic point of view that I found myself Googling volcanoes that could erupt in my spare time. There's also the brilliant relationships that Mike Mullin forms and our hero Alex does everything he can to save the people he loves. It pretty much ripped my heart apart then came together again with minor stitches along the way because that's how good it was.

Highly recommended for any reader who likes end-of-the-world survival stories!
Profile Image for Sarah {Literary Meanderings}.
680 reviews282 followers
April 21, 2012

♥ Find my reviews on Blogger ~ Reviews by Bookish Sarah

- - -

*This review contains spoilers for Ashfall - book 1 in this series!*

Ashen Winter takes place roughly 10 months after the events of Ashfall. Alex and Darla have made as much of a home as possible with Alex's aunt and uncle on their farm. Things are going as well as can be expected until a small group of bandits shows up out of the blue and tries to kidnap the young girls (Alex's sister and cousin) from the farm. Through Alex and Darla's combined bravery and heroism, the bandits are incapacitated and/or scared away from the farm.

When the shotgun used by the bandits is retrieved, uncle Paul informs Alex that it is the shotgun his parents took with them last Fall when they left for Iowa in search of Alex. Alex immediately decides that the time has finally come to leave the farm to search out his parents.

Alex and Darla leave on their journey almost immediately. First order of business? Go after the bandits who ran from the farm and interrogate them. If only things were that easy, though. Alex and Darla encounter more than just minor setbacks and dangers on their quest. How do you succeed when it's as if the entire world is against you?

- - -

Ashen Winter was an amazing follow-up to Ashfall. Just when I thought there wasn't possibly another disaster that could befall Alex and Darla... I was proven wrong. This installment in the series is just as action-packed as the first. Obstacle after obstacle, danger after danger - it never ends!

Alex and Darla are wonderfully inspiring characters. This book really showcases Alex's determination and faithfulness to the ones he loves. He never once abandons his mission, even when it seems that all hope is lost. There are also a few additional characters introduced in this book. I won't give away any spoilers, but the new additions are wonderful. My favorite would be Ben; an autistic teenager with a sharp mind and tons of helpful military knowledge to contribute.

There's a whole new plethora of obstacles to get through in Ashen Winter, but the main focus is people themselves. It's all about how a person's humanity can wane in the face of disaster; how the supposed black and white of what is bad or what is good can quickly fade into shades of gray when it comes to survival. Selfishness is on display and self-preservation becomes something ugly in Ashen Winter. It makes you ask just how much of your humanity you'd be able to retain in the face of what's happened in this story.

Just as it was with it's predecessor, this book definitely has some, er.. icky parts! Did you have trouble with the skinning-of-the-bunny part in Ashfall? Child's play compared to some of the things in this one. I shiver just thinking about it. So, be ready!

All in all, Ashen Winter is just amazing. It's packed with fast-paced action and obstacles to overcome. There are oodles of plot twists and surprises you should, but won't, see coming! You're jaw will hit the floor at least a couple of times. Romance is casually woven into the story all throughout - but love isn't quite as simple in this book as it was in Ashfall. ;) This book is full of situations where humanity is on display at it's very worst and very best - and the thing is? Everything that happens is realistic... I could easily see these things happening if such a disaster were ever to occur. Ashen Winter is pure brilliance. A definite addition to my favorites list!

- - -

Book source: NetGalley
Publisher: Tanglewood Press
Profile Image for D.G..
1,363 reviews342 followers
October 15, 2012
This is the best second book in a trilogy I've ever read. It's clear that Mr. Mullin really knew where he was going because this book was so exciting and action packed that I had my heart in my mouth for like 20 chapters straight. Well done!

If you read the previous book and know how it ended, you wouldn't be surprised that in this one Alex and Darla go back to Iowa to look for his parents. In the road they learn how far some people are willing to go to survive. The societal breakdown and the lawlessness are so frightening because their portrayal is so real. You cannot doubt that if something like that were to happen, the human race would devolve to its most base instincts.

I don't think this is a good as Ashfall because Alex' character is settled and he's far away from the self-centered young man we met at the beginning of the first book. He's still a bit too naive and good-natured for his own good though so I was glad to see him pay dearly for his impulsiveness. You cannot do stupid shit all the time and expect it to work out!

I'm so looking forward to the third book in the trilogy, specially because I know that Mr. Mullin knows where he's going with the story and if the second book was this good, I can only imagine how amazing the third one will be!

If you want to know more of my thoughts about this book, please read our Group Review at Badassbookreviews.com

(Provided for review by Tanglewood via netGalley.)
Profile Image for Stephanie.
350 reviews9 followers
March 31, 2015
Alex and Darla decide to leave the relative safety of his Uncle Paul's farm in Illinois when they kill some bandits and find Alex's father's rifle on one of the bodies. They manage to track down on of the bandits who escaped and learn from him that the gun was taken from one of the refugee camps in Maquoketa, Iowa. Alex believes he can find them and together he and Darla set off across a very dangerous landscape where corrupt troops guard the camps and lawless gangs rove the land, capturing people and making them slaves or turning them into food.

Okay, I can see how a super-volcanic explosion could cause this scenario but I'm having a hard time believing that society would degenerate as quickly as it seems to in this second book. It's been less than a year since the explosion and people are already desperate enough to cannibalize?:-/ Yeah, yeah, I know, it's fiction, the author can take as many liberties as he wants... I just wanted it to be a little more believable. And Alex and Darla are really reckless and none too smart in this one. How they manage to survive is a miracle (with far too many coincidences).

I didn't like this one as much as I liked the first one but there was a semi-cliffhanger at the end of this one that leaves me wanting to know what will happen to these knuckle-heads next. Guess I'll track down book three...
Profile Image for Edith.
51 reviews
October 8, 2012
I wanted to like this one, I really did. I LOVED the first book and couldn't wait to read the sequel. The writing is great and you have to admire an author who pays so much attention to detail. For me, however the devil was the details. There was just too much time on the road which met with one bloody event after another. Even thought it started to feel pointless, I kept reading to know what happened to Darla. Things reached a point where they settled down but, there just wasn't enough complexity for me. Mullin does tell a good story. The book felt so real, that I kept texting my children and asking about how prepared they were for emergencies. Mullin really thought through the details of how such a catastrophic event would transpire. While the characters and events were quite well developed, I would love to have seen something develop with regard to the overarching role of weather, government or civilian leaders.He has certainly left me wanting to read the next book. I want to know what happens when the ash goes away and what's going on with the government.
Profile Image for Brooke ♥booklife4life♥.
1,042 reviews90 followers
March 31, 2022
Title: Ashen Winter

Series: Ashfall #2

Author: Mike Mullian

Format: Hardback, 576 pages

Time to Read: 2 days!

My Review: More crazyness! i was glad to jump back into the crazy life of Alex and i was really excited to read about the adventures he was gonna have with Darla.

Shiz goes down like no other and Alex learns how much life has really changed in a mere 10 months.

i really don't want to include spoilers, but holy cow, everything that happened just kept me on the edge of my seat!

I totally forgot i got a copy of Sunrise via Netgallery and i can't wait to start it!!!

Recommend it?: yes! read this!!
Profile Image for Zulfiya.
599 reviews98 followers
March 12, 2019
I am a little bit late with this review as I am nearly done with book 3 in this series, and I am fully aware that strictly speaking and literary speaking, this book was not a four star read. On the other hand, we need to remember that fiction is not only about the perfection of form and meaning, but also something that appeals to wider audience despite its literary faults, and thus serves an honorable purpose of escaping ( although it would be hard to escape to the world of perpetual winter :-), moving us emotionally, appealing to us, and teaching us lessons that otherwise we would have found too preachy if they were delivered in any other form or shape.
This novel was unadulterated action and wild ride, and sometimes it seemed like it was too much. At least, it was too much for me, and I am not the target audience for this novel. I am an adult who just started overcoming the aversion towards YA after it became very lovey -dovey as a part of the modem trend.
I applaud the author's bravery that he did not shun many difficult questions - sex and birth control, sex trafficking, violence, starvations and cannibalism.

I like that the novel focuses on the nitty-gritty of survival in the post-eruption world, and human ingenuity and hard work that might help you to survive. And yes, there is kindness and sacrifice in the world that might seem to be beyond any salvation.

As soon as I finished the book, I moved to the third one in the series, and that must be a tribute to its readability.
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