First, this review does contain spoilers for Ashfall. Please be warned.
The circumstances of Ashen Winter should never have come about and I could never truly get into the story while thinking that. Alex risked life and limb to make it Illinois, only to find out his parents are no longer there. That’s rough. It was a punch in the gut at the end of an emotional journey. I, emotionally, understand why Alex announced he was going after them, but logically I can’t parse the actual decision to go.
Six months after the devastating volcanic eruption in Yellowstone and the world is struggling to recover and Alex and Darla have it better than most. Alex’s uncle’s leg is mostly healed, the kale harvest is doing spectacularly, they have animals, meat, and plenty of hands to work the farm. Darla’s invented “Bikezilla”, a half bike/half snowmobile that makes it much easier to get to town. They’re valued members of the community, friends with the doctor, respected by Alex’s aunt and uncle. They’re still at great risk for infection, hypothermia, or any number of diseases, but let me reiterate. In the new world, Alex. Has. It. Good.
And then the bandits show up and fuck it all up. One of the bandits has Alex’s dad’s shotgun and that sets Alex back on his quest to go find them. It’s a pointless quest, serving only to bring unnecessary tension to a story that had its resolution. Despite going out better prepared, with Darla, by the end of the first day Alex has lost all the supplies and we’re back to the start. Struggling to survive in a barren landscape, every move feels like a retread. They end up in the same cities, facing the same shadowy government forces, fighting the same brand of bandits. Except this time we do it backwards!
The book majorly suffers from the loss of a main character. The new characters introduced can’t hold a candle to them and it shows. It also takes away a lot of the survival aspects when 6 people can’t figure out how to rub two sticks together. Again, it felt like pointless biding of time until the conclusion, an emotional punch that didn’t leave me sad, but angry. Because, yes Alex, it really isall your fault. Next time stay home with the geese.