“Snow can save you and sustain you, crush you and kill you. Snow is a fickle bastard.”
The Wolves Of Winter is a phenomenal debut post apocalyptic novel! I devoured this incredible book in a day. From the moment I opened the pages it was impossible to put down.
Gwendolynn, or Lynn, as she prefers, is living with her family in the North Yukon. After raging nuclear war and a viral flu managed to take out most of the population, her father included, her family fled to the far reaches of civilization in hopes of finding survival. And survive they did. Until Lynn comes across Jax and his husky Wolf.
“If I wasn’t embarrassed by Mom’s paranoia, I probably would have thought the sight of her cooking food with a shotgun in her hand was hilarious.”
Jax is the first stranger they encounter, but he isn’t the last. With each new encounter, Lynn is pushed into a new world, finding out secrets about herself and her family that were long buried. Survival takes on a whole new meaning, and Lynn has to learn survival with a whole new set of rules.
“Arrows are like snow or sorrow or secrets – they seem small and light, but their weight adds up.”
As I mentioned, this book is a crazy addictive read. The way Johnson writes is simple yet powerful. He creates such stunning imagery but you never feel pulled out of the plot or the action, even when describing the snow. It all feels natural, fitting. It gives you the feel of being there, with Lynn, in this wild place. This, in addition to the pace he sets, makes you really connect with Lynn. Because in her world, even when things are quiet, you never know when deadly danger is right around the corner. That state of suspense is held throughout each page, even her memories.
One of the things I really enjoyed in this book was how Johnson handled explaining the world before compared to the world now. Lynn flashes to memories of before, but they are brief, to the point, and all tie in with what is happening to her in the present. Again, rather than pull you out of the plot, it actually pushes you further into Lynn’s head, because this is how our brains work. Thinking, remembering, all while currently doing. It made her feel more real to me.
“If fear had a sound, thats what it sounded like. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of men. Crunch. Creak. Closer. Closer. Closer.”
The world Johnson has created is chilling. Besides the obvious nod to the frozen world stuck in perpetual winter, the actions humanity took to trigger these catastrophic events sound frighteningly similar to news reports we listen to today. It’s easy to imagine this world, which makes the reading that much more intense. The goal of post-apocalyptic fiction should be to serve as a warning of things that could come, and The Wolves Of Winter nails it!
Lynn is an amazing protagonist. She’s strong and fierce but is also flawed. She’s stubborn and makes choices that make things worse for her and her family. In her defense, her decisions were based on keeping information from her, but she still defies her mother and uncle to make them. Yet, even when you know she’s making a bad choice, you feel her yearning and curiosity for the world at large. To see what’s left. To hope for something better. Her humanity is stunning in that sense, and makes her so vivid to me.
“I was in one of my moods, the ones that can be changed only by long bouts of solitude. Strange, the things that survive the apocalypse.”
For a novel full of harsh realities and intensity, there are only brief moments of violence. They happen, but aren’t graphic or overdone. They are used to illustrate and highlight the reality of this world. Survival can bring out the best of mankind, and it can also bring out the worst. Even if we don’t see the entire possibility happen in person, we still get a sense of how bad things could get. How bad people could be.
As each memory helps us understand what happened, and the days drive forward for Lynn, pieces of an obscure puzzle fit into place. Things begin to make sense, and we start to understand the reason behind the secrets. We also increase our fear as the danger in the situation continues to escalate.
I don’t want to reveal anything in the plot, not beyond the blurb because this novel unravels itself in such a beautiful way. The connections between past and present, the possibility of the future, they are all paced and revealed with amazing momentum, never too soon, and never making you wait too long. I am very curious to find out if there is more to this story, because the novel ends in a way that could simply be ambiguous and open, or as a possibility to a sequel. I am very much hoping for a sequel, myself.
If reading about the world gone wrong, with a Call Of The Wild feel added to it, combined with a beautiful prose, sounds like something you’d enjoy, then you need to pick this book up! This is a debut novel from a voice that I will be anxiously awaiting to hear again.
Thank you Scribner Books for sending me a copy to read and review.