Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Wolves of Winter

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
Simon & Schuster: 1/2/18
eBook review copy; 320 pages
ISBN-13: 9781501155673

The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson is a highly recommended post-apocalyptic novel set in the frozen Canadian Yukon.

After the nuclear war and the pandemic flu, Lynn McBride is simply lucky to be a survivor living in isolated log cabins in the Yukon with her mother, brother, uncle, and his friend's son. It's been seven years since they saw another person, not counting the looser Conrad, who lives nearby. The family was originally from Chicago, where her father was a university biologist. Then they fled north to a small town in Alaska when she was 12.  At 16, after her father died from the flu and it was clear they had to leave again, they slipped across the Canadian border into the Yukon. Now they live a harsh existence trying to keep fed and warm.

When Lynn happens to meet a stranger named Jax with a dog he calls Wolf in the woods, she rashly invites him to their camp for a meal. Jax seems to be hiding something, but he also tries hard to be non-threatening to the small isolated group, who question him and clean up his wounded leg. When a group of men who call themselves traders show up and they are a threat, Jax clearly knows much more than he has told them, and he also makes it clear that he must leave. This sets into motion a chain of events that will affect them all.

The Wolves of Winter is an excellent debut novel and a great addition to the post-apocalyptic genre. Lynn is a well-developed main character and strong female lead - the rest of the family are less developed, but fine supporting characters. The story is told in Lynn's voice and she explains what brought them to this place. Jax is an enigma for most of the novel, although readers will learn more of his story by the end.

Johnson does an admirable job integrating what they currently do to survive with the story of what happened in the past that led the family to their isolated existence in the Yukon. The weather and the landscape are a harsh setting. The end of the modern world makes their existence in this environment feel even more precarious. While they are surviving, every day holds risks. Add to this the adversaries beyond the harsh location and you have an overwhelming feeling of impending danger. There is an element of science fiction to the plot that I thought worked. Additionally, Johnson does have a few surprises to reveal along the way.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

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