The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

wolvesofI enjoyed The Wolves of Winter.  Of course I enjoy post apocalyptic settings and seeing how the whole end of the world scenario plays out.  Does this book bring anything new to the scene.  Yes and no.  I won’t deny that this is a familiar story, a world where what we fear most has come to pass.  War followed by disease.  The disease won.  There are less people and the world we know is a distant memory.  Forget all your little luxuries, forget things that you don’t think of as luxuries – that life has long gone.

What The Wolves of Winter does do differently is focus much more on a small family unit trying to survive in the cold vastness of the Yukon.  We primarily follow a character called Gwendolynn (Lynn) McBride.  Lynn lives in a tiny community consisting of her mother and brother, an uncle type character called Jeryl and a young man called Ramsey who Jeryl is responsible for.  There is another settler called Conrad who, to be honest, is rather unpleasant and lives on the edge of their tiny homestead.  Together they’re making a life of sorts – they hunt, they have a few provisions that they are very careful with and they grow potatoes and carrots as their staple food.  It’s a living of sorts and they’re glad to be alive, out of the cities and in the cold where the flu is less likely to spread and take casualties.

Their tiny bubble is burst when a newcomer comes onto the scene.  Jax and his dog (called Wolf).  Jax is heading north, he doesn’t really desire to stop over but beggars can’t be choosers and with an injured leg and little food he takes up the offer of hospitality.  This is when things start to change.  Firstly in small ways.  Lynn, who has been feeling the confines of her tiny world and longs for adventure becomes a little bit fascinated with this new arrival.  He upsets the apple cart to say the least  Ramsey is jealous of a new man appearing on the scene, Lynn’s family are hostile at first but soon come to enjoy the new addition and Jeryl longs for word of what’s happening out there in the world.  Unfortunately these small changes are not the only changes that Jax’s arrival brings.  He’s being followed by people from an organisation known as Immunity.  Immunity have been around long before the flu virus broke out.  They’re seeking a cure but their methods can be a little bit over zealous.  They want Jax and are prepared to go to extreme lengths to secure their goal.

What I really enjoyed about The Wolves of Winter was the setting, the character Lynn and the writing.

I really liked the way that Lynn narrates the story and in fact I think she makes an excellent character.  Through flashbacks you’re given an outline of her life before the changes.  You’re given an insight into her family and how they came to travel to the Yukon after Lynn’s father fell foul of the flu.  She has strong family bonds and yet you can feel her restlessness, the way she feels trapped herself – she longs for more and you know it won’t be long before she begins to test the boundaries.  On top of that she’s no cowering ninny.  She goes out hunting, has learnt to handle herself and a bow and arrow and isn’t afraid to take the initiative.

The setting itself is a wonderfully described place.  A cold and hard environment to live in where blizzards can kill you if they catch you unaware.  In terms of the writing it has a certain beauty to it.  The descriptions of the wilderness and the snow are enough to make you feel the cold.  I just really enjoyed the world described – I’m not saying I want to live there but the author does a great job of brining a picture vividly to mind.

In terms of criticisms – well, like I said above, this doesn’t really break the mould so if you’ve read other apocalypse type stories then this will undoubtedly feel familiar although like I said I like the smaller focus here.  I think the characters surrounding Lynn, even Jax, were a bit two dimensional and needed more attention.  Immunity felt a little obvious in the way they come across as the bad guys – which was a pity in a way.  But, in spite of minor criticisms this was a good read.  I loved returning to the story and although it took a little time to really get into the meat of the tale I actually enjoyed the set up and didn’t struggle with the pacing at all.

All in all I thought this was an enjoyable read and an impressive debut.  I would definitely wish to continue with the series if the author intends to write more and in fact I think the ending would seem to suggest that there will be more to come.

I would just make a small mention here that at the start of the story and later on towards the end there are two scenes that could be upsetting to some readers.  These scenes are not gratuitous but they could be triggers so please bear that in mind.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.


17 Responses to “The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson”

  1. Jennifer | Book Den

    This sounds really great. I love post apocalyptic stories, and a dog is a huge bonus. I’m always afraid for the dog, though. O_O

    • @lynnsbooks

      Me too – I love post apocalyptic stories and dogs! This was a good read, it took time to develop the characters and although some elements were familiar I think it stands on its own two feet very well.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Thanks for the review, I literally knew nothing about this book and now I’m wondering why it wasn’t on my radar before now. Post-apocalyptic setting? Right up my alley! And the Yukon setting, that hooks me in every time 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I did like the descriptions in this – they’re not over wordy or bloated but there’s something about the writing that really makes you see the setting and feel the cold.
      Lynn 😀

  3. imyril

    This sounds intriguing – I saw it on NetGalley but I’ve been limiting my requests recently. Although I do wonder (given your comment on familiar post-apocalyptic tropes) whether I’d read it wishing I were re-reading Marcel Theroux’s Far North instead, which is a wonderful post-apocalyptic book set in Canada that weaves in some really non-traditional elements (I heartily recommend it if you fancy a backlist read!)

    • @lynnsbooks

      Thanks – I’ll make a note of that.
      I hope I haven’t put you off this one though, there are elements that are similar to other books I’ve read, war, killer disease but it was a good read and I will continue on. Going to go and check out the Far North.
      Lynn 😀

      • imyril

        I am going to take a look. I do love (post)apoc fiction 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Yeah, me too.
        Lynn 😀

  4. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Post-apocalyptic scenarios are always fascinating – maybe because we subconsciously believe that reading about them means they remain firmly in the speculative realm…
    And if it’s true that it’s difficult to find new angles for this kind of stories, I think the main character you described could make up for any other narrative failing.
    Thank you so much for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I suppose there are always new angles, for example – Sea of Rust. With this one – there’s the war and the disease but I liked that these weren’t the main focus, there were no zombie like people and it wasn’t all about human nature going to hell in a handcart. There was a lot more attention on the family unit and really it was only the Immunity people that rattled the cages. Of course there is an additional element but I’m not going into that – it would be a bit spoilery.
      Lynn 😀

  5. sjhigbee

    I do like the sound of this one – post-apocalypse is a world that intrigues me, after all, I’ve written my own post-apocalyptic tale that’s being published next year:).

    I like the fact that this one is focusing on how people are affected by the daily scrabble for survival. Thank you for sharing, Lynn.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I didn’t know you’d written a post apocalyptic book – obviously I knew about your sci fi – how exciting. When is it due to be published?
      Lynn 😀

  6. January : My Month in Review | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson […]

  7. Friday Face Off : ‘He had killed man, the noblest game of all’ | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] I had a couple of books in mind but I discounted them because I’ve used them previously.  Instead I’ve gone for The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson.  Not a lot of covers for this one but nonetheless, a book I enjoyed  My review is here. […]

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