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The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.

It always pleases me when I start to read a novel, and within a handful of pages I find myself completely hooked. The debut novel by Tyrell Johnson, The Wolves of Winter, is a perfect example of this. You can’t beat a bit of good old post-apocalyptic fiction, can you?

Lynn McBride is a survivor, she’s had no choice in the matter. She has grown up in a world where incendiary politics has led to war, and that war has led to the release of biological weapons. Her family have tried to stay one step ahead of the conflict and the disease, and have ended up in the middle of nowhere. Born in Chicago, growing up in Alaska and now living in the relative isolation of the Yukon Lynn has become wary of all strangers. Resources are a scarce commodity and any stranger arriving at her family’s small farmstead is viewed with suspicion. Remaining apart from the remnants of humanity has served the small group well. They have avoided the worst elements of society’s collapse.

A chance meeting brings a new person into Lynn’s sheltered existence. Initially, Jax, the man she meets, is a bit of a mystery. He is certainly not forthcoming when it comes to details about his history. Once Lynn, her mother and brother are sure that Jax is no immediate threat they reluctantly allow him into their lives. The problem? Jax does have a secret; he is on the run from a sinister group known as Immunity. They will stop at nothing to find him and are quite prepared to take down anyone who gets in their way.  The end of the world has finally caught up with Lynn and she has to make a decision, try to run once again or stay and fight?

Lynn is a fascinating character, she is haunted by vivid memories of her father. Though long gone, a victim of the plague that has killed millions, his insight has guided Lynn for years. These introspective moments in the novel are wonderful. They really help to flesh out Lynn’s motivations and make her feel that much more real. The reader gets to experience her doubts and worries. She lives in a world where a single mistake can mean death, so every action and reaction has to be measured and decisive.

I make no secret about the fact that I enjoy apocalyptic fiction. I always find myself engrossed with any story where regular people are thrust into extraordinary circumstances. The Wolves of Winter is no exception. Lynn and her family are just trying to get by. They have closed themselves off from the outside world, hoping to wait out the worst and avoid any conflict. Unfortunately, times have changed. That thin veneer of civility that society pretends to have has eroded and now those who are strong enough can just take whatever they want. Watching characters realise that there has been a seismic shift in the rules is engrossing. Some try to cling onto the old ways of thinking while others are far more pragmatic.

The majority of the narrative takes place over a quite a small geographical area in the heart of winter. The author does however offer some tantalising hints about what is going on in the wider world. Jax has travelled a great deal and, when he does finally start to reveal details about himself, you learn that he has seen the best and worst of humanity. Setting this tale in an inhospitable climate works well as it helps to heighten the sense of isolation and tension surrounding events.

The novel ends on a hopeful note. Though each of the characters has been forever changed by their experiences there is still a sense that things can get better. I can only hope that there will be a sequel to this story. I’d love to learn what is going on elsewhere. How are people surviving in larger towns and cities? Are they surviving at all? There is so much potential to continue developing these characters and the broken world they inhabit.

Regular readers of The Eloquent Page will know that I like to recommend music to compliment any novel that I review. My soundtrack choice to accompany The Wolves of Winter is the hauntingly evocative Wind River by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

The Wolves of Winter is published by HQ and is available now. Highly recommended.

The Wolves of Winter

New From: £7.34 GBP In Stock
Release date January 11, 2018.

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