Read of the Week

The Wolves of Winter

Tyrell Johnson

Simon & Schuster

Review: Lauren O’Connor-May

What if Katniss Everdeen had red, matted hair, lived in a magicless, Winterfell-like environment and had a bit of the ballsiness of Lisbeth Salander? Then she’d be Lynn McBride, the lead character in this post-apocalyptic debut novel by Tyrell Johnson.

Lynn, some of her co-characters and many parts of the story, bore strong similarities to other novels or movies, and yet, even though it threatened to be predictable and copycattish in the opening chapters, the book redeemed itself by completely surprising me at every turn.

I so thoroughly enjoyed this book that I finished it in one sitting and mourned it at the end. It is one of the few books I immediately wanted to reread – and probably would have had I not been so exhausted after finishing it during the dark hours of the morning.

But the story is not perfect. It is about Lynn and her relatives, who live in the remote, cold parts of Canada, which has become icier than Alaska. This weather shift was brought about, in a vaguely explained way, by bio-warfare.

The trivially developed war storyline, which created the setting for the book, is put to bed early and does not come across as being very well thought out. But once all the badly developed sci-fi is out of the way, we get to the good bits, the McBride family’s survival story.

All is going reasonably well for the family, disease, pestilence and poverty aside, until a mysterious stranger arrives on the scene. Being one of the few eligible non-relatives around, the lead character is obviously attracted to him. More strangers arrive and this pivots the story out of the comfort zone it has created.

It has a good balance of action, mystery and romance, but what really made this book memorable for me was that the characters were so darn likeable – except the baddies, who were just too bad to be good for the book. The goodies are all a bit off somehow, but they still grow on you as the slow-paced story builds.

I also liked that the book kept surprising me. Sometimes it seemed to almost set me up for the surprise.

I’d catch myself thinking: “Aha! Seen this before. There she goes wandering off drunkenly into the bush. Everyone knows what is going to happen next. Yep, here it comes … wait … what?”

It caught me every time.