The Wolves Of Winter By Tyrell Johnson Book Review (Spoilers)

Sunday, 14 April 2019

I recently popped into The Works on my lunchtime at work, and I'm always sucked in by their 3 for £5 deal. There's some absolute trash in that offer, but from time to time, there's also some absolute cracking reads.

One of books I picked up in that offer was The Wolves Of Winter by Tyrell Johnson; his debut book (and currently his only published book).

The blurb;

"In the wake of nuclear war and the deadly epidemic that followed, Lynn McBride has built a life in the snow-covered Canadian wilderness. Blocking out every memory of the world that came before, she learned to hunt and kill to survive.

But danger is on the horizon. A group of strangers, including the enigmatic Jax, have found her tiny community.

Now, the time has come for Lynn to decide who to trust - and the stakes couldn't be higher. Because, in this cold new world, trusting the wrong person tends to be the last thing you do."

So, as it goes, we follow the story of Gwendolynn - or just simply Lynn - who is originally from Chicago but who fled with her family to small-town Alaska when she was 12 after trying to escape devastating nuclear wars and the deadly Asian flu pandemic.

Four years later, after suspicious men claiming to government disease agents (Immunity) knock on their door, they snuck across the Canadian boarder into the Yukon, where a now 23 year old Lynn and her remaining family live in total isolation and hunt whatever animals they can in order to survive.

Seven years after they cross the Canadian boarder, they come across another human for the first time; Jax and his pet dog, Wolf. Jax brings his own issues with him; after being experimented on as a child by Immunity and escaping their evil grasps, they are now on the hunt for him, as he is not just immune to the Asain flu, but their experiments on him have given him superhuman strengths and abilities... he can run extremely fast and doesn't need as much sleep as the average humans and he is stronger than the other men... he is their ideal fighting weapon.

What Lynn doesn't know, is that her deceased father (a former employee of Immunity) injected her with one of his potions when she was just a child and dying of the Asain flu herself... and not only did it completely heal her, but it gave her the ability of healing other people sick with the flu... something Immunity and Lynn find out when they capture her.

Lynne escapes and rejoins Jax and her family, where they plan to escape and get rid of the Immunity gang that are following her around and trying to track her and Jax down.

So, what did I make of Tyrell Johnson's debut novel?

Well, it's a short book and a lot happens in it, which makes the book fast paced. There's rarely a meh chapter in it, and it certainly doesn't drag out in any sense of the word.

Having said that, this book has been heavily criticised for having an alarming likeness to The Hunger Games; a strong, independent young woman with a bow and arrow in hand, trying to fight back at the realms of an evil government... hello Katniss Everdeen.

To give Johnson credit, he does build up the post-apocalyptic setting very well; stunning visual descriptions that I can only hope to see on the big screen one day.

He also builds Lynn up as a brilliant female protagonist; she is strong and tough, and we see this from the very start with her encounter with Conrad, a burly bloke who lives on his own in their tiny community in the sticks of nowhere. But every hero needs their vulnerabilities, which I think Johnson portrays very well with her curiosity of Jax and the rest of the unknown world that she imagines one day exploring and seeing what it has become whilst she has been tucked away in the white, snow-filled walls of the Yukon.

Now, the bits I didn't overly enjoy too much.

The dialog. It feels too contrived at times, okay in others, and some parts and just downright so bad that it's hilarious. You could argue that the dialog lacks due to the characters being shut off from the world for so long, having no element of social skills for such a prolonged period of time, but overall, the dialog is just a bit naff.

If Johnson were to rewrite The Wolves Of Winter again, the one thing I would hope for, is more character development for Jax. He is a very interesting character in the book with a good, solid backstory, but we don't know enough of him or hear enough about his upbringing. The whole book is based around him stumbling across their little log cabins in the middle of nowhere... yet he is one of the most under-developed characters in the book. He also adds an element of supernatural to the book; something else I don't think we get hear enough of.

If you liked The Hunger Games, you won't hate The Wolves Of Winter. It's a good debut with room for improvement, and hopefully Tyrell Johnson can build on existing characters in future instalments.

Verdict: ★★★

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