Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Lynn McBride, a twenty-three-year-old girl, faces all kinds of danger in Tyrell Johnson’s cunning debut novel, The Wolves of Winter.
Following several nuclear wars and an Asian flu pandemic, humanity has nearly been wiped out. More than a decade ago, Lynn and her family, led by her biologist father, fled Chicago for Alaska. Years later, after government scientists approached him, the McBrides again fled northwest, this time across the border to take refuge in Canadian Yukon. Surrounded by nothing but the vast outdoors, the McBrides set up their own little compound and learn to fend for themselves. For nearly a decade, they live in relative peace until a stranger suddenly shows up. . . his arrival threatening their very way of life.
Jax, the stranger, appears one day out of the blue while Lynn is out hunting with her compound bow. Traveling with him is his dog, Wolf, and right away Lynn realizes he’s very different from anyone she’s ever met. He’s big, intimidating, and mysterious. Plus, he demonstrates an obvious familiarity with weapons, which is a good thing because shortly after his arrival, a team of men shows up to kill him.
It turns out that Jax has more than just a familiarity with weapons. He’s experienced, tested, and devastatingly proficient — especially with throwing knives. He and Wolf kill the men who came after him, claiming they were part of a sinister group called Immunity.
According to Jax, Immunity claims they’re out to create a cure for the deadly flu virus that’s spread like wildfire, and he’s the key to it all, which is why they want him alive. But in reality, their true intentions are to create fear and power among survivors, and he refuses to be taken alive. That puts the McBrides’ lives in danger, as they’ve now witnessed Jax killing the team sent by Immunity. Through no actions of their own, they’re now suddenly caught in the middle of a deadly situation, and nothing will ever be the same. . .
Tyrell Johnson’s story is filled with plenty of action but also mixes in some science-fiction and a ton of suspense to go with it. Lynn is a strong, compelling new protagonist in the vein of Katniss Everdeen a la The Hunger Games fame, and the entire plot runs through her. Johnson does a wonderful job developing her and builds his post-apocalyptic setting with stunningly beautiful visual descriptions that beg to be shown on the big screen one day. Readers will feel trapped in the frozen tundra along with Lynn, also wondering, as she does, what lies beyond their compound.
Lynn is tough, something readers see right away when she confronts Conrad, a scary man who lives on his own, for poaching one of her kills. But she’s also vulnerable and curious and finds herself drawn to Jax and the rest of the unknown world. The one negative is the dialogue, which feels contrived at times, and downright unbelievable at others. Perhaps the awkwardness of some interactions can be attributed to characters growing up without needing to develop social skills, but overall the back-and-forth of most exchanges just feels a tad off.
Think The Hunger Games meets The Maze Runner meets The Walking Dead. . . The Wolves of Winter is a very strong debut, and Tyrell Johnson has created a fascinating universe rich with intriguing characters to build upon in future installments.
Author: Tyrell Johnson
Series: Lynn McBride #1
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Release Date: February 2, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.