Sometimes you get that feeling when you start reading a book that you know you are going to love it. Something about it, whether the characters or the tone of the story just clicks with you. Mark Smith’s debut novel, The Road to Winter, is one of those books for me.
Since a deadly virus and the violence that followed wiped out his parents and most of his community, Finn has lived alone on the rugged coast with only his loyal dog Rowdy for company.
He has stayed alive for two winters—hunting and fishing and trading food, and keeping out of sight of the Wilders, an armed and dangerous gang that controls the north, led by a ruthless man named Ramage.
But Finn’s isolation is shattered when a girl runs onto the beach. Rose is a Siley—an asylum seeker—and she has escaped from Ramage, who had enslaved her and her younger sister, Kas. Rose is desperate, sick, and needs Finn’s help. Kas is still missing somewhere out in the bush.
And Ramage wants the girls back—at any cost.
I absolutely loved The Road to Winter, from the first page to the last! It’s a thrilling story of survival in the aftermath of a virus that wipes out the population. There’s lots of action and twists to keep you reading, but there are also some lulls in the action that give you a chance to breath and prepare yourself for the next part. It’s a story that I couldn’t stop thinking about either. When I wasn’t reading I was wondering what was happening to the characters and how the book was going to end.
Finn’s story takes place in the aftermath of a virus that has wiped out a huge percentage of the population. The virus affected females mostly so it is mostly males that have survived. Gangs of men, called Wilders, wander the countryside and control the north where Finn lives. With a lack of females around to keep them in check these men have lost their humanity and have become violent and ruthless. You certainly don’t want to bump into them! Finn has hidden himself away in his house, with a secret store of food, gas, and other supplies, and he and his dog, Rowdy, have survived by themselves fine. However, when Rose turns up, she brings trouble to Finn’s door and his quiet life is disturbed. Being the kind of guy that he is though, Finn has to help Rose, both to help her hide and recover and to help her find her sister, Kas.
The Road to Winter reminded me of other books that I’ve really enjoyed, including one of my favourite books, Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go. The tone of the book felt quite similar, as Finn has to try and help the girls escape the clutches of the violent men who want to harm them. There is the suspense of them evading capture but not really knowing if they’ll be able to outrun them. The other similarity to The Knife of Never Letting Go that I really liked was the relationship that Finn has with his dog Rowdy. Rowdy is his constant companion and is incredibly loyal, much like Todd and Manchee. The story also reminded me of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet because it’s all about Finn’s survival on his own, becoming aware of the land and the ocean to find hidden trails to get around and hunt for food.
I loved Mark’s characters too, especially Finn. While the other males have lost their humanity, Finn has held onto his and leaves the safety of his home to go out and try to find Rose’s sister. He cares for the girls and is willing to do anything he can to protect them and keep them alive. I loved the special moments of hope that Finn shared with the females in the story. Even with everything that was happening to them they still managed to laugh and enjoy having full stomachs.
My only complaint with The Road to Winter is that now I have to wait to find out what happens next. I need to know what happens to these characters and whether they can find some peace eventually. The book comes with a money back guarantee but you are certainly guaranteed a great read and I highly recommend The Road to Winter.