Wednesday, 10 August 2016

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith

The Road to Winter by Mark Smith
Published June 27, 2016 by Text Publishing
Source: the publisher
Rating: 4 stars

From the blurb:
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.

The Road to Winter is Mark Smith's debut novel, set in the fictional town of Angowrie. When a virus spread throughout the country, people in Finn's small town began to panic. Even with a quarantine in place, people began to get sick or leave. Fifteen year old Finn Morrison has been on his own for two years or more now. His father died and was soon followed by his mother. Finn lives a quiet, simple life, and despite rarely seeing anyone, he is always on alert. He and his dog Rowdy spend their days together, hunting, doing chores, and occasionally surfing. When a girl shows up on the beach one day, his life is changed drastically.

This sort of story always appeals to me because  a story that is as realistic as this one, is always more chilling than a story about something paranormal. In The Road to Winter, we get a snapshot of what happens in a small town when a deadly virus wipes out most of the population. What's happened in major cities or around the world isn't known, all that mattered was Finn and the life he's carved out for himself.

Finn is admirable from the beginning, he's loyal, determined, and optimistic. When things started to get worse, he was sure his town would band together, but he was wrong. Despite losing his parents, he hasn't given up. And when Rose shows up in need of help, he doesn't turn her away, instead he's kind and patient.

It's not clear when this is set, but it's a version of Australia that I do not want to see. The government allowed the importation and sale of refugees as workers and later these refugees were blamed for the virus. Rose is a refugee and what she and her younger sister, Kas, have experienced is horrifying.

The ending is satisfying but also bittersweet, and if I hadn't known about the sequel, it would have been obvious that there was room for one, and it's a book I'm looking forward to.

The Road to Winter is a chilling post-apocalyptic story, but one with plenty of heart and hope . If you're a fan of The Sky So Heavy or Tomorrow, When the War Began, definitely pick this up, it won't disappoint.

Thank you to Text Publishing for my copy.

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