I like to keep busy. Those who know me might call that an understatement, but I can’t function without having two or three books going at any given time.
When I saw a Reddit thread from someone named Peter Hackshaw spreading the word about his brand new post-apocalyptic book, I was already a few chapters into Dean Koontz’s Breathless and Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. But something about Hackshaw’s description of Ever Winter intrigued me. So I bought the Kindle version and gave it a shot.
It only took a few pages before I realized that I wouldn’t be able to put this story down, and after a few days, I’d officially pushed Koontz’s and Pressfield’s books to the Friend Zone; I had a new love, now.
WARNING: This review contains mild spoilers, but nothing to ruin the best parts.
Ever Winter is the story of a young boy named Henry who lives in a post-apocalyptic arctic wasteland with his family. They survive by any means necessary, which we learn very early on means resorting to a bit of cannibalism when a stranger is found near their home on the frozen Atlantic Ocean.
But that stranger had friends, and those friends eventually come poking around the family homestead while Henry is out scavenging. When he returns to find his family members either killed or missing, Henry sets out to get his revenge.
I think what grabbed me first is the quality of the story and Hackshaw’s ability to paint a vivid picture. I was right there with Henry when he found his ravaged family, and I couldn’t live with myself until I found out what happened.
But another big part of that initial grab was the spirit written into those characters. Henry and each of his family members live in my brain right now as if I saw them in a movie. I really appreciate that kind of storytelling because there’s nothing that will drive me away from a novel faster than confusing characters. If they’re not special enough to stand out in my wayward brain, then it ruins the whole story for me.
Henry’s Father is a perfect example of a stand-out character. He’s a strong and respectable man, the likeness of which we just don’t see in books or movies anymore. He reminds me a lot of Charles Ingles on the Little House on the Prairie stories. Sure, he has his flaws, but he puts his family above all else, and would do anything for them.
Henry’s siblings all have their own unique personalities. They deal with the stress of their kidnapping in different ways, but are still united by their family blood. They actually remind me quite a bit of the Stark family from Game of Thrones.
As for Henry himself, he’s your typical anti-hero who comes across some of the worst luck you can imagine while trying to save his family, but he doesn’t give up. The point of an anti-hero is to drive you a bit mad with his decisions, but I think we can all relate to what Henry must be feeling when he jumps head-first into the vengeance game without a proper rulebook.
One particular part of the book that really stuck with me is the portrayal of a borderless world that features a bastardized mix of languages (mostly English and Spanish). Not only is this probably pretty accurate as to what would happen generations after the end of the world, but the fact that this entire book takes place where there are no definitive geographical landmarks is not lost on me. We’re exploring a completely foreign world while still remaining on Earth.
It’s also important to note that there’s an audio version narrated by Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey fame, but I didn’t get a chance to check that out. How Hackshaw got Stevens for this gig, I may never know, but it certainly adds a thick layer of credibility to a well-deserving story.
Overall, I enjoyed Ever Winter much more than I would have imagined. Honestly, I have a soft spot for small, indie titles of any form, but I can see this one rising above that. This was Hackshaw’s debut novel and I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing much more from him in the future.
Ever Winter is currently available on Kindle, Audiobook, and Paperback version through Amazon.