Ashen Winter
Goodreads ratings
4.07 / 5

"Ashen Winter" Summary

By Mike Mullin

young adult | 576 pages | Published in 2012

It's been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It's also been six months of waiting for Alex's parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex's parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

After a supervolcano eruption plunges the world into darkness and chaos, Alex and Darla must navigate dangerous territory to find Alex's parents in this thrilling post-apocalyptic novel.


"Ashen Winter" is a thrilling post-apocalyptic novel written by Mike Mullin. This book is the sequel to "Ashfall," and it follows the story of Alex, a teenage survivor of the Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption that has plunged the world into darkness and chaos. The novel takes readers on a gripping journey as Alex navigates the harsh and dangerous landscape, facing numerous challenges and encountering both allies and adversaries along the way.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story of "Ashen Winter" is set in a world devastated by the catastrophic eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. The eruption has blanketed the earth in ash, causing global temperatures to plummet and plunging the world into a perpetual winter. As a result, food and resources are scarce, and survivors must contend with lawlessness and brutality as they struggle to stay alive.


The novel is primarily set in the post-apocalyptic landscape of the United States, depicting a world where cities lie in ruins, and the remnants of society are engaged in a brutal struggle for survival. The harsh winter and scarcity of resources create a bleak and unforgiving backdrop for the characters' journey.

Main Characters

The story revolves around several main characters, each with their own unique traits and motivations:

AlexThe protagonist, a resourceful and courageous teenager determined to reunite with his family.
DarlaAlex's love interest, who accompanies him on his journey, displaying resilience and ingenuity.
BenAlex's friend, a skilled survivalist who provides crucial support and companionship on the journey.
TargetA ruthless antagonist who poses a significant threat to Alex and his companions.

Summary of Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5:

Alex and his companions are struggling to survive in a world ravaged by the aftermath of the Yellowstone eruption. They face numerous challenges, including scarcity of food and the constant threat of danger from other survivors. As they embark on their journey, they encounter both allies and adversaries, testing their resilience and determination to survive.

Chapter 6-10:

The group faces escalating dangers as they navigate the treacherous landscape. They encounter hostile survivors and must rely on their wits and survival skills to evade threats. Amidst the chaos, they also form alliances with other survivors who share their goal of finding safety and security in this harsh new world.

Chapter 11-15:

The group's journey becomes increasingly perilous as they encounter violent factions vying for control in the lawless landscape. Alex and his companions are forced to confront the darker aspects of human nature as they fight to protect themselves and each other. Their determination to find Alex's family becomes their driving force.

Chapter 16-20:

The group's resilience is put to the test as they face betrayal and heartbreaking losses. Despite the overwhelming challenges, they remain steadfast in their quest for survival and reunion with Alex's family. Along the way, they discover unexpected sources of hope and support amidst the devastation.

Chapter 21-25:

As the group presses on, they encounter a series of harrowing trials that push them to their limits. They must confront their deepest fears and make difficult choices as they strive to overcome relentless obstacles. Amidst the harsh conditions, they find moments of camaraderie and solidarity that strengthen their resolve.

Main Events

  • Alex and his companions face scarcity of food and resources in the post-apocalyptic world, prompting them to embark on a perilous journey.
  • The group encounters hostile survivors and dangerous factions, testing their survival skills and resilience.
  • They confront betrayal and heartbreaking losses while striving to reunite with Alex's family.
  • Amidst the chaos, they find unexpected sources of hope and support, strengthening their determination to survive.

Themes and Insights

Survival and Resilience

The novel explores the indomitable human spirit in the face of extreme adversity. It delves into the characters' unwavering determination to survive and find hope amidst the desolation, highlighting the resilience of the human psyche in the most challenging circumstances.

Morality and Humanity

"Ashen Winter" delves into the moral complexities that arise in a world where survival often necessitates difficult choices. It examines the characters' struggle to uphold their humanity and ethical values amidst the brutality and lawlessness that pervade the post-apocalyptic landscape.

The Fragility of Civilization

The novel paints a stark picture of the fragility of civilization, portraying the swift collapse of societal norms and institutions in the wake of a catastrophic event. It underscores the vulnerability of human structures in the face of natural disasters and the subsequent struggle for survival in a world devoid of the comforts of modern society.

Reader's Takeaway

Readers of "Ashen Winter" will be immersed in a gripping tale of survival, resilience, and the enduring human spirit. The novel offers a thought-provoking exploration of morality, the fragility of civilization, and the unwavering determination of individuals to persevere in the most harrowing circumstances. It serves as a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity for hope amidst the bleakest of landscapes.


"Ashen Winter" captivates readers with its intense portrayal of a post-apocalyptic world and the characters' harrowing journey through a landscape marked by scarcity, danger, and moral ambiguity. Mike Mullin's compelling narrative weaves together themes of survival, morality, and the human spirit, offering a riveting and thought-provoking reading experience. The novel's exploration of the indomitable will to survive and the complexities of human nature leaves a lasting impression on readers, making "Ashen Winter" a compelling and unforgettable work in the post-apocalyptic genre.

Ashen Winter FAQ

  1. What is 'Ashen Winter' about?

    Ashen Winter is a young adult novel that follows the story of Alex, a teenager trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after a supervolcano eruption. He sets out on a dangerous journey to find his parents and encounters various challenges and threats along the way.

  2. Who is the author of 'Ashen Winter'?

    The author of 'Ashen Winter' is Mike Mullin, an American author known for his compelling young adult fiction.

  3. Is 'Ashen Winter' part of a series?

    Yes, 'Ashen Winter' is the sequel to the novel 'Ashfall' and is the second book in the Ashfall series.

  4. What genre does 'Ashen Winter' fall into?

    'Ashen Winter' falls into the genres of young adult fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, and survival fiction.

  5. Is 'Ashen Winter' suitable for all age groups?

    While 'Ashen Winter' is primarily targeted at young adult readers, its themes and gripping storytelling can also appeal to adult readers who enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction.