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Winter #1

The Road to Winter

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Alternate cover edition for 9781925355123

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.

240 pages, Paperback

First published June 27, 2016

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About the author

Mark Smith

5 books88 followers
Mark Smith lives on the west coast of Victoria, Australia, He is the author of four novels: The Road To Winter, Wilder Country, Land of Fences and If Not Us (all Text Publishing). Wilder Country won the 2018 Australian Indie Book Award for YA. Mark is also an award winning writer of short fiction. He is the co-curator of Mind Went Walking, The Songs of Paul Kelly Reimagined and Into Your Arms, The Songs of Nick Cave Reimagined (both Fremantle Press). HIs first adult novel will be published by Pan Macmillan in January 2025

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 239 reviews
Profile Image for Carolyn (on vacation).
2,252 reviews642 followers
June 7, 2017
Set sometime in future Australia, climate change has caused the weather to become wilder and the seas to rise and asylum seekers are doled out to farmers to work as slaves. When a virus wipes out a large proportion of humanity, a boy called Finn finds himself alone, after the death of his parents and the rest of his small Victorian coastal town, with only his dog for company. He has survived largely through catching seafood and rabbits, growing a few vegies and through rationing the dwindling stack of canned food his father hid before his death. Apart from swapping some food with an old man on another property he has seen no one for two years when a teenage girl shows up being chased by a group of men called 'wilders'. After Finn helps her get away, she persuades him to go in search of her sister.
This is an excellent debut YA novel and a great start to a new series (perhaps trilogy?) about survival after a viral apocalypse. The plot is simple but engaging and the main characters are gutsy and interesting.

With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Text Publishing for a copy of the book to read and review.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,234 reviews2,740 followers
April 5, 2017
It had been around two years as far as he could work out, since Finn had been on his own with just his dog Rowdy for company. He and Rowdy made a good team, and Finn’s ability to trap rabbits and catch abalone and crayfish meant they ate reasonably well. But the danger of the Wilders finding them was always there. Since the virus had killed almost everyone in his little town, including his parents, Finn knew he was better off alone. The one thing which kept him sane was the occasional surf in the nearby ocean.

The day he spotted the stranger hurrying towards him, Finn knew trouble had finally arrived in his world. And the young girl’s terror at the men who were chasing her meant his immediate decision was to help her. Ramage, leader of the Wilders was determined to get Rose and her sister Kas back into their clutches. But the girls had been separated and Rose was injured and desperate. Could Finn keep Rose in hiding long enough to escape Ramage?

With a cunning born from desperation, Finn and Rose devised various means to stay safe. But they were only kids, and the people after them were men who were also desperate. Would the two youngsters survive? And would they be able to find Kas who was more than likely lost in the bush?

Wow! Stunning! The Road to Winter is the debut novel and first in the Winter series by Australian author Mark Smith, and I absolutely loved it! Extremely well written, the setting in the Australian bush was authentic – the central characters down to earth and real. At the forefront is the fight for survival; but there is also friendship and trust. Set for a Young Adult audience, nevertheless an adult audience would enjoy this novel equally as well. (I haven’t been in the YA age group for many years!) I’m also looking forward to book #2 very much! Highly recommended.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital copy to read and review.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,158 reviews312 followers
April 22, 2017
A simple storyline told in cleanly written prose. The freshness here came from the very interesting characters; young adults who are mature enough to understand their world, but still retain a certain youthful hopefulness.

There wasn't anything particularly new about this story, but I loved the way it was told. The main characters are very real and filled with life. I loved that even with the expected unkindnesses of a post-apocalyptic world, there were so many characters who still retained their goodness and willingness to help others.
Profile Image for Jeann (Happy Indulgence) .
1,010 reviews4,183 followers
September 2, 2016
Set in the small coastal town of Angowrie, The Road to Winter chronicles Finn's experience surviving after a deadly virus which has wiped out most of the population. His trusty dog is his only companion, as he hunts, cooks and fishes for survival.

I dislike blurbs that compare books with others', because it was nothing like Tomorrow When the War Began. It's more of a survival story where Finn stumbles an Afghani refugee called Rose which leads him to a mission to find her sister.

Through his mission, he needs to learn to prove himself and gaining the trust of a survivor group, while also escaping the clutches of Rose's owner. There's lots of complications along the way, particularly with Rose's condition and the terrain they have to cross.

The Road to Winter doesn't have a particularly strong plot so I wasn't sure where the story was going. It's more of an experiential read set in a vivid Australian bush town, with rock pools, surfing, rocky terrain and small town neighbours. There's also a distinct lack of information around the virus that hit and what happened to the town and the people, which would have been good for some back story.

The pacing was off, particularly for the romance which happens quite suddenly with barely any development. All bets are off as soon as Finn calls the girl beautiful and all of a sudden they're kissing.

As a 16 year old boy, Finn is great at survival and hunting which makes him perfect for the setting. I wanted to know more about what made him this way other than just listening to his parents. I didn't really know much about his family, his thoughts and motivations, outside of him just wanting to survive and to help Rose. He seemed a bit too perfect of a character.

There's also quite a bit of detail missing, and for half of the book I was confused about why they had Willow, a little girl travelling with them. She seems to phase in and out of the story and had no significance whatsoever.

My favourite part of the book was undoubtedly Finn's dog, who shows his loyalty in many ways. I love dog characters and kind of felt sad that his injuries weren't really dealt with later on the book - one of many loose ends which aren't really dealt with.

I also thought it was important how the book touched upon Afghani refugees who were being used as slaves. Even after the virus hit, they were still viewed as subpar human beings by the other survivors and it was great that Kas and Rose lead most of the story.

The end of the book is filled with emotion, but fizzles out at the ending due to the lack of a strong plot.

The Road to Winter is a snapshot of survival in a small Australian coastal town after the apocalypse. While it provides a vivid landscape and a true Aussie feel, it doesn't delve too deep in terms of character development. With no strong plot, it's more of an experiential read which will appeal to younger readers.

I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,506 reviews179 followers
June 26, 2016
The Road To Winter is the first book in the Winter series by Australian teacher and author, Mark Smith. Finn Morrison is fairly certain he is sixteen. Apart from his dog, Rowdy, he has been on his own since his mum succumbed to the virus about two years ago. His dad, Tom died earlier from injuries sustained while helping to defend the supermarket from looters.

Finn is the only one left in the coastal town of Angowrie, and he survives on the rabbits he traps, the seafood he catches, the vegetables he grows and the store of non-perishables and fuel that his dad cleverly stockpiled before things got bad. Finn stays sane by playing with Rowdy and by going surfing when he gets the chance.

When Rose runs onto his beach, injured and fleeing from a violent gang, Finn makes a split-second decision to help her. In hiding from the people he refers to as Wilders, Finn shares food and shelter with Rose. They also share their stories, although Rose is less forthcoming than she might be. But she is insistent that they must find her sister, Kas, who is on the run from Ramage and his Wilder band.

Smith’s portrayal of the post-virus coastal Victoria is utterly believable; his plot may seem predictable, but has enough twists to keep the reader engrossed; his characters have depth and appeal, despite their flaws. Finn appears resourceful and mature for a teenager, but occasionally his judgement belies his age. The ending is no cliff-hanger, but readers are bound to want to know what next will happen to Finn and his companions.

This post-apocalyptic tale has heroes and villains, humour and heartache, and plenty of excitement. It may be branded Young Adult, but it is certain to be enjoyed by older readers as well. Text give the reader a “Love it or your money back” guarantee on this one, and it is difficult to imagine they will need to pay out many refunds. A brilliant debut from an author to watch. 4.5 ★s
Profile Image for Marianne.
3,506 reviews179 followers
August 26, 2022
The Road To Winter is the first book in the Winter series by Australian teacher and author, Mark Smith. Finn Morrison is fairly certain he is sixteen. Apart from his dog, Rowdy, he has been on his own since his mum succumbed to the virus about two years ago. His dad, Tom died earlier from injuries sustained while helping to defend the supermarket from looters.

Finn is the only one left in the coastal town of Angowrie, and he survives on the rabbits he traps, the seafood he catches, the vegetables he grows and the store of non-perishables and fuel that his dad cleverly stockpiled before things got bad. Finn stays sane by playing with Rowdy and by going surfing when he gets the chance.

When Rose runs onto his beach, injured and fleeing from a violent gang, Finn makes a split-second decision to help her. In hiding from the people he refers to as Wilders, Finn shares food and shelter with Rose. They also share their stories, although Rose is less forthcoming than she might be. But she is insistent that they must find her sister, Kas, who is on the run from Ramage and his Wilder band.

Smith’s portrayal of the post-virus coastal Victoria is utterly believable; his plot may seem predictable, but has enough twists to keep the reader engrossed; his characters have depth and appeal, despite their flaws. Finn appears resourceful and mature for a teenager, but occasionally his judgement belies his age. The ending is no cliff-hanger, but readers are bound to want to know what next will happen to Finn and his companions.

This post-apocalyptic tale has heroes and villains, humour and heartache, and plenty of excitement. It may be branded Young Adult, but it is certain to be enjoyed by older readers as well. Text give the reader a “Love it or your money back” guarantee on this one, and it is difficult to imagine they will need to pay out many refunds. A brilliant debut from an author to watch.
Profile Image for Text Publishing.
611 reviews228 followers
July 17, 2017
‘Part dystopian-future novel and part survival story, this is a fast moving and enthralling page turner for young adults, set on the Victorian coast. I could not put it down.’
Bev Jacobsen, Library Co-ordinator, Campion Education Perth

‘A read-in-one-session novel. The recognisable coastal setting, a world catastrophically changed by a virus, asylum seekers used as slave labour, and the dangerous Wilders give rise to interesting issues for student discussion.’
Jan May, Teacher & Education Consultant

‘Had me on the edge of my seat the whole time and I finished it in a few hours…Such a thrilling read and fantastic characters.’
Peggy Miedlar, NewsLink

‘Loved it from beginning to end…Great characters…I can’t wait to sell the pants off The Road to Winter!’
Peter Ingram-Jones, Fullers Bookshop Hobart

‘Mark Smith spins an enthralling tale of survival, the distinctly Australian backdrop of a coastal town setting it apart from other, generic post-apocalyptic titles. Finn was painted as intelligent, likable, and most importantly realistic.’
YA Wonders

‘This post-apocalyptic tale has heroes and villains, humour and heartache, and plenty of excitement. It may be branded Young Adult, but it is certain to be enjoyed by older readers as well…A brilliant debut from an author to watch.’

‘Fantastic…[Smith] clearly understands what makes young people want to read and this book certainly has many of these important attributes…It is a book they will gladly consume, discuss and remember.’
Lamont Books

‘The recognisably Australian setting and slant on socio-political issues will appeal to Australian teenaged readers. The economy of style, fast-moving plot and absence of intrusive explanations of issues will ensure that The Road to Winter is a thoroughly enjoyable experience though, like all the best speculative fiction, it leaves the reader with plenty to think about.’

‘A beautiful and intimate story… Like the best YA fiction, The Road to Winter is sure to appeal just as much to an adult audience, and I can easily see it being discussed as passionately by a local book club as a high-school English class.’
Otago Daily Times

‘Aussie writers do survival stories so well—perhaps it seems that way because we can relate to their settings. In the footsteps of John Marsden and Claire Zorn comes Mark Smith’s first post-apocalyptic novel…Unforgettable.’
Best Books for Kids 2016, Listener/b>

‘Tense and atmospheric…Mark Smith’s debut is assured, gripping and leaves you wanting more.’
Best Books for Younger Readers 2016, Sydney Morning Herald

‘It’s easy to see why Mark Smith’s dystopian thriller has been compared with John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began. I bearly came up for breath as the pages flew. So strap yourself in for a high action ride.’
Kids Book Review

‘A solid debut.’
Publishers Weekly

‘It’s been suggested more than once that dystopian fiction has had its day…but The Road to Winter is a welcome sign that there’s still life in the genre.’
Profile Image for Kelly (Diva Booknerd).
1,106 reviews299 followers
July 16, 2016
3.5 Stars.
The Road To Winter was a wonderful read that lured me in with it's premise and left me wanting more. Finn is a remarkable young man. Having lost his mother two years ago to the virus spreading across the country, his father passing as a result of a violent outbreak in town, Finn's only company is his canine companion Rowdy and the sound of the waves which beckon him. He's self sufficient, hunting, fishing and trading his fresh catches with a local farmer in exchange for fruit and vegetables. It's a meager existence and he's simply surviving rather than living. Until he meets Rose.

Rose's fear is palpable. She's on the run from the Wilders and escaped when she and sister Kashmala were separated and is desperate to find her before the viscous Ramage and his Wilders find them both. Although weary to share her story, Rose's life has been a traumatic struggle of imprisonment and ownership. Having arrived in Australia as an asylum seeker, the girls were given to a local family while adults were placed in detention centers. Siley's are owned by Australian families, used to work on the land and denied an education or a basic duty of care.

I loved the social messages woven throughout the storyline. It touches on the social injustice of basic human rights and the plight of refugees within Australia, gently and with care. The barren Australian coastline was vivid, a simple existence that captivated with so few words. But as much as I had enjoyed the storyline overall, the backstory felt lacking.

As a reader, I need to know how the portrayed world came to be, why does the virus effect more females than males? Before communication was left abandoned, how far did the virus spread? Finn himself also talks about how his town assumed there would be government intervention, a cure or precautions to help stem the deadly virus from spreading. Were capital cities effected? I can understand that a character of sixteen is unable to provide answers, apart from bigoted speculation that those seeking asylum had brought the virus to our shores. I hope that book two in the currently unnamed series is able to provide more information as the storyline progresses.

Overall, it was a quick, yet entertaining read. Although Finn's character is likable, I wanted to feel an emotional connection to his character but couldn't quite get there. It could be that I tend to find the female perspective more enjoyable as a narrative, but that's simply personal preference. Regardless, a wonderful debut and I look forward to reading the next series installment.
Profile Image for K..
3,804 reviews1,023 followers
January 6, 2019
Trigger warnings: violence, death, murder, death of a parent (in the past), horrifying attitudes towards refugees and immigrants, medical crisis, .

I've been meaning to read this book for literally years now. And I liked it, but I also wanted more from it, you know? A lot of this felt like set up. It's not a very long book - barely over 200 pages - and so once you've done the worldbuilding and the character introduction, there's not a huge amount of time left over for an actual plot.

Still, the characters were great and I enjoyed the social commentary around refugees, so I'll be interested to pick up the second book and see if there's more plot in that.
Profile Image for Sharah McConville.
565 reviews23 followers
July 31, 2017
'The Road To Winter' is set in Australia in the near future where a virus has wiped out most of the population. This action packed story follows 15 year old Finn, an orphan, and his fight for survival. I won Mark Smith's book though Goodreads Giveaways. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series when it is released later this year.
Profile Image for Paula Weston.
Author 8 books848 followers
September 20, 2017
What an intense page turner! Even the quiet moments are infused with a sense of menace because the threat of the Wilders is never far away.

There are strong echoes of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, although this book is unmistakably Australian - right down to the speculation around where our nation’s attitude to asylum seeks may lead us. It’s not as bleak as The Road (a book I greatly admire), and there’s no cannibalism (so far!), but Mark Smith reminds us how easily our veneer of society might slip away in the wake of a catastrophic, world-changing event.

The Road to Winter is tightly written and superbly paced, and I enjoyed Finn’s voice. I also spent much of the book worrying about Rowdy (and then Yogi), and was relieved to find them both doing okay by the end of the book. I also cared about the human characters, of course :). (I’m still scarred by Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go…and actually, there are parallels to that nail-biting novel too.)

This is an excellent dystopian YA novel, where the Australian landscape is beautifully rendered in all its glory and danger.

I’ve already added Wilder Country to by TBR pile.
Profile Image for Andria Potter.
Author 2 books60 followers
April 22, 2021
3.5 ⭐ rounded up to 4.

Probably another book not to read during the virus outbreak and that ending. *Screams in frustration!* Another book that leaves it on a wide open cliffhanger but at least this outright states it's book one to a series so there's that.

Gonna think about how to review this because right now: feelings. 😒🤔

Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,739 reviews868 followers
July 11, 2017
3.5 stars

I had no idea what to expect when I decided to pick up Road to Winter. All I knew about this book before diving in was that (1) it was written by an Australian author and (2) it was being pitched as ‘the next generation’s Tomorrow, When the War Began’. Both of those things appealed to me so I decided it was worth a shot… and I am so glad that I did! Since finishing this book I have heard a lot of meh things about this but I personally thought it was incredibly well-written novel, especially for a debut author.

Some more quick thoughts:

• The setting worked wonders for this story. Sometimes books set in the Australian countryside/bushlands can be over-exaggerated and reinforce Aussie stereotypes, but Smith captured the beauty and rusticity of it perfectly. It was amazingly atmospheric, providing the perfect backdrop for both the survival and dystopian aspects of this story. I only wished we had been provided with a map on top of it!
• While the story was a survival adventure/action book at heart, it did include some relative commentary on multiple contemporary issues, such as asylum seeker/immigration and racism. I thought that it handled these topics very well. It felt that it was genuinely teenaged characters discussing these topics - without any (seemingly) hidden agendas - and done in a way which didn’t take away the attention from the focal points of the story.
• I found that the characters could have done with some more fleshing out, honestly. I did like our protagonist, Finn - who was a strong but kind character - and our secondary cast, especially Kas. At the same time, however, I did not find them particularly memorable. The focus of the story remained on the plotline so it was hard to feel completely connected to them on a personal level. I think that really fleshing out their development would have helped to really top off an otherwise fantastic novel but at the same time, I didn’t have any major problems with the characters themselves so it feels silly to complain too strongly.
• The romance was a bit of a sore spot for a lot of readers but I thought it was done as well as it possibly could have been in a dystopian novel. Yes, it probably could have been taken out but you know what? It played an appropriately minor role in the overall storyline and there was no instalove… so I actually enjoyed it!
• Action and suspense was definitely this author’s strong point. I adore the storyline of this book as a whole. It focused on survival so it reminded me of a lot of childhood favourites (because I read a lot of books like this as a kid). While it was simple, it was never dull. The pacing was even and familiar. I loved the flow of the chapters and how we got swept up in this adventure with Finn. I was able to fly through the story in a single evening!
• However, the apocalypse which caused the dystopian state that this book is set in was not particularly well described. I didn’t think we got to know nearly enough about the virus or its effects in detail. Why did it kill females off more quickly than males? How did it spread? How has it affected the rest of the Australia (and the world)? I am also still confused about the ‘sileys’ situation.


This was a very quick read but I thought it was well-written, especially for a debut novelist. I didn’t connect to the characters as much as I would have liked but it was so easy to get swept up in the story that it didn’t really bother me until I had finished the book. I think this book will really appeal to a lot of younger readers, particularly people that are transitioning out of the middle grade genre, or readers who enjoyed books such as The Prey and Big Game.

Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review.
Profile Image for Bridget.
1,197 reviews78 followers
September 8, 2016
I dithered between four and five stars for this and landed on 5, yes I would read this again, pretty sure I'd enjoy it just as much next time too. I'll even read the next one when it comes out, that is something, I'm bad at series reading.

In a grim future Australia, where the seas have risen and then a virus has swept through, killed millions and pretty much wiped out the population - especially the women, life is very tough and lonely for 16 year old Finn. His family are all gone but left him well prepared, he has a great cache of supplies but is in constant danger of being attacked. He has a dog for company, I always love the dog characters and this one is no exception. Finn has made a life for himself, hunting rabbits, fishing, surfing and eking out an existence on what he can find when his routine is totally disrupted by the arrival of a group of 'Wildings' who are tracking a girl. This injured and vulnerable girl is Rose, and she needs Finn's help, she is stroppy and damaged and Finn is overwhelmed but kind to her. She is searching for her sister and Finn is unable to resist helping her to find her.

What I loved so much about this book was the fact that it is not only a really well written dystopia, but that has much to say about current Australian politics. Rose and her sister are Siley's, slang for asylum seekers, originally from Afghanistan, they are treated as slaves on farms and in factories as a way of solving the asylum seeker problem. Mark Smith makes his politics clear on this topic but not in any kind of preachy way, but in a humanitarian way which makes you think. It is interesting to see these issues tackled in this way, often there are bright red pointy arrows to an authors politics but in this case it is way more subtle.

If I was looking for a book to share with students in a class setting I think this would definitely be one I'd consider. It is full of contemporary issues, would enable lots of really good class discussion. I also really appreciated the format of the book and even though it is not a long book it really does look like an adult novel. That is a rare thing, in fact when I bought it I didn't realise that it was a YA novel, and it needn't be, this is a book for everyone. Text publishing are doing such great work in this field, I'm full of admiration for them.

I think it will appeal to the same audience who liked Station Eleven, The Passage etc and it will be a book I'll throw at reluctant seniors who need something grown up but short. It is gritty and wonderful. Bring me the second one soon please.
Profile Image for Sue Gerhardt Griffiths.
869 reviews42 followers
August 14, 2017
Brilliant! Australian young adult fiction at its best. 5 well deserved stars.

I won the 2nd book ‘Wilder Country’ in a Goodreads Giveaway and just had to rush out and borrow ‘The Road to Winter,’ the first in the ‘Winter’ series from my local library as I do not read a series out of chronological order.

Mark Smith’s debut novel The Road to Winter is a stark tale of country Australia set in the future where most of its population has been wiped out by a mysterious virus. The story follows Finn, a boy of 16 who is left to fend for himself along with his dog, Rowdy. The Wilders, a gang under the control of an evil man named Ramage are hunting down Sileys (asylum seekers). They’re searching for one person in particular, Rose. Rose escaped from captivity, she hides out with Finn after he stumbles across her at the beach and from there the fight is on to survive.

From start to finish my heart was pumping and pounding and my breath I’m sure was held until the final word.

Captivating, gritty, intense and powerful. A must read!
Profile Image for Rachael.
Author 8 books420 followers
August 22, 2016
Post viral apocalypse survivor Finn has been living off the land for 2 years, alone with his dog avoiding the marauding Wilders. When a girl running from captivity stumbles across his path everything about his lonely yet orderly existence is thrown into chaos.

A fast, page turning, adrenaline ride tapping into all your lizard-brain fears and instinct for survival. The stakes are sky-high, the odds are dreadful, and the characters are immediately believable, relatable and engaging. The social commentary about asylum seekers is devastatingly on point. A terrific start to the series.
Profile Image for Trisha.
1,969 reviews104 followers
May 5, 2016
Taut, tense, tight and textured. More post-apocalyptic, than dystopian.

MC Finn is a quality character to follow. His instinct for survival honed over two years of solitary, careful existence is safe but oh so lonely.

Rose changes everything.

Very much incomplete, with more books to follow.
Profile Image for Mary.
1,168 reviews38 followers
October 31, 2018
I was surprised how much I liked this Australian dystopia/adventure YA novel. It features Finn who's survived with minimal human contact for two years--his parents died as a result of a terrible virus outbreak. He meets Rose who is running from some Wilders--cruel gangs who roam the country. He eventually meets Rose's sister and another hidden community of survivors. I can definitely see this novel appealing to those picky Hatchet fans looking for a novel of survival while also attracting teens looking for a thoughtful dystopian book. It's a deep story about trust and community--plus there's non-stop action and just the right amount of romantic chemistry. I'm looking forward to showing this one to students at my high school's library.
Profile Image for Kiri Lucas.
122 reviews2 followers
February 16, 2018
Finn is on his own. It's been that way since a mysterious virus wiped out huge numbers of the population and the survivors left town. He's learnt to be careful in order to survive and to avoid the Wilders, violent scavenger gangs who roam around. But then he meets a girl called Rose who is trying to escape from the Wilders and Finn has to figure out if his own survival is more important than helping someone else.

I love dystopian fiction. As a bonus, this one is set in Australia - I love Australian fiction, too. The ending pretty obviously leaves room for a sequel which I would be interested in reading. A quick and easy read.
Profile Image for Jonathon.
131 reviews35 followers
February 23, 2017
"The wind's picked up off the strait again, whistling hard and sharp through the coastal wattles. The bay has turned to white caps all the way out to the open ocean. The weather will force me and Rowdy indoors, laying low and huddling together for warmth. We can't risk a fire for fear of the smoke being seen."

So begins this young adult post-apocalyptic tale of survival set along the rugged southern coastline of Australia.

I enjoyed this book - it's more than ok and it's an interesting and engaging debut. I had somewhat higher expectations for it, but generally it was a decent read.

It starts off really strong and the prose is rich and evocative - Smith's treatment of the Australian wilderness and the rural-coastal setting is probably my favourite thing about this novel; the worldbuilding is really satisfying (possibly because I'm Australian and I'm very familiar with these kinds of settings). However, there was so much potential for plot and characterisation in this story that felt a bit squandered and lost, unfortunately, with Finn being the only compelling character.

Finn is a great character and perfect for narrating the story; I really liked the author's choice of first-person present point-of-view, which has been popular in YA fiction ever since Suzanne Collins did it with Katniss in The Hunger Games.
Oftentimes in other YA novels it just doesn't suit the narrative and feels more like a fad, but in this case it really does suit the story.
There's a nice journal-like quality to the prose and the suspense elements are heightened because we are in the present - Finn isn't narrating from some future place and relating to things in the past; the story unfolds for the reader as they unfold for Finn. This immediacy of narrative is always welcome in post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction as it creates uncertainty and constant threat to match the anxiety and unpredictability of the speculative storyworld of the novel; it highlights the survival instincts of the characters.
Like Katniss, Finn is really adept at surviving. He has skills, acquired throughout his childhood, to endure the end of the world - hunting, gathering, fishing, tracking. This gives a believable, even credible, verisimilitude to his character and his situation (I also love that he's a surfer. True blue Aussie).

Unfortunately, while Finn is well-developed, I feel like the secondary characters in the story aren't substantial enough. Rose is a bit underdeveloped, serving as little more than a catalyst for Finn to leave the safety of his home. Kas is a bit more interesting, but rather abruptly becomes Finn's love interest and loses all other interesting dimensions to her character thereafter.
Regarding Rose and Kas, as well, I'm not entirely convinced with the 'Siley' narrative - the idea that asylum seekers are microchipped and treated like slaves after gaining entry to Australia? There is a huge political and human rights issue concerning asylum seekers and refugees in Australia at present, but I'm not sure how believable this speculative element really is; the 'Siley' thing really feels like forced social commentary with a too obvious political agenda. The treatment of asylum seekers and refugees is an important topic to broach, of course, especially with young readers, but it does feel a bit didactic and preachy in sections. However, I'm interested to see how this theme is treated and developed in the next books.

Concerning the villains of the story, Ramage and the Wilders aren't menacing or threatening or terrifying enough. I'm left wondering if Smith held back a bit on the more disturbing violence because this is aimed at a YA market, but I really feel like the potentiality of Ramage and the Wilders being truly scary is lost somewhere. There's not enough intensity.
They are also too easily overcome. I know this is the first novel in a planned series and the longevity of the bad guys is important at this stage in the plot, but Finn too easily hinders them at every turn. This dampened the tension a little too much for me.

All in all, this novel could have been a serious contender for the YA version of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the prose certainly shines and the worldbuilding is spot-on (I do want to know more about this pandemic virus though), but the novel as a whole just isn't disquieting or unpleasant or dark enough for a post-apocalyptic work. Though I believe this is due to the target audience/intended readership.

I read The Road to Winter pretty quickly - it is fast-paced and thrilling and a lot of fun. An excellent debut with great potential for a successful and popular series, especially here in Aus.
There really isn't enough YA post-apocalyptic fiction around and waaaaay too much dystopian fiction. There ought to be more novels about adolescents surviving the end of the world. Just darker and grittier and more suffocating - brimming with existentialist unease.
Profile Image for L.M. Justus.
Author 7 books59 followers
August 8, 2017
Great book, really well written! It reminded me a lot of the Ashfall series by Mike Mullin, so if you enjoyed this one, you should try that series or vice versa. Can't wait to read book #2 but I guess I'll have to, won't I? :)
Profile Image for Trish.
141 reviews5 followers
May 11, 2022
A survival story in a post pandemic world that also explores the treatment of asylum seekers in Australia. Really enjoyed it and will be recommending to my students
Profile Image for Abbie.
1,976 reviews581 followers
April 16, 2017
(I received a copy from Netgalley, In exchange for an honest review.)

This wasn't an awful read, but unfortunately, it struggled to keep my interest. There were parts of this that dragged because of it, and I spent a lot of it feeling quite bored. It just wasn't one that gripped me, which was a shame.

Overall, Not awful, but not one I loved.
Profile Image for Renae Nae.
74 reviews4 followers
November 6, 2018
4.5 stars! I read this book as I wanted a new novel for my year 9 English class who aren't exactly enthusiastic about reading, especially the boys.

I did a lot of research and stumbled across this novel. It ticks plenty of boxes since firstly it’s Australian, secondly has a male protagonist and thirdly contains plenty of action.

The author Mark Smith wrote the novel wanting to engage teenage boys. I really think he’s hit the nail on the head. I look forward to reading the next in the series and of course reading and exploring it with my class in a couple weeks time.
Profile Image for Sue.
243 reviews33 followers
February 5, 2017
This book took me by surprise. I was expecting another tired,formulaic dystopian novel and what I got was a well-written, thoughtful and genuinely engaging story populated with vivid and interesting characters.
Finn is a boy living on the edge. After his family, most of his coastal town and indeed it seems Australia, has fallen to a devastating disease, he survives. A loner before the pestilence, Finn has adjusted to his new life with his dog, Rowdy, killing his own food, growing some, and trading with his surviving neighbour, Ray, who grows more veggies and has chooks. Ray and Finn stay out of each others way most of the time, because there is another group of survivors, Wilders, who think they run the place. They treat women (who are rare now as the disease hit them worst) as possessions, tagging them with ID chips to keep tabs on them.
With Finn's recount of how the disease took hold, and the breakdown of society that followed, Smith has a deft touch. Enough detail to be compelling, but nothing gratuitous either. We understand that Finn has survived with a combination of cunning, stealth and, it must be said, some fortuitous planning by his parents. And I have to say, Rowdy is the PERFECT name for Finn's dog - inspired writing right there!
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Rose arrives. Nineteen year old Rose is a terrified escapee from the Wilders compound, with a secret I won't reveal here - but it's a doozy. She and her sister, Kas, have become separated and Rose believes the Wilders have recaptured her. Begging Finn to help her rescue Kas, Rose wins him over and they set off on a dangerous mission to take her back. The Wilders are in pursuit of Rose, so Finn is left with no choice but to help her - to save himself as well.
I like Finn - he is independent, but vulnerable - with a yearning for his old life characterised by sneaking away to surf.
Something that kept me in touch with my old life. It's dangerous, not because of anything in the water but because of what's on the land - who might arrive in town while I'm caught up enjoying myself. But it's a risk that's worth taking to stay sane.

With its boy-and-his-dog, a girl appearing from nowhere, and band of rabid testosterone-driven yahoos, this book had shades of Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go, so if you enjoyed the Chaos Walking series, you might like this one. I am interested to see where the next installment takes us, as our protagonists are in more peril than ever by the end of the story.
Bring on book #2!
For ages 13 and up
Profile Image for Ellen.
984 reviews36 followers
January 19, 2021
It seems almost unfair to posit this book in relation to others given it's such a strong standalone story, but I am an apocalyptic aficionado so here we go. Think of this as a grimmer 'Tomorrow When the War Began', or a young adult interpretation of 'The Road' or even 'The Walking Dead'. It's exciting and incisive – and all yours to enjoy.
Profile Image for Tilly Booth.
181 reviews929 followers
April 26, 2016
Although The Road to Winter has been compared to Tomorrow When the War Began I must say...this book is in its own league. It's a fast read with a range of diverse characters and give you a new look at a broken world.

It's set in Australia (woohoo!) on the coast where a young boy lives with his dog (THE DOG IS OKAY GUYS). He surfs, he catches fish, he's living the dream - well the dream for a country that was wiped out by a pandemic leaving groups of wilders and outlaws to roam the country taking whatever they want.

So when Rose, an asylum seeker finds Finn, he takes her in since she's injured and on the verge of collapse. Little does he know what trouble Rose has brought with her...

This was a quick read that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The writing isn't anything amazing but the descriptions are good enough that you read this book like you're watching a movie in your mind. So much happens and there are countless plot twists.

It was a good book and i'm excited to read the next on in the series!
Profile Image for Lou | bookswithlou.
578 reviews5 followers
February 7, 2017
This book is pitched as Tomorrow, When the War Began for a new generation but unlike the Tomorrow series, this book just fell kind of flat for me.

It was written well but it just didn't grip me. For me it felt like it didn't have enough explanation as to why things were they way they were. And I'm assuming there will be more books so that could obviously be fixed up as it often is in series.

Oh and I have to say the at the start I got some Maze Runner and 5th Wave vibes which is probably why it didn't remind me of the Tomorrow series.

But overall, I can see this book appealing to a lot of people and quite possibly becoming something quite big.
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