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Always Gray in Winter

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  75 ratings  ·  69 reviews
A distant daughter. A peculiar device. A family lineage full of secrets. When werecat Pawlina Katczynski finally resurfaces, her location previously unknown to anyone close to her, the reunion is short of welcomed. Instead, she finds herself thrust tooth and nail—tooth and claw—into a feud between opposing werecat clans as her family and their enemies reignite a battle tha ...more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published August 10th 2017 by Thurston Howl Publications
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Average rating 4.04  · 
Rating details
 ·  75 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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Christopher Schmitz
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a SF/F author I go to lots of comicbook conventions with my books and meet new an interesting folks. I also blog and keep in touch with my readers and I am always somewhat fascinated with the furry community (and being from the Midwest, I’ve never seen a higher per capita number of furries at con than Fargo, ND). That’s how I was introduced to Always Gray in Winter by Mark J Engels.
The book is technically SF/military SF and for a few good reasons. As an avid fan of World of Darkness in my tee
Scottie Kaye
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy leaping lynxes, is this book jaw-dropping. How on earth can someone make a Polish Navy werecat spy family feel so real? This book is worth the read on its dialogue alone. Add to that a compelling story with powerful underlying subplots and a strong theme of family (oh, plus explosions and military exploits), and you have a book that hits on every note of "serious storytelling" that were-animal books are sadly known for not reaching. If I had the sequel in my hands right now, I wouldn't be w ...more
Leviathan Libraries
Sep 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: request-author
So… werecats. I don’t normally do werecats, werewolves, were-anything, really. Hasn’t been my thing for several years. But when Always Gray in Winter was submitted for review, I said I’d give it a try. I figured it would be a nice way to change things up a bit. It definitely changed things up a bit, and was an interesting experience.

Always Gray in Winter is a pleasant 184 pages. It feels like it was less than that. I was honestly surprised at the page count when I flipped through the paperback.
Apr 29, 2019 rated it did not like it
This originally appeared at The Irresponsible Reader.
Let's get this over and done with in a hurry, I'm in no mood to belabor things here. Let's just rip off the bandage and just hope I don't lose too much hair in the process.

Here's the blurb from the author's site:
The modern day remnant of an ancient clan of werecats is torn apart by militaries on three continents vying to exploit their deadly talents. Born in an ethnic Chicago neighborhood following her family's escape from Cold War-era Pol
Happy Booker
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Always gray in winter is a science fiction story. The story is short, however, filled with paranormal activity, is action-packed and contains strong military flavor. A shapeshifter is a form of werecats dominating the formula of the plot. Pawly is Polish American and has eyes for Lenny a German American. Pawly is a were lynx superhero and is in a fight with Mawro, a werecat. Mawro is nothing but trouble, a North Korean scientist that has shapeshifting powers.

The work is filled with abbreviations
Jako Malan
Nov 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brush up on your Polish and Korean and join in the adventures of the modern-day remnants of an ancient werecat clan. Blood runs deep - and flows frequently - in this high-stakes game of cat and mouse that involves many different players - each with their own agenda and reason for wanting to see the MGS (Morphogenic Synthesizer) surrendered or returned to their side of the family.

The emphasis here is on family. Though this is a Paranormal Sci-fi Action piece with a strong military flavour, a lot
Stephen Coghlan
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
There are books you read once, say, ‘That was a neat experience,’ and put down. Then, there are books you read once, say ‘if I go over this again, maybe I can spy an Easter egg or something else just as cool.’ So you read it a second time.

Always Gray in Winter was definitely in the latter.

Mark J. Engels has created an action-packed adventure about a family suffering from an affliction that turns them into werecats. There are conspiracies, government operatives, lost loves and second chances, an
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
Always Gray in Winter is a military scifi featuring an ancient clan of werecats with a long history of conflict and military involvement. It is an action-packed read with a huge cast of diverse characters all converging on a mysterious device which has to do with the werecats' "Affliction." Everyone wants the thing, and the race to possess it drives most of the conflict in the book.
I found myself a little confused at first by the large cast, but once I'd sorted out the relationships, Always Gray
Dead Stuff
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a performance! With his debut novel, Mark Engels displays his talent, builds a world and lays the way for more.

I'll confess, I'm hardly the most objective reviewer: I've watched the essence of this novel evolve for about two decades now. Mark is a friend and a peer, and with this achieves what many of us in the community have only dreamed.

Always Gray in Winter is a novel of ailuranthropy, of the acceptance of a broader world, and of family. In the latter sense, it's a very timely novel: the
*quick disclaimer - this book was provided to me for free by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review of his work*

**also, possible spoiler warning is in effect**

I wasn't quite sure of what to expect when I first started reading this, mostly because the stories I've come across in the past with werecats and other shifters have been fantasy/paranormal. I read this book because I was curious to see how an author handled them in the science fiction realm, and I was not disappointed with t
Jennifer Miller
Always Gray in Winter is a good book about a family that has an affliction that allows them to do something really cool, but it also puts them in danger. When the bad guys find out about it, they try to kill the family in order to steal it to use on test subjects of their own.
What is it and why is it so valuable? The book can be a bit confusing so read it slowly.
3 stars.

Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Werecat Pawlina and friends had left the service after a disastrous ambush. Lenny, her romantic interest, was traumatized by the brutal, strange attack. He isn’t aware of Pawly’s secret. Pawly was sure that she would bring more trouble on family and friends so to protect them, she took off on her own and went under the radar. She resurfaces in a battle with another young woman whose speed and agility surprise even Pawly. Several friends and her brother show up and kidnap her to get her home.

C.D. Tavenor
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not going to lie. I was a bit skeptical about reading a story about “werecats.” Seemed a little cheesy to me. But Mark Engels writes with incredible clarity and skill, bringing life to characters with skill hard to match. And more importantly, he keeps the story barreling forward from the very first page, throwing readers into the action immediately.

But what’s even more impressive, Always Gray in Winter is fundamentally about family. These “werecats” are spread across the world and disconnected
Candy Robosky
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Love, family, Werecats, and military secrets

I enjoyed Always Gray but did find it confusing at times as Engels flipped back and forth between past and present so rapidly. I often had to reread sections to make sure who was remembering what. Despite this hiccup I did enjoy it.
There were so many characters that were highly involved in this story that at first it was hard to keep track but I found myself really caring for so many of them, including Hana. Caring for Hana surprised me but knowing how
Christopher Whitmore
Jan 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Whenever I read a Dan Brown book, I enjoy his tendency to linger in corners of the world I've never visited - giving me tantalizing sights and sounds of real places mixed with fictional characters and events. Mark Engels gave me similar feelings as I read his debut novel, Always Grey in Winter. The world is meticulously crafted, and full of the kinds of details that make it all real in my head - whether it's fiction or not. His use of rather specific military jargon and smatterings of other lang ...more
A. Spears
Sep 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Always Gray in Winter" is a pure sci-fi read involving were-cats without being a space opera, a horror story, or a paranormal romance. While it does involve the military, it has few other tropes given the themes. This is a world-spanning story that will leap from country to country. I love the cloak-and-dagger feel that threads itself into the tale. Just when you think the characters are safe to take a breath, it erupts into action.

I will warn that the opening is confusing. You can't just sit w
Valerie Roberson
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review
Mark J. Engels is a new author to me and at first I was kinda lost with what the storyline was about, new author, different style of writing and sometimes I need the picture painted for me to get my head wrapped around the scene the author is portraying. It defiantly had my interest peeked so I plugged on. I’m so glad I did! As the pages and chapters flew by, I understand the storyline more and more. It became exciting and a mystery kinda formed enough to make me want to go on as fast as I coul ...more
Joel Kreissman
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Mark Engel's debut novel brings us the story of the aptly-named Pawlina Katczynski, a were-lynx in hiding from both her family and her former unit in the Navy after a disastrous encounter. While slaking her bloodthirst on some human traffickers she's found and captured by her twin brother, who drags her back into some family business involving a relative in Poland who's being targeted by the same North Korean were-tigers who decimated her unit.

While it is a good story the cast of characters is q
David Williams
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm a big fan of non-linear storytelling and narratives that read like puzzles. I love piecing together the clues, anticipating what will fill in the gaps, and being surprised along the way. Engels delivers on all these fronts.

I also enjoyed the multifaceted nature of this tale. Yes, there are werecats, giving "Always Gray..." a foot (paw?) in the door of the paranormal/urban fantasy genres. But there are flavors of military fiction and literary fiction as well. Lurking beneath the more fantasti
Mike McGinley
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mark Engels’ fast-paced race through the far-off branches of our world forced me to understand it is impossible to see what you’re looking at….there is always another story hidden in plain sight. More than an adventure or action saga, it is a mind-stretching exercise; if you can keep track of the details it all comes together to reward your journey. You’ll jump from seamy waterfronts through ethnic urban neighborhoods and ancient forests, with flashbacks to desert battles and peeks at an evil em ...more
Tony Walker
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much to my surprise, Engels ability to interweave an intriguing storyline of pseudo-realistic cat-people into the fold of our current human existence is just the beginning. The author orchestrates an alternative history storyline of the past 70 years with a sophisticated breadth and depth among various international cultures as well as trades’ knowledge. Along with having a keen awareness of a nonlinear story line, this book is not for the faint of heart. Rather, the author takes us on a journey ...more
Jodi Herlick
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Always Gray in Winter is an action-packed paranormal adventure that will appeal to fans of speculative fiction and furry fiction alike. It's got a large cast of well-developed characters whose differing viewpoints enrich the story as they battle to protect their werecat secret and deal with its ramifications. The plot is character-driven and gripping. When I received an advance copy of the book, I even brought it along to Fourth-of-July fireworks because I couldn't stop reading in the middle of ...more
Coyttl Coyote
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fun story of a family of werecats. Different factions, that seem to all be gunning for the same goal - to figure out how to control their affliction.

A good introduction to the world of the afflicted, and how our main characters got to where they are today.

There are parts where there's a load of new information and characters that are introduced all at once, and that if you don't pay close attention it's easy to get a little left behind. Despite that, however, the action scenes were dead on,
M.C. Hana
Sep 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to compare an early beta version and this published book...let's say it had good bones, but Mark polished 'Always Gray' into a great read!

It's a tightly written furpunk thriller with a different take on shape-shifting tropes. The nonlinear structure allows discerning readers to delve more into Pawly's backstory and the underlying drama of the Afflicted, while enhancing the present-day action.
Dec 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a unique, fascinating, and surprisingly relatable journey of Pawley, her family and friends, and their family secret.

With great pacing and charaterization, this book offers a great escape into a different world. This was very different than my usual reads, and did not disappoint.

You can check out my full review at
J.D. DeHart
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What I most enjoyed about Always Gray in Winter is the way Mark J Engels includes so much. There is a lot going on in this book.

Engels has action, clearly described, and otherworldly creatures I could picture in my mind. The right details are here to make this book a cinematic experience, and I enjoyed where the author took the story, as well.

A well-told science fiction tale.
Elizabeth Roderick
Jan 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you're into complex characters, intergenerational family drama, great worldbuilding, intrigue, and werecats, check out Always Gray in Winter. The action is multi-layered, and the author gives you a view of it from all sides, so you get to see the motivations of all the players. Striking imagery, and a touch of romance, too. ...more
William Webb
Aug 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this book. Engels pulls off the rare feat of writing a book that works both as a furry and as military science fiction. It's fun, fast and poignant. Catch the wave now for the next big name in SF! ...more
John Brewer
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Picked up the book on Friday and read it straight through, didn't get anything done until I finished it.
It starts off fast, evens out and develops the characters very well then races to the end.

Looking forward to the Sequel.
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great read for a fan of the genre or someone looking for something new. Engels keeps the pace brisk in this tale with some great action and very intriguing characters. Looking forward to more.
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Boyhood interests in trains and electronics fostered Mark's career as an electrical engineer, designing and commissioning signal and communications systems for railroads and rail transit agencies across the United States. Along the way Mark indulged his writing desire by authoring articles for rail and transit industry trade magazines. Coupled with Mark's long-time membership in anime, manga and a ...more

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