Always Gray in Winter Paperback – August 10, 2017
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"...drops you into a world of werecats, full of deception and intrigue." -- Katherine @kleffnotes , The Nerdy Girl Express co-founder
"'Furpunk'...runs on high stakes, killer action sequences, sneaky plotting, and some deft worldbuilding..." -- M. Crane Hana, Blue night. Black iron. Golden rope.
"...captivating from cover to cover, highly recommended." -- James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review
- Publisher : Thurston Howl Publications (August 10, 2017)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 184 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1945247193
- ISBN-13 : 978-1945247194
- Item Weight : 7.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.42 x 8.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,406,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It’s basically the prose version of a graphic novel, if that makes any sense. The cover is very representative of the interior: comic book characters interact, fight, and fight some more. It would made a great movie.
The plot is convoluted—in fact, I found it hard to follow. The reader is thrown into the milieu and action right from the first page and has to derive an understand of setting, cultural norms, even jargon. I like that kind of sink-or-swim beginning, I guess because I like figuring things out. The world-building is very thorough.
The writing is functional, as descriptive as it needs to be, and flows well. I found the ALL CAPS a bit distracting, but mostly I was too busy going with the flow to notice the prose itself much. Which can be taken as a sign of solid writing: the writing is subliminated to the story-telling.
I think people who like action and like stories with supernatural beings would like this book.
The strength of the book is in its action sequences and those sequences are well-written. I also appreciated the romance that Pawlina finds herself in and very much connected to her character and situation. I think the touchy-feely things -- the personal relationships, the feeling of transitioning between cat and human -- balanced out the action sequences nicely.
There were several locations and landmarks in the Midwest that were mentioned. As a Midwesterner, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I also, coincidentally, am trying to learn Polish and that country and its language comes heavily into play in this book. That was a bonus.
One piece of advice for the reader. Make sure you get the main characters and their family relationships straight at the very beginning before moving on. You need to understand who is parent/grandparent to whom. Write the names down and where they fit in the family. You really need to know that to enjoy the book.
One piece of advice for the author. Put in chapter subheadings with location/year at the beginning of each chapter and at the beginning of flashbacks. (Ex. Poznan, Poland, 1992) This will be helpful to the reader to understand where and when that piece of the book is happening. The characters in this book move around quite a bit. A subheading as a reference point is really all you need to keep everyone following along successfully.
While it is a good story the cast of characters is quite extensive and many of them are referred to by several different names, making it difficult at times to keep track of who's who and who's related to whom. The story also relies heavily on a series of flashbacks that appear with little to no warning, which can confuse an inattentive reader.
Despite its' faults, I look forward to seeing Engels' next book. Always Gray in Winter has hooked me into this series and I intend to find out where it is going.
The story erupts from the pages as if it were an anime or manga creation. There are larger than life characters, and everything moves at such pace that the plot becomes a bit of a blur at times. There were moments I wasn't quite sure what was going on or if we'd dropped into a flashback or not as the timeframe wasn't terribly clear but on the book galloped regardless.
We also have quite a large cast that we could have taken a little longer to get to know, pieces of dialogue in broken English (deliberately so, with characters from Polish and Korean backgrounds), and a bit too much military dialogue that assumes the reader knows what it means.
That sounds like I'm being negative, but I'm not, it's more that if you find these things jar you, stick with it because there is a fun ride here.
I really liked the family dynamic at the heart of the story. The werecats are bonded by being outsiders to the rest of the world, they are hunted and subject to experimentation, but despite it all, they function as a family, playing hockey together, griping at one another's annoying habits and being there when needed.
All in all, I liked this - I'm giving it three stars because of the confusing passages, but a fan of anime, of military sci-fi or, indeed, of furries might well add an extra star.
Top reviews from other countries
An exercise in tedium, the author’s clear enthusiasm for the subjects means the book meanders slowly and aimlessly: It gets so lost in the weeds, the park service is still looking for it. A prior review had the nerve to call it ‘Fast Paced’ – Pacing seems a mere suggestion to the author. Looking at the book, it’s 176 pages long. Never before has such a short book failed to hold my interest.
The most I can remember is the beginning, which is when something actually happens, the following chapters devolve into some vague confusing blur of nothingness and flashbacks. Nothing happens, and no stakes are evident but the author expects you to care about the protagonist, who I only remember as being in the US navy, playing hockey, and of course, being able to transform into a Werecat. She’s utterly unremarkable, fading into the similarly unremarkable cast of side characters.
If I had to list positives: The cover art’s nice, The beginning is kinetic and fun (By this book’s standards), and even if it produces something like this, there’s a purity to someone indulging in an enthusiasm.
If you’re looking for a fun Furry Sci-Fi romp: Keep looking.
This military sci-fi werecat crossover suffers a little from trying to cram too many ideas in at the expense of giving the reader clarity as to what is going on. Don’t let the werecat part put you off, this is closer to a military sci-fi story. There are several flashbacks that try to explain the past and the reasons behind the current struggle. Unfortunately, the story cuts around to multiple people and places and never seems truly clear about what is going on for the first half of the book. Past that, it becomes a lot easier to understand what is happening and why. Overall, once it is clear what story it is telling, it's worth sticking with and has a good scope for future tales featuring these characters; where there may be more time to explain.