The Horror Review: EST: 1999

 David Wellington's " Overwinter " (2010)

 Book Title: Overwinter (A Werewolf Tale) Author: David Wellington
Reviewed By: George Wilhite
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Publisher:  Three Rivers Press

Overall Stars: ***1/2 Scare Factor: **1/2


   “Overwinter,” by David Wellington is a fast-paced and highly original werewolf thriller. In its predecessor “Frostbite,” Cheyenne (Chey) Clark was transformed into a werewolf by Montgomery Powell, and much of that novel was explored their complex relationship with one another and Dzo, an enigmatic spirit who assists them in eluding hunters. The Alaskan wilderness is the setting for both novels and Wellington describes that landscape vividly, often nearly poetically.

     While I enjoyed “Frostbite” and admired Wellington’s mythology of the origin of werewolves, it seemed a bit repetitious, much of it being spent on describing Chey’s many nightly transformations (his creatures change at every moonrise, not just under a full moon) and its conclusion seemed a bit rushed. It made me wonder if there was much left to explore in a sequel.

     “Overwinter” answers that question with a resounding “yes.” New dangers and complications abound in this sequel that is far superior to the first novel. Lucie, Powell’s maker, is reunited with him after decades apart. She serves in creating an occasionally predictable romantic triangle but also plays an important role in the plot.

     Chey is the victim of a rare strain of werewolf curse and slowly losing her humanity with each transformation. The three lycanthropes head north in search of a legendary secret cure. Their quest is complicated by a relentless hunter obsessed with destroying Lucie and armed with a brilliant weapon, perhaps Wellington’s most brilliant creation in the novel. Along the way, they also encounter some mythological creatures who assist or hinder them and provide further insight into the author’s fascinating take on werewolves.

     “Overwinter” is wonderfully paced from start to finish and reaches a highly satisfying climax. All of the elements gathered along the way are crucial to its tragic and remarkable finish. I have given the novel fewer stars for Scare Factor than Overall merely because it is not a horror novel per se; it does not have big “make you jump” moments. It is more like a thriller with supernatural elements. That said, Wellington does create tremendous suspense and crafts exciting action sequences which do require a horror reader’s tolerance for visceral detail.

     Much of this novel’s storyline was set up in “Frostbite,” so while it can be read as a standalone tale, I recommend reading the first book. If you enjoyed “Frostbite”—prepare yourself—all of the best elements of the first novel are not only present in this gripping page turner but are more fully developed in every way.

 - George Wilhite



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