‘Winter Rising’ – Winter #2 by Alex Callister

After having such a good time reading ‘Winter Dark’, the first book in the series, I couldn’t imagine how Alex Callister could come up with a sequel that would have the same impact. Fortunately, Alex Callister didn’t have the same problem. This episode was as action-packed and fast-paced as the first book and managed to have almost as many surprises.

I liked the fact that Winter doesn’t remain static in this book. She is forced to accept some responsibilities for her actions in the first book and recognise that there are consequences to ‘over-estimating her own capabilities and taking recklessly impulsive actions’. That doesn’t mean she’ll stop, just that she’ll deal with the fallout later.

In this book, Winter has been promoted to GCHQ Head of Field, which feels almost like a punishment for having gone rogue in the previous book. There’s some nicely judged humour in watching Winter squirm under, abuse and ultimately evade her responsibilities, especially when this involves conflict with the new head of HR or with the therapist who has to sign-off Winter’s readiness to return to active duty.

The plot is powered by the emergence of a new and very unpleasant baddy, known as The Guardsman, who is leaving messages for Winter carved into the bodies of his victims. Winter’s boss is uninterested in The Guardsman and sees the victims as acceptable collateral damage. He wants Winter focused on catching the man she exposed as the head of Firestorm in the previous book, something Winter has no interest in.

Of course, Winter doesn’t do what she’s told, Of course, she drops back into her Snow White Russian assassin persona and goes rogue. Of course, everything turns out to be much more complicated and dangerous than she’d anticipated.

The body count is high. The action is fast-paced. The baddy is a horrible mixture of vicious and competent but what really keeps the book moving is that Winter can’t quite be the Snow White she was last time. This time she has more people that she has to keep safe, more responsibility that she has to carry and a very personal hatred of The Guardsman.

The ending is spectacular and has more than a couple of twists that I didn’t expect. It left me sated and happy and looking forward to the next Winter book.

Like the first book, ‘Winter Rising’ was written to be an audiobook and Ell Potter’s narration makes it a listening experience not to be missed. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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