Thursday, August 5, 2010

Review: A Strong and Sudden Thaw by R.W. Day

R.W. Day's beautiful prose, characterization, the post-apocalyptic fantasy world she created and the young adult, coming-of-age story in A Strong and Sudden Thaw caught both my attention and imagination from page one and I couldn't put the book down until it was done.

Approximately one hundred years after the Ice nearly ended civilization, the people of Moline, Virginia are still recovering from the catastrophe. The cold and snow still plague the north, but Virginia is a place where people can live, if not thrive. In some respects there's a regressive quality to life in Moline, as the people lead a life comparable to that lived in early 1800's America, with no electricity or running water, a one-room school house, a healer instead of a doctor, and the communing having adopted hardworking and god-fearing conservative values that at first glance seem quite familiar, but that later are revealed to be reactionary and extreme.

Using a beautiful narrative voice I fell in love with, A Strong and Sudden Thaw is told from David Anderson's point of view. David is the son of a Moline farmer and almost 17 years old. In Day's world, as in olden times, when David turns 18 he'll be considered a man in his community. When we first meet him, he's conflicted about his future and his straitlaced mother's plans to marry him off to the schoolteacher's daughter. David is part of a beautiful family -- all of them key secondary characters that complete this story.

David meets the new healer's assistant, Callan Landers, during a visit to the healer's house and they forge a bond through their love of reading and books. As the friendship grows, David slowly begins to feel a confusing attraction for Callan. During one of his visits to Callan, while accompanied by Elmer, a combination town bully and liar, he's shocked when he surprises the local artist, Taylor, performing oral sex on Callan. Elmer immediately runs to the authorities and Taylor and Callan are arrested for sodomy.

Following a painful trial, Callan is paroled with the condition that he will have no further personal contact with David. This is where David's loyalty and strength of character come to the forefront and we begin to see real character growth. He finds ways to see his friend Callan, and during this time both discover their love for each other. But a relationship between them is dangerous, if not impossible, and as they face dangerous situations and self-doubts, they also discover other sinister events that will have a profound effect on the people of Moline and their surroundings.

David is a well-defined central character. The reader follows David as he struggles to discover his strengths and becomes who he wants to be, an honest, independent-thinking David. Callan is also a well-drawn character, although as seen from David's point of view he doesn't come across as clearly defined. Besides David's family, Day develops other secondary characters within Moline's community to give this story depth.

Although R.W. Day maintains the focus of the story on David and Callan, there's a lot more to this book. The people of Moline are dealing with different threats: a pair of dragons have mysteriously appeared and are killing livestock and small children; the local representative from the Department of Reintroduction and Agriculture denies the existence of the dragons and refuses to help; and a neighboring town is suddenly abandoned without explanation. Day integrates all these threads, including Callan's sodomy arrest and trial, to create a cohesive story.

A Strong and Sudden Thaw was a page-turner full of adventure and one that drew deep, conflicting emotions as the author swept me to the end and a partial resolution to the conflicts. Although those resolutions are satisfactory, it is obvious that there will be a continuation to the overall story arc. The sequel Out of the Ashes will be releasing soon and I personally can't wait to read it.

Genre: LGBT YA Sci-Fi Fantasy/Speculative Fiction
Sequel: Out of the Ashes (coming soon)
Re-released:  January 30, 2009 by Lethe Press
Grade: A-

Visit R.W. Day here.


  1. Oh Hils, you review so well. I've run into this book before, and always the post-apocalyptic feel has had me hesitating. But...I love character driven books, and this sounds right up my alley.

    I am concerned about how it will end...I wonder if David and Callan can overcome the morals of the town...have a HEA, or is it a HFN?

  2. Orannia, I actually think you would love this book. The post-apocalyptic atmosphere in this book is quite unique and not the expected fare. The characterization is excellent and that alone is worth the read, but I do think you would love Day's writing style. As far as the end... there's a positive resolution to David and Callan's situation. :)

  3. An absolutely wonderful review Hils. This book sounds amazing. Most interesting for me is your mention of a regressive world which I find fascinating.

    I have come across the title many, many times but have hesitated to buy it only because my TBR is ridiculously huge. But I WILL be purchasing it and the sequel. Thanks again.

  4. Hi Indi! I think you'll enjoy the contrasts in the customs and the evolution (or should I say devolution?) in the culture. I really want to read the sequel to see where R.W. Day takes her world, as well as her characters. I hope you it. :D

  5. Thank you Hils. I might have to try it :) My m/m TBR list is expanding and expanding!

  6. Orannia, welcome to the ever-expanding GLTB TBR pile crew! There are so many great books to read out there! Hope to read your thoughts on this one. :)

  7. Oh such a good book! I just loved this one so much. Great review!

    And Orannia - don't let the setting fool you. It's post-A but it just doesn't have that feeling.

  8. Thanks Tracy, I loved it too. Can't wait for Out of the Ashes, I think it's due to release September 1st!


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