Review: Withered + Sere by T.J. Klune

Withered + SereRating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

The world is gone. The only thing left for the few remaining humans is survival. There are small towns, huddled together against the brutality of a life that no longer makes sense. Cavalo lives outside one of these towns, in an abandoned prison, with only a stray dog and a half mad robot for companionship. He talks to Bad Dog and acknowledges he is the only one who hears the dog respond. Cavalo understands he is probably insane, but he is surviving.
challenge month 2017 copy

The one thing the townspeople and Cavalo share is a healthy dread of the Deadlands and the cannibalistic Dead Rabbits. They slaughter anyone foolish enough to wander into their territory and prey upon hapless townspeople. When Cavalo captures a mute Rabbit called Lucas, he can’t help believing the young man is different than the rest of his brutal gang. Cavalo doesn’t exactly trust him, but he knows he needs to keep the boy safe from the sinister and mysterious Patrick. As violence threatens the small family Cavalo has created, he must fight his way free of madness and take a stand against an unknown evil.

Withered + Sere is T.J. Klune’s venture into a post apocalyptic world inhabited by the few remnants of humanity. And as usual, Klune does not disappointment. Klune is pretty much an auto buy for me, but somehow this gem kept getting lost in the shuffle and as a result it was a perfect for our TBR Challenge Week for Reading Challenge Month.

There is brutality and softness in equal measure here and readers are often forced to run the gambit of emotions, all the while trying to decipher Cavalo’s reality from his madness. Cavalo was forced to do the unthinkable when his wife and son were attacked by Dead Rabbits years previously. His actions have continued to haunt him and now he exists as a man who teeters between survival and self-destruction. He does have friendships in the local town, but he is clearly better suited to isolation. His relationships with Bad Dog and SIRS are sweet and beautiful in their own way. And Klune does such a wonderful job giving Bad Dog and SIRS their own voices and senses of self, it’s easy for readers to connect with them.

Lucas is more of a conundrum. He’s violent and deadly, and yet with Cavalo he seems calmer and even remotely human. We don’t know much about his past or how he ended up with Patrick and the Dead Rabbits, but we’re generally led to believe he probably didn’t join willingly or was so young he had no say in the matter. So we’re cautiously sympathetic towards him. There isn’t a romance here. In fact, there’s barely a friendship between Lucas and Cavalo, but by the end of Withered + Sere, we see a strange sort of connection forming between them. The book is well paced and there is definitely a slow reveal regarding Lucas and his possible importance to the world left behind. But there is no conclusion given as the story continues in a second book, Crisped + Sere. So unless you just love a dangling cliffhanger, plan on reading the next installment. Klune’s voice and writing style are as strong as ever and this book shows his excellent range both in topic and style.

Withered + Sere isn’t always easy to read, but it is an excellent novel. Captivating characters and a well-drawn and detailed world left me feeling satisfied on every level. If you enjoy Klune’s work or a good post apocalyptic novel, Withered + Sere will not disappoint.

This review is part of our Reading Challenge Month for TBR Pile Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win a fabulous prize from NineStar Press. Four lucky winners will each receive a $25 NineStar Press gift card. Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing grand prize sponsored by Dreamspinner Press (a loaded Kindle fire filled with DSP books!). You can get more information on our Challenge Month here, and more details on TBR Pile Week here. And be sure to check out our prize post for more about the awesome prizes!

A review copy of this book was provided by DSP Publications.

sue sig


  1. I love that book. It’s without a doubt one of the best I ever read. Bad Dog is so lovely. My favorite character was Lucas. It was mafnificent tryingnto get inside that disturbed mind. I own very few paperbacks because the shipping end up being almost as much as the book’s price, but I made an exception with that one and.the next on the series because I had to own them. Amazing book.

  2. The world-building sounds fantastic, if intense…

  3. I think I’ll have to skip this. I love Klune’s comedies, even when they go so OTT they become farcical. I’m one of the few people who didn’t like Wolfsong or Bear Otter and the Kid, in both cases because he does the same OTT but it becomes laughable in what is supposed to be a heartfelt book. I’m worried this would head the same way.

  4. T.J. Klune is one of my favorite writers but this book is a pass for me. Post apocalyptic themes are not for me, I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy years ago and I’ve stayed away from these type of books ever since. Thank you for your review.

  5. I love TJ’s work, but somehow I’d never actually read the blurb for this book, even though it’s been on my GR TBR forever. Fixing that ASAP bc holy moly, this sounds interesting!

  6. This is jumping right to the top of the TBR pile – I’ve never read a TJ Klune book I haven’t loved so I don’t know why I have let the post-apocalyptic theme put me off up until now. Your review has convinced me to dive in! Thank you x

  7. Bronwyn Heeley says:

    I’m not really a fan of distopian tho I wouldn’t pass it by, to be honest the fact that it’s not a romance intrigues me more than anything because I generally don’t like them heavy romance, if at all. However I’ve never actually read a Klune’s book before, tho I have a series on my TBR pile and even a couple of paperbacks, lol

  8. Thanks for an informative review, Sue. I read a sample of this but didn’t continue because it was definitely not my cup of tea. Klune is definitely a hit or miss author for me; I enjoyed Wolfsong and Bear, Otter and the Kid (I’m clearly Traveler’s opposite) but other books of his I’ve left unfinished. He’s definitely a creative writer.

  9. Thanks for the review. I don’t read TJ Klune books but happy to hear that this is another one that works for you

  10. I have enjoyed some of TJ Klune’s mad cap stories and I was bowled over by Into this River I Drown – but I have shied away from these two. Dire post apocalyptic are not big wins for me and these seemed even more so and whilst your review is excellent, I too wont be rushing to read just yet.

  11. I haven’t read a TJ Klune book, but this seems like jumping into the deep end as far as his writing goes. Very interesting sounding, though. I’m glad the long wait was worth it for you, Sue.

  12. I’m not a fan of post apocalyptic so this book probably isn’t for me but i enjoyed your review and i’m happy that it worked for you.

  13. I have this, but I haven’t read it yet. I knew if would be a difficult read so I have to be in the mood for it. Also, the author announced there would be no more in the series after the second one so I really hope there is no dangling story line like Burn. Yes, I am still upset about Burn.

  14. The worldbuilding sounds really interesting in this one! I love apocalyptic stuff so I think I’ll check it out!

  15. This is one of the books that I haven’t read by the author. It sounds too dark, too gritty, too intense for me. But thanks for the review.

  16. I’ve been slowly working through T.J. Klune’s backlist. I haven’t read this yet and I appreciate your review. It’ll be interesting to see for myself how well TJ tackled this series and writing a post apocalyptic story.

  17. I will reads everything Tj Klune writes 🙂 I think he is a brilliant and very diverse writer. These series is on my TBR pile. I wanted to wait for the third and last book and I’m very sad that he had to stop after book 2.

  18. I haven’t read any of TJ Klune’s books yet, but I don’t think I’ll start with this one. I have to be in a certain mood to read something this depressing, even if it is well written.

  19. Purple Reader says:

    Thanks for the review. The book sounds great and one I’d considered getting. I like Klune and dystopian sc-fi. I also don’t mind the “not an easy read” or ones that don’t have much m/m romance, it’s the story I’m interested in, and it sounds like Klune really brings a different world and characters to life in this one. 

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