I'm not sure where I first heard about White Horse but it's a title that's been making the rounds in the buzz of the book world online. So when my copy came in I was glad to dive into the post-apocalyptic world created in Alex Adams' debut (first in a planned trilogy).
White Horse takes place now or in the very near future in a world decimated by pandemic disease, war and the resultant general breakdown of most of the world's infrastructure. The breakdown was gradual. First came the disease (later named White Horse - as in the biblical armageddon) that kills you if you're lucky. For those who aren't lucky enough to die outright; the disease alters their human genetic code and changes them into something not quite human (and often grotesque). After disease comes war and soon there is nothing left but pockets of survivors - those who weren't infected for some reason - struggling to navigate a strange new world.
Amongst those survivors is Zoe Marshall. Zoe's story is told in the present day and in flashbacks that track the timeline of the disaster and the impact it had on her. More then most people Zoe has an idea of why the disease happened. That knowledge does her little good in her trek to get from Italy to Greece. As she travels by foot (avoiding a myriad of dangers) she picks up a young girl as traveling companion and a Swiss doctor who is no friend and who is oddly obsessed with Zoe. Facing hardship and impossibly strange things is bad enough, but for Zoe she finds that her biggest challenge is in her attempts to retain her humanity in a world gone mad.
White Horse definitely reads as a debut novel - for good and ill. The good is the fresh take on how and why our world could alter so dramatically and the resilience of Zoe. The ill is in the saggy middle of the book and a villain who is unnecessarily over-the-top. The author manages to tighten things up again and I was genuinely surprised at the reveal that comes near the end of the book, so this is a recommendation with caveats. I'll certainly be interested in book two of the trilogy.