Donners of the Dead released on Monday and it was one of my most-anticipated reads of 2014! I am so glad I read it as soon as it came out because I really enjoyed it!
***A Standalone Horror Romance***
Jake McGraw was unlike anyone I’d ever known. He was brash, rude, unapologetic and arrogant; chauvinistic, close-minded, and terribly stubborn. He was built like a tree, tall with a hard chest and wide shoulders and hands that looked like they could wrestle a bear. He was a cigar-chomping, scruffy-faced, beast of a man. I was pretty sure I hated him. And I know he hated me. But among the flesh-eating monsters in these snow-capped mountains, he was the only thing keeping me alive
The year is 1851 and pioneers in search of California gold are still afraid to travel on the same route as the tragic Donner party did years before. When the last wagon train to go into the Sierra Nevada mountains fails to arrive at their destination, Eve Smith, an 18-year old half-native girl with immense tracking skills is brought along with the search party, headed by an enigmatic former Texas Ranger, Jake McGraw.
What they find deep in the dangerous snow-covered terrain is a terrifying consequence of cannibalism, giving new meaning to the term “monster.” While the search party is slowly picked off, one by one, Eve must learn to trust Jake, who harbors more than a few secrets of his own, in order to survive and prevent the monstrosities from reaching civilization.
***This is NOT New Adult***
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I really, really enjoyed Donners of the Dead. It was the perfect mix of horror and romance and I had a difficult time putting it down. Karina Halle is really in her element and her writing is pure craftsmanship. There never seems to be a story element, dialogue, or character that isn’t meaningful.
This was my first purely zombie book. I’ve always been a little nervous to pick one up because let’s be honest, I’m a wimp. I don’t like gore and when I watch The Walking Dead I spend most of it with my head in my fiancé’s shoulder. However, when Halle announced the blurb for Donners of the Dead, I had to read it. I don’t care what she writes about, I will inevitably read it, she’s that good.
Donners of the Dead takes place in the Sierra Nevada’s, home of the notorious tale of The Donner Party. If you don’t know about The Donner Party, they were a group of pioneers who ended up trapped in the Sierra Nevada one winter and resorted to cannibalism of their dead to survive. Halle takes a few liberties with the actual historical tale (obviously) and makes a story all her own. I loved the mix between history and fantasy. It was well done and I could actually feel myself in a different time period.
Eve’s father goes missing and she is left behind with her now mute mother and her aunt’s family. Due to her unique heritage, Eve isn’t treated like a normal family or societal member. Since Eve’s father was Native America and her mother is white, Eve is considered a different class. She isn’t allowed to go to school with other girls her age and is forced to do work around the family farm unlike her cousin Rose. When a band of strange and seemingly dangerous men roll into River Bend, Eve is given to them by her uncle to act as their tracker and bring home a lot of money for her trouble. The men are tracking one of their missing relatives, a man who was part of a search party looking for The Donner Party. Eve, her best friend and crush, Avery, and neighbor Donna set out with the search party, but waits in the bleak, snow-covered, mountainous woods is beyond any of their imaginations.
I loved, loved, LOVED Eve. Despite her living in 1850 she wasn’t afraid to get her petty-coats dirty. She was fierce, courageous, and quick-witted. I liked that she wasn’t constantly portrayed as a damsel in distress, not that she didn’t need a helping hand from time to time. Despite her naiveté, Eve was still apprehensive about being a tracker for this strange group of men and definitely kept her wits about her which was better than her falling prey to a whole bunch of debauchery. She also didn’t put up with crap from the men-folk; I’m looking at you Jake McGraw, which I loved. There is nothing better than a female MC who isn’t afraid to stick up for herself when a male MC is being a huge jerk.
Jake McGraw is a former Texas Ranger and real American cowboy. He’s gruff, crass, and chock-full of prejudices of all sorts. Unfortunately for Eve, his biggest intolerance lies with the Native Americans. Although there is a major reason why Native Americans are not in his favor, his treatment of Eve is cruel. However, he did redeem himself with me when he learned to look past his preconceptions.
As for the romance aspect, Halle is a sure artist at creating a slow-building romance. I know a lot of readers had an issue with the pacing of Eve and Jake’s romance was too quick, I thought it was just right. The time-span of the novel isn’t very long but Halle creates a believable foundation for Jake and Eve. They must learn to trust each other through many life-threatening circumstances which would in most cases, lead people to become close. Also, it’s the 1850’s, people got married the day they met each other back then for crying out loud. So, all in all, I’m on team Eve and Jake.
Although I don’t read a lot of zombie/horror books, Halle pulls me in time after time. Donners of the Dead is definitely no exception to this rule and had me unable to put it down or sleep when all was said and done. Plus, I will always say this about Halle’s books, your imagination while reading is your worst enemy.
With her USA Today Bestselling The Artists Trilogy published by Grand Central Publishing, numerous foreign publication deals, and self-publishing success with her Experiment in Terror series, Vancouver-born Karina Halle is a true example of the term “Hybrid Author.” Though her books showcase her love of all things dark, sexy and edgy, she’s a closet romantic at heart and strives to give her characters a HEA…whenever possible.
Karina holds a screenwriting degree from Vancouver Film School and a Bachelor of Journalism from TRU. Her travel writing, music reviews/interviews and photography have appeared in publications such as Consequence of Sound, Mxdwn and GoNomad Travel Guides. She currently lives on an island on the coast of British Columbia where she’s preparing for the zombie apocalypse with her fiance and rescue pup.