Author: Karina Halle
Publisher by: Metal Blonde Books
Published on: February 23, 2014
Genres: Historical, Horror
Page Count: 287
***A Standalone Horror Romance***
A note about this book: Donners of the Dead is set in 1851 – couples were often thrust into marriage together with short courtships, racism was widespread and not overly frowned upon, and women had little to no rights. What wouldn't fly in today's day and age was unfortunately the norm back then - it is worth keeping that in mind when reading this book.
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 don’t know how she manages to do it each time, but Karina Halle has a knack for writing stories that not only go against the grain but they manage to suck you in. I’m used to her scary novels from the Experiment In Terror Series but Donners was a bit different. While I wasn’t as frightened as I anticipated, I was deeply horrified and yet utterly enthralled with the story. Elements of the story are based on the real life story of the Donner Wagon Party. I had never heard of it before but in the 1840s, the Donner Party of pioneers headed west to the Sierra Nevada. As time passed and conditions grew worse many members died. The ones that survived the harsh conditions had to resort to cannibalism. It’s a frightening yet interesting piece of history and when mixed with Karina Halle’s creative imagination and flair for writing, Donners Of The Dead, was a unique western romance that is mixed mystery, horror, zombies, and suspense.
The story centers around 18 year-old Eve Smith. Eve hasn’t had an easy life. Her father went missing five years and after his disappearance her mother became a shell of her former self. Her mother no longer speaks and can barley takes care of herself. Eva and her mother live her with her aunt June, her mother’s sister, and her Uncle Pat. She’s half Indian and because of that she isn’t always treated fairly. Her uncle especially treats her as a second class person. Eve dreams of having more. She loves learning and wants a family and place of her own but with little money and resources she doubts she will ever have that dream.
When a search party comes into town, they hire Eva as a tracker and it gives her the chance to earn enough money to have a new start. The group wants to find out what really happened to the Donner party. Jake McGraw is one of the men that lead the group. Jake is all sorts of 1850s hotness. He’s gruff, mysterious, and he and Eva instantly clash. Jake was a former Texas Ranger and he lost his family at the hands of Indians. It’s a pain that he still caries with him.
The more time they spend together the more they continue to provoke one another, but there is an underlying attraction there. I liked how Jake and Eve interacted with each. It wasn’t an instantaneous connection but slow building. Jake could be abrasive but he also had a sweet protective side. The story had some twist and turns. Eve initially thought her group was there to find the missing Donner group but there was a much more valuable and sinister reason.
The story was fleshed out well and Karina wove together a enjoyable story. The action and danger was prominent throughout the book and it kept me on edge. The romance was slow building but it had a subtle intensity. I really enjoyed the pacing and the unexpected twists.