I received this book free from the Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle
Published by Metal Blonde Books on February 24th 2014
Genres: Horror, Romance
Source: the Author
Also by this author: Come Alive, Shooting Scars, Bold Tricks
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.
‘It was more than a sense or a smell, picking up on who was here before. There was a feeling that something terrible happened here and that feeling was snaking up my body, intent to drown me in it.’
It’s 1851 and in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, 18 year old half-native Eve Smith is approached by a group of men requesting her assistance in tracking evidence of the Donner Party. A seemingly simple excursion quickly turns into a nightmare brought to life.
Growing up in Northern California, I learned a lot about the Donner Party early on and even went on a few field trips to visit the sites. The information I read about never bothered me too bad because the issues these people faced seemed like such an alien concept. Donners of the Dead really brought that concept to life and I’m going to be hard-pressed to ever get it out of my mind.
‘It raised its head and looked at me. There was no air in my lungs now, the whole forest seemed to still at that moment, as if it too were chilled by the monster’s presence, the smell of evil. It was when it smiled at me with bloodstained teeth that I snapped out of it.’
The monsters that Eve and her party discover in the woods seemed at first to be some type of zombie but Karina Halle applied the Algonquin based Wendigo legend to explaining these creatures. The following is a line from a website explaining the Wendigo legend which describes these gruesome creatures perfectly: “By eating another human being, even out of necessity for survival, a human can be overcome by these spirits and be transformed into one. The fear of turning into this creature was so strong that it was preferable to kill one’s self rather than resort to cannibalism.” –Source
“We’re still human even in the fact of beasts, even with our lives at risk. When you’re close to death, love is sometimes the only thing that makes sense in life.”
The romance between Eve and Jake was a bit out of left field for me considering Jake’s racist leanings toward Indians due to them being responsible for the death of his family. Seeing him overcome his issues in order to be happy with Eve was touching but didn’t strike me as being very likely especially how quickly his feelings develop. The perilous positions they continued to find themselves in the middle of do enough to justify these doubts though seeing as they needed someone, anyone, to rely on.
Donners of the Dead is an eclectic mix of cannibalistic horror and romance but is an enjoyable, thrilling and unforgettable read.
Open to US and Canada!
(All to 1 winner): Signed paperbacks of Donners of the Dead, The Devil’s Metal and The Devil’s Reprise plus a tote bag AND a one-page handwritten story about the winner in a fight with a zombie!