Genre: Horror, Romance
Published by: Metal Blonde Books on February 24, 2014
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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.
*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Pioneer life meets The Walking Dead!
DONNERS OF THE DEAD weaves history with the supernatural for a nail biting thrill ride! I love that Karina Halle ventures back in time with her zombies, instead of setting the story in the usual post apocalyptic world. Life is already harsh in 1851 and throwing in the undead raises the stakes at a chance of survival!
Our protagonist Eve is a bright, young woman who has been dealt a bad hand in life due to her heritage. Her mother experienced some sort of mental breakdown after her father’s disappearance and they currently live with her uncle and his family. Eve’s half Native American which causes most people around her, including some of her own family, to treat her as an inferior. Her only friend (and semi-crush) is her uncle’s farm hand Avery who makes her feel like she belongs and not a freak of nature. When a group of rough riders arrive at her uncle’s farm looking for the help of a tracker to join their search party of a group of pioneers and train in the Sierra Nevada mountains, Eve puts her tracking abilities to the test and embarks on a dangerous journey that will change her destiny forever.
I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan of young protagonists in stories, they’re usually a bit immature for my tastes these days (yeah, I’ve been out of high school for a bit now) but every once in a while I come across one that changes my mind…Eve is one of those protagonists. In a time when being a woman and having the “wrong pedigree” shape your destiny, Eve has everything going against her but she’s resilient, brave and quite outspoken. At only 18 she still has an innocence about her that’s refreshing and endearing, especially when it comes to the rugged Jake McGraw.
Every romance has a hero (even in horror) and we find ours in a smart mouth, rough around the edges (ex) Texas Ranger named Jake McGraw. I was intrigued by this mysterious character from the beginning but didn’t care for his barking ways when it came to Eve. He isn’t the charming gentleman you swoon over, but if you know Karina Halle you’re used to her imperfect, anti-hero alpha males. There were moments where I wanted to yell at Jake, hell maybe even slap him, but then he goes and does something that totally redeems him in my eyes. Needless to say, Jake slowly grew on me, watching him go from a total brute to a tender protector changed my mind. In a way he’s just as much an “outsider” as Eve and it was exciting to watch these two lonely souls learn about their pasts and trust one another in the midst of the impending danger of lurking zombies.
Karina Halle is a mastermind at creating flawed, tortured characters with dark undertones in her stories and I must say she really upped the ante with the creepiness in DONNERS OF THE DEAD. The historical element of the tragedy of the Donner party (a group of American pioneers who went missing in the snowy mountains and resorted to cannibalism to survive) set the eerie mood of the story from the start and the constant exposure to danger the character’s experience leaves you on the edge of your seat. There were times where I felt I was out there stranded in the Sierra Nevada with Eve and Jake…oh and the flesh eating zombies! DONNERS OF THE DEAD is an intense story filled with tragedy, terror, gore and a forbidden romance that will leave you wanting…in true Karina Halle fashion!