Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle
Publication date: February 24, 2014
Genres: Adult, Horror, Romance
***A Standalone Horror Romance coming February 2014*** 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***
Donners of the Dead is an eerily frightening stand alone historical horror romance novel that will have chill bumps running up and down your spine! Karina Halle has long been known as an author that can bring the creepiness factor into a book, and she proves it once again with this one. This novel is chock full of action and scary things, with a bit of romance to warm you up.
In Donners, we meet innocent yet feisty main character Eve who is half Native American. She lives with her uncle because her father has disappeared and her mother has checked out of reality. She is unlike a lot of other women. She in contrasted to her cousin, Rose, whom is interested in frilly dresses, boys and being the princess of the prairie. Eve is strong and smart, never taking anything for granted. She is a leader with a strong heart, even though she is completely innocent when it comes to men.
Eve works on her uncle's farm, never feeling like she quite belongs. One of the themes this book touches on is racism. Eve is treated differently, and worse in some instances, than her peers. She is looked down upon for her heritage, and she is very aware of it. The only person that doesn't make her feel awkward is her best friend/first crush and fellow farm hand, Avery. One day, a group of rough looking men ride into town looking for a tracker to lead them into the Sierra Nevadas. They are looking for evidence of the disappearance of a previous group of men who had searched for the Donner Party. Read up about the Donner party and their circumstances here.
The group of men includes Tim, the leader, Issac who is related to the man they are searching for, Hank who is a bit squirrely and unpredictable, and Jake McGraw, resident sharp shooter, tracker and dinner gatherer. Eve's uncle is offered a huge amount of money if Eve accompanies the men. Her uncle agrees, but sends along Avery and a neighbor girl, Donna so that Eve isn't all alone with a bunch of men.
Jake McGraw is a rugged, strong manly-man. He kills dinner for the group, is able to track, is a crack shot and is highly intelligent. He is a former Texas Ranger with an ugly past. He has is in for 'Injuns." Earlier in his life, Native Americans hurt him very badly, and he's not willing to trust even a young half Native American girl. Jake is beautiful in a manly way and although Eve doesn't have any desire to go after him in that sense, she appreciates his Marlboro Man looks.
Once Eve and the group begin climbing into the Sierra Nevadas, strange things begin happening. Eve knows that the group is in danger, but there is little she can do at this point. Monsters begin showing their faces, going after each member of the group. Halle's take on zombies is a bit different then most. They aren't the brainless eating machines I have seen before. These monsters can think and they can plan. This is where Halle is at her very best. There are some seriously creepy scenes in this book. Halle is able to build suspense and then let it go with non stop action scenes and heart pounding escapes. I loved this fear factor she brought into the novel. It kept me on the edge of my seat.
Jake and Eve don't have an insta-attraction. Jake has it in for "Injuns" and makes some very rude comments to Eve. Eve takes it all with a grain of salt - she's not going to play into his game. Eve has a job, and she is going to complete it. Slowly, oh so very slowly, Jake and Eve learn to trust one another and a spark of something else begins. Jake learns that Eve should not be lumped in with savages, and Eve learns there is more to Jake than his chauvinistic ways. In order to survive, Jake and Eve must rely on and trust in one another.
The only thing I didn't love about Jake and Eve was the speed in which it evolved. I wish there had been more of a build up. It seemed like one moment, Jake couldn't stand to even look at Eve, and then the next, he's in love with her. I like Jake a lot, but I could have really, really loved him. I think that these two only would have gotten together under the duress of the circumstances they were in. When a tracking mission becomes a test of survival, I think that Jake and Eve realized that the only thing important in their world was love and safety.
This story ends with an epilogue and the story tied up. I loved the ending, especially a cave scene and a scene with other Native Americans. The characters in this book learned so much over the course of the story, and it was nice to see smart characters making smart decisions. The one thing that I didn't quite understand was the decision that Eve's mom makes in the end.
Karina Halle does a wonderful job with this book. It's fun and scary. The action sequences are well written and the creepiness compares to none. Halle has a way with words and vivid descriptions that always leave me wanting more. If you are a fan of zombies, historical romances, or are just looking for something different in a saturated market, I recommend you picking up Donners of the Dead.
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.