Release Date: 24th Feb
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.
A while ago, for a Top Ten Tuesday post, we were asked to list the top 10 books we wished would exist. One of the things I wanted more of was a historical romance book that wasn’t set in England or Europe for that matter so you can imagine why I wanted to read this book so much (not considering the fact that I love everything written by Karina Halle). I wasn't disappointed. Karina worked her magic and out came a highly entertaining historical romance.
Eve is a young woman who lives with her uncle. Her father died a while ago and it affected her mother so profoundly that she stopped talking. As a half breed, she is shunned by society and doesn’t get the same opportunities as her cousin. She isn't seen 'fit' enough to engage with society but her best friend, Avery, is a champ and helps her out the best he can. Her uncle only tolerates her and wouldn’t think twice about championing her out if that meant he could get more money (in my opinion). Avery’s life changes when a band of Texans come. They are looking for a tracker to help them get through the mountains. They also pay handsomely so she joins their group with her best friend and a companion but little does she know what she’s getting into *cue dramatic music*. The mountains are hiding something terrifying, monsters no one could have dreamed of. Will they survive? Or will they turn into the same monsters they are running away from?
Eve was a very likable character. She was brave but she also possessed survival instincts. She was smart and instead of giving up, tried to find alternate solutions. She was a survivor. I think one of the the best things about her character is that it is very easy to imagine her in that time period. She is not a lady because of who she is, a half breed, society cannot bind her but at the same time she isn’t so out of place for the time period this book took place in.
I had mixed feelings about Jake though. He was an asshole at first, referring to Eve as a savage and hating on her Indian heritage. As you get to know more about him, it becomes clear that there is a reason for his hatred and when you learn his story his actions are easier to swallow. My biggest problem with him was well, him. He bears scars from something that happened in the past but all of that is forgotten as soon as he becomes infatuated with Eve. On the positive side though, he really was a fun male lead. Perhaps not as wonderful as some of Halle's others but yeah.
The romance did not work. It pains me to say this but it did not work. It was insta. Jake starts being a jealous creeper even though they’ve barely known each other for a hand full of days for half of which he was rude to her. The romance could have been more developed. There was some obvious chemistry between the two but the romance itself wasn’t strong. I wasn’t swooning. Towards the end, the romance did become easier to swallow but it disappointed me since I can usually count on Karina to develop the romance really well.
With that said, the creepy in this book was WONDERFUL. I was legit scared and oh my god the cannibalism and the beliefs surrounding it was so wonderfully executed. I had goose bumps and was on the edge of my seat and scared as fuck.
The plot was excellent. It was just straight forward adventure and survival and there were tons of hardships. The author did not cut back on the gory and gave us all she had. The journey was exciting and the author never took the easy way out. The turns this book took were also realistic (in terms of the situation they were in).
The ending was slightly cheesy though. I don’t know what it is with me but I cannot stand those kind of endings. I am not the biggest fan of epilogues and I don’t see the need for them for the most part.
All in all, Donners of the Dead was an exciting read that combined history and romance with a lot of horror that resulted in a book that can be quickly devoured and is extremely satisfying. You cannot expect anything less from Karina.