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 book was a step off of the deep end for me. It is the very first zombie book that I have ever read, as I’m not a fan of fantasy stories, but I have a BIG fat huge soft spot for Karina Halle so I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed either. My review is based solely off of my opinion with no references to compare it to, so for those of you who haven’t ventured outside of your preferred genera’s, then my review will be right up your alley!
Eve is an 18-year-old half Indian beauty. It is 1851, and she lives and works on her Uncles farm until the day that Jake McGraw and his band of search party misfits seek her out. They hire her to lead them into the Sierra Nevada Mountains as a tracker, in search of the long ago perished Donner family. Eve sets out with Avery, her fathers ranch hand and best friend, and is escorted by Donna, her neighbor’s unmarried adult daughter who acts as a chaperone and medic for the group. As the group travels further into the mountains, it becomes apparent that the mission they are on is misleading, and that the search party has ulterior motives beyond discovering what happened to the Donner’s. With members of their search party being killed off one by one, by terrifying half human monsters that feast on human bodies, Eve must put her safety in the hands of Jake, whom upon first impression had intimidated and made her feel uneasy. The further into the expedition they get, the closer Eve and Jake get, and the more she begins to trust him. In the end, Eve’s life lies in Jakes hands as they fight to the death to make it off the mountain alive.
Jake McGraw…lord have mercy…save a horse, ride a cowboy!!! He is the epitome of a dark brooding mans man. Tall, muscular, handsome, rough, and mysterious, he shoots and kills their food, he cooks, he protects, he saves, he is drool worthy male perfection. At first glance he is intimidating and dangerous, but he has a soft spot for Eve who he fights to death to protect. Eve is a great character as well. She is a strong woman in a time where women were to stand in the background. She was brave, and fearless in the face of horrific circumstances. She had razor sharp instincts, and natural tracking abilities that saved her time and time again. Through all of the chaos and terror that they encountered, Eve never lost her cool. She kept a level head and dealt with her feelings for Avery and for Jake while slaying zombies.
So this is a love story. Eve starts out believing that she has feelings for her friend Avery who is in love with her cousin, Rose. However, as she gets close to Jake and forms a bond with him, she realizes that maybe what she thought she felt wasn’t genuine. Eve and Jake are left as the last two standing and are left to survive alone together. Eve’s trust in Jake turns to affection, which sparks into a passionate romance of second chance and first time love.
The zombie aspect of this book was not overpowering. It was there, it was present, and it added drama and suspense to the story. The way that the story was told, and the way that the zombies were introduced to the plot was so believable and well done. The descriptive quality of Karina’s writing, as always, was flawless, and I got a great sense of the feelings that were portrayed, and of the atmosphere.
For this being out of my comfort zone, I really loved the book. It was creepy, eerie, romantic, suspenseful, and had me routing for Jake and Eve. This is a great option if you are looking to try something new, and if this is your thing, then I’m sure you will be thrilled with the tale that Karina Halle weaves. I was thoroughly impressed, and enjoyed every second of the book.