Donners of the Dead by Karina Halle
My rating: 4 of 5 teacups
So there’s some…
Chills gripped my chest with an iron fist the moment Isaac turned his head and stared down at me. Half of his face was gone, his eyeball blasted into his face leaving a dark red and black hole of bone, brain and blood.
and a bit of…
We were a tribe of two but a tribe all the same. Two broken people looking for their place in the world and finding each other.
Woah. That was one hell of a sexy, creepy rollercoaster. If Karina Halle set out to have us sleeping with the lights on with this latest addition to her impressive works, then she can consider it mission accomplished as far as I’m concerned. I hope you’re not too hung up on the concept of genre because Ms Halle gives traditional genre boundaries the middle finger with this… historical zombie horror western romance. Somehow, she manages to bring sexy cowboys and flesh-eating monsters to the table at the same time and make it work. I don’t know how she does it, but I couldn’t put this book down.
There was a loud, solid thunk on the porch, followed by another. The house shook slightly. I kept my eyes trained on the outside but couldn’t see anything. But I could smell it. It was blood and sweat and hay and horse and something unfathomable. A severe chill threaded down my back.
The dark, creepy, foreboding tone of this novel is set from the very start and it only gets scarier as the story wears on. It’s an historical horror re-imagining of the true story about the Donner Party – a group of American pioneers who in 1846-7 became snowbound in the Sierra Nevada and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. I love love love it when a fictional story weaves in elements of truth – it makes the paranormal/fantasy aspects seem even more real and believable. And the author certainly knows how to use language to create a sense of impending tragedy:
Autumn was at our doorstep and winter was lurking in the darkness behind it.
Then there’s that whole steamy romance that is happening alongside the horror.
He’s a broody cowboy and she’s half-native american. He’s seen the world and she’s spent her entire life in a small town, working for her uncle. An expedition into the mountains forces the unlikely pair together and they soon find out just how much their survival depends on each other. What I really love about Halle’s characters is how they’re all often just a tiny bit nasty at times. They’re all flawed, all troublemakers and rebels. No Mary Sues or whatever you want to call them. They’re fleshed out and make mistakes and say the wrong things sometimes… but they’re still likable. I think it’s really great when an author can do that. When they can take people who you maybe shouldn’t like and convince you to be on their side. It’s one of the main reasons I loved Sins & Needles, it’s one of the main reasons I loved this, and it’s also the main reason I will continue to be excited every time I see Halle has an upcoming book release.
One final haunting piece of truth:
Men are the real monsters here. They often are.
Thank you to the guys at Rock Star PR for the ARC! Please note that all quotes are taken from the advance review copy I received and may differ from the final version.