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4.3 out of 5 stars
Into the Wilderness
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199 of 207 people found the following review helpful
on March 30, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is more than a book that you read, this is a story that you step into and take over. Anyone who loves Diana Gabaldon, historical romance, Daniel Day-Lewis in "The Last of the Mohicans" and/or thrilling adventures will LOVE this novel. I must correct some misinformation that the Amazon reviewer wrote, though. This story is NOT a sequel to James Fennimore Cooper's "Last of the Mohicans". Merely, some of his characters appear in this novel, along with Claire Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. Rather, Sara Donati has weaved a story all her own using some familiar faces. If you go to the official "Into the Wilderness" web page you can read yourself that Ms. Donati did NOT write this as a sequel to Cooper's novel. She actually had Michael Mann's beautifully directed "Last of the Mohicans" in mind more, she says. Also, the review contained another error: Nathaniel's first wife was NOT Mohican, she was (in English) a Mohawk. I don't mean to bash anyone's review because I love Amazon but I just didn't want any misinformation about this wonderful novel out either! Enjoy!
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I know different people get different things from the books they read, but I honestly don't understand how any lover of romantic fiction could dislike this book. True, it's formulaic, but I don't mind a formula if the writing is good, and Donati is very good. She could often bring tears to my eyes, and was just as effective in helping me to see the great wilderness that much of the novel was set in.
From the beginning, I found myself comparing it to Gabaldon's series (probably because of her recommendation on the cover), which could have been very unfair as I think her books are among the best historical fiction I've ever read. But I must say _Into the Wilderness_ comes out well by comparison. I ended up caring as much about Elizabeth and her Nathaniel as I did about Claire and her Jamie, and that says a lot. Sometimes I did feel that Elizabeth and Claire were a lot alike - perhaps almost too much - but I do so enjoy a strong woman character. Elizabeth is definitely "writ large," but I'm glad when I run across a heroic female character for a change who takes her destiny in her own hands.
Since I could not put it down from the time I began reading it, I enthusiastically recommend this novel and I eagerly look forward to the sequel!
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108 of 120 people found the following review helpful
on January 6, 2011
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I feel the need to write a review for this book only because I felt some of the previous reviews were very misleading. To start with, I purchased this book for two reasons. (1) I am a fan of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon and this book was heavily recommended by other Outlander fans, and (2) I spent much of my childhood in and around Cooperstown, NY and so am familiar with the setting of the novel. I would normally find it a bit unfair for one author to be compared so heavily to another (especially one like Diana Gabaldon) but feel in this case the comparison is completely justified with Donati having Outlander characters written into her story. My biggest criticism of this book is that it's predictable and yet not really believable. An independent yet beautiful Englishwoman, determined to be a "spinster"? A sexy, rugged, buckskin wearing Indian (albeit white) man? Yawn. And they even start falling for each other the first time they meet.... double yawn.

The characters are flat and poorly developed. So is the plot. So is the dialogue. I've enjoyed historical fiction my whole life and I think I might have enjoyed this book in my early years of high school. Maybe.

I know this review sounds a bit harsh but I'm really disappointed by the fact that so many Outlander fans were enthusiastic about this book. Is there anyone else who enjoyed the subtle complexities of the characters, thoroughly researched historical events, and layered plot lines of the Outlander series? If so, then this book probably isn't for you. If you're just looking for a mindless romance to read at the beach and can overlook the poor character and plot development, then go for it.

And yes, I would have given the same review if I hadn't ever read Diana Gabaldon's novels. The writing just isn't there.

Bottom line: Read some of the one and two star reviews and not just the five star reviews before deciding whether this book is for you.
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59 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on August 8, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Historical fiction with a heart, this book is the first of two books that Donati has written chronicling the life of Elizabeth Middleton and Nathaniel Bonner. Elizabeth, a spinster with spunk and a determined air, is about to hit the "New World" by storm. What she finds in the back woods of upstate New York in the late 1700's is literally Paradise, the small town her father, the judge, has honed from a rustic environment along with a group of frontiersmen and Indians.
Elizabeth arrives from England with her brother Julian, amid her staunch crinolines and straight lace ways only to find that life is about to change drastically. Brought up as a part of the Mohawk nation, Nathaniel is about to take her life by storm. Land is a top priority in the new world and there is much to be had by all but our adventure takes a twist when two rivals meet over the ownership of Hidden Wolf Mountain.
With a cast of characters that you will never forget, conveniently set in writing at the beginning of the book, along with a map of the region, you are swept along by a novel that rivals the likes of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. I was completely surprised when Donati included a short excerpt of Jamie and Claire Fraser in the book. We are also given an inside look at the Native American's way of life, their pride in the land and their people and their acceptance of a changing world. Their strength of character and respect for nature's ways is clearly evident in her writing.
Reading this book was like a total immersion into another time and place to which I can hardly wait to return. I have already purchased the second book titled DAWN ON A DISTANT SHORE. Kelsana 8/8/01
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After a slow start (the first 200 pages almost lost me) the story launches into a real adventure. By the time I was finished I had the Rand-McNally out and was tracking the travels and imaging the glorious landscape which is painted with awe by the author. The research was stunning though I found the characters are a bit much - attitudes and actions were simply a little too politically correct for the time period. As the book sweeps you into this adventure, the characters become familiar and sometimes dear. Actually, I was ready to load Bella Mia, Super Dog, into the car, and head for the wilds. This book is an odd hybrid - very original. It touches on Indian folklore, post-revolutionary war, Quakers, the French revolution, slavery, women's rights (or lack thereof), romance (almost a bodice ripper), cross-cultural issues, family, and has characters from other author's books thrown in for good measure. Somehow it (mostly) works, and is quite an interesting read. Nathaniel Bonner's constant use of the word AIN'T puzzled (and irritated) me. It seemed very gratuitous and frankly odd.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on January 27, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
When I first picked up this book, I didn't realize it was a 'sequel' to Last of the Mohicans. YUCK, I groan, and read it anyways. About 100 pages in I'm toting the book everywhere with me, reading it on coffee breaks, at traffic jams, on lunch hour, before work, after work, during meetings, etc.
You get the idea.
The story is your typical sweet 'romance' idea. City girl moves to the country to teach school and meets a boy. Only that's where the 'normal' stops and the breathtaking begins.
Donati doesn't waste any time. Directly into the first chapter, we meet Elizabeth and her man, Nathaniel. Donati's prose is so compelling that you immediately /know/ how she wants her characters pictured just from a few simple words. Read the opening paragraph again--you'll see what I mean.
The characters are what truly make this book memorable. I laughed at Elizabeth's pert words and ready blushes, and could relate to her unfamiliarness in the wilderness. I cried at Nathaniel's earnest charm, his teasing humor, and his steadfast loyalty to his family.
This is a book where the 'back-scene' characters shine as well. Hannah is a gem. Many Doves and Runs-From-Bears will have you starry-eyed over their romance as well.
I really can't say enough good things about Sara Donati. Usually when I take the time to write a review about a book, it's because I dislike it so much I want to warn the other readers away.
I want to warn you TOWARDS this one! Run out to the store and get it. I promise you'll love it.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I tracked down this enjoyable novel after hearing of the Claire Fraser/Outlander cameo (indeed it was, for a page.) I was taken with the characters of Nathaniel and Elizabeth, transported handily to another time and place, and truly liked their adventures, their sense of family, and their bravery.

What I did NOT do upon finishing it was rush out desperately to get the next book in the series. I don't know why, but I'm just not 'dying to see what happens next'. If time permits, I'm sure I'll read the next one...eventually. I would be most interested to find out if Elizabeth begins to truly embrace her new lifestyle-she still seems uncomfortable about her manner of dress, and remains in polite deference to her old way of life on some levels.

I'm happy I read this and can't really put my finger on why I wasn't more enthralled-perhaps it's just that poor Sara Donati didn't stand a chance of a stellar review since she followed Diana Gabaldon on my seemingly-endless reading list.

Taken alone, Into the Wilderness is a satisfying-but-not-amazing read. It kept a good pace, had no real 'slow spots' and was obviously well written and researched. A solid Three-Stars-I-liked-it.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market PaperbackVerified Purchase
As a Gabaldon reader, I read this novel with heightened expectations and was very disappointed when all was said and done. 'Into the Wilderness' is a fair enough book, but as much as I tried, I simply could *not* get into the characters. I found them predictable and boring. They felt very two-dimensional to me for the entire 800+ pages. Elizabeth Middleton-Bonner's politically-correct milky-white righteousness was annoying, and Nathaniel Bonner's incessant "aint's" really grated. What bothered me most, however, were the obvious attempts to echo Gabaldon, right down to loads of dualities in the story. There's the heroine with no intention to marry, hot mineral springs (in a cave, no less), strong sisters-in-law, ghosts, the ever-present threat of battle, a gnarly Scot, the ubiquitous surprise pregnancy after one of the main characters was thought to be sterile, and a plethora of near-fatal injuries to the main characters. The brief reference to Claire and Jamie is gratuitous, adds nothing to the plot, and feels like name-dropping. If you simply want a hefty book that will stand alone as a diverting adventure, 'Into The Wilderness' is a fair read. If you're a Gabaldon devotee seeking a fix, definitely look elsewhere, as the similarities are blatant at times but the writing and characters fall far short.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I bought this book for my husband. He stopped and read me enough passages that I picked it up as soon as he finished. Elizabeth and Nathanal reminded me so much of Claire and Jamie from the OUTLANDER series.
Rich in history, action, adventure, characters and romance, it's a book that many will enjoy. Each page brought a new character, crisis or adventure.
I immediately went in search of book two after finishing INTO THE WILDERNESS.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 26, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've just finished reading Sara Donati's "Into the Wilderness" and don't think I can possibly rave enough about how good this book is... but I'm certainly going to try.

Set in the 1790s, this novel of historical fiction brings with it a history of what American life was like in remote mountain areas. Impressively detailed, the setting is a beautiful wonder and seems to be a character all of its own. Elizabeth Middleton is the heroine of this tale and (unlike so many other female characters in historical novels I've read in the past) she didn't grate on my nerves much at all. Elizabeth is a young woman with a strong mind and stronger spirit with goals of independence. She leaves her home in England (along with her brother, Julian) to join her father in a rough new world. The small mountain village is nothing like the estate on which she was raised and Elizabeth knows that her life will never be the same. She has high hopes of starting a school for the children of this small mountain town.

Arriving in Paradise, Elizabeth is introduced to Nathaniel Bonner and his ties to the Native American community. Elizabeth is intrigued by his great difference to anyone else she's ever known. There is so much more in this book than just the average "girl meets boy" story and it would be awful of me to give too much away. Conflict among the villagers and the Mohawk people encompass a great portion of this tale in which Elizabeth finds herself smack dab in the middle. Love, trust and family matters also play a big role in the telling and Elizabeth is often at a loss as to how to juggle love, her desires and hopes, with her family's wishes.

Into the Wilderness is an amazing combination of adventure, romance, and history. The characters are smart and as large as life. The reader will easily be pulled in to the drama as well as the factual history of this country. Donati's book is longer than many novels these days, but the almost 900 pages fly quickly as the story progresses.

As a book that I just picked up on a whim, this story surprised me with its depth of characters and plot. The historical facts are an added perk to this book and it's a perk that brings with it knowledge of what happened in America's past. I am unable to fully describe just how much I liked this book and I'd recommend it highly. If anyone has read the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon, this tale had a similar feeling to it, without the silly time traveling. I adore the "Outlander" series and find this book to be every bit its equal, which is high praise indeed coming from me. I'm very eager to get the next book in this Wilderness series to continue the adventure with Elizabeth, Nathaniel and their family and friends.

On a scale of five stars, I'd definitely give this book all five and then some. I seriously cannot think of a single negative thing to say about it.
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