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Donners of the Dead: A Zombie Western Romance Kindle Edition
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“God didn’t create monsters. Monsters created themselves.”
Eve Smith is half-native and has been recommended to a group passing through as the best tracker in town. This group claims to be searching for members of the lost Donner party, but Eve can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t right. As she treks up the mountain away from her frail mother with strange men and only her friend, Avery, and companion, Donna, to remind her of home. Eve is confused by being asked to accompany this group and their intentions and Jake McGraw is putting her on edge with his racist comments and his blunt attitude. Her senses are picking up something… something that smells like rotting flesh and in the snow of the mountains that killed the Donner party, Eve is worried about being next. I’ve been describing this book to everyone as zombies meets a historical event with cannibals. Technically, this a wendigo story, but zombies and wendigos are very similar. They eat people for fun/to survive and they decay at quicker rates without food. Really there isn’t much of a difference, so this is a zombie story.
This novel is intense. It opens up with a rabid horse trying to eat Eve’s family. Very fitting and foreboding as to where this novel is going to go. I’ve always been a fan of Halle’s horror stories. I enjoyed the first two books in the Experiment in Terror series and I LOVE the Devils series. So, a standalone novel set in historical America with connections to the Donner party was right up my alley. I gobbled this novel up. It gets a little graphic… I mean cannibals are not fun to read about or meet (or is meat? Hahaha I hate myself). I advise avoiding this romp through the woods if you can’t deal with that because while this is a zombie novel, they weren’t always zombies, which is where the wendigo plot comes in. I was definitely grossed out, but it was captivating and exactly what I was looking for during Halloween. Halle knows how to up the ante, set the suspense to high levels, and create characters you want to make it out alive.
Whimsical Writing Scale: 5
The main character is Eve. I really liked Eve. She was unsure about her place in the world because of heritage. She is fierce and has a lot of sass, a quintessential Halle character, and is able to hold her own in a battle of wits. Plus, by the end of this novel, she is setting zombies on fire and having to take monsters out. While she has her heroic moments, she isn’t always the one to save the day and that is the great thing about Eve. She isn’t always trying to play the hero because she isn’t meant to be one. She’s just trying to survive and make it out alive.
Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 4.5
The main male character is Jake. Jake is my biggest problem with this novel. Mainly because of his racist and misogynistic comments towards Eve and I mean, yeah, his tragic backstory explains his comments, those comments were not nice at all. I know if a guy made those comments to me about my heritage and gender, then I wouldn’t like him. Granted Eve doesn’t like him for a while and it isn’t until he starts calling her Pine Nuts that she becomes more aware of him. Also, I feel slightly guilty for rooting for them as a couple. Completely illogical and against my morals, but they were so cute together and I loved their chemistry. I was trash for Jake McGraw by the end of this book.
Swoon Worthy Scale: 4.25
The Villain- Y’ALL. THIS GOT INTSENSE QUICK. People started eating noses and making soups out of their friends. I can’t. I am still shocked and slightly queasy about it, but it was great horror. I was horrified.
Villain Scale: 5
There was a huge cast of characters in this novel. Most of them die because it’s a horror novel, but still I didn’t expect Halle to keep her body count high.
Character Scale: 4
Overall, I highly recommend this novel. It’s chilling, creepy, and captivating. It also has cannibal. (Yes, I’m purposely using adjectives that start with a C because this novel is about cannibals, so why not?) My only caution for going into this novel is to avoid it if you are not a fan of romance of sex scenes (there’s only one). The romance gets heavy towards the last half of the book and I know that may not be attractive to some horror fans, but it’s perfect for me.
Plotastic Scale: 5
Cover Thoughts: I love this cover so much. It’s gorgeous.
Believe it or not, before reading this book I had never before heard about the Donner Party...or maybe I should say I don't remember ever hearing about it. However my husband appears to know all the ins and out of this piece of history so he shared it with me when he realized how it related to this book.
"In the spring of 1846, a group of nearly 90 emigrants left Springfield, Illinois, and headed west. Led by brothers Jacob and George Donner, the group attempted to take a new and supposedly shorter route to California. They soon encountered rough terrain and numerous delays, and they eventually became trapped by heavy snowfall high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Purportedly reduced to cannibalism to survive through the winter, only half of the original group reached California the following year. Their story quickly spread, and before long the term “Donner Party” became synonymous with one of humanity’s most ingrained taboos."
So...on with my review of Donners of the Dead. It was pretty awesome! It's a historical horror romance and Karina Halle totally rocked this genre combination! This fictional novel loosely integrates pieces of the Donner's history but the story is its very own. I loved the characters. I loved the historical timeframe. I loved the horror! I loved the slow-going romance. I loved the integration of Native American culture. I was fully engaged and found myself getting annoyed more than once when I was interrupted and had to put it down.
If you think you might enjoy historical fiction that combines romance and zombie horror then look no further. It's Karina Halle and it's a freakin' standalone! It's a win/win!
My favorite quote:
"Love is a wolf,' he said, the fire dancing in his eyes. 'Perhaps that's why they howl in the dark of night. Love drives them mad like it does to everyone. Fast or slow, whatever way it hits you, love will drive you mad.' 'Does it not seem so silly to be talking about such a thing when we're out here with the wolves and the monsters in the trees?' 'No, Eve,' he said. 'It's not silly. We're still human even in the face of beasts, even with our lives at risk. When you're close to death, love is sometimes the only thing that makes sense in life."
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I have loved every book written by thus author and have not once been disappointed! I'm addicted! !!!
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