Trapped without food, The Donner Party are led to the slaughter. After being manipulated and coerced into a string of bad decisions, the travelers, frozen and abandoned, are preyed upon by werewolves in their midst––the very people they thought were friends. As the creatures grow hungry and desperate, a showdown is born between the people struggling to retain their humanity, and those seeking a massacre. A tale of resilience, horror, and betrayal. The truth is finally revealed.
So I happened on this little gem the other day while trolling an unnamed retail website for a little light reading material. This one caught my eye right away and even better--it was on sale for $.99. Now I have always been fascinated by the story of the Donner Party and even wrote a report about them back in high school. For someone whose idea of camping requires a real bed and flush toilets, the thought of giving up most of your possessions and taking your family on a hundreds of mile journey through dangerous terrain with iffy supplies in wagons that travel about 1 mile per hour is, well, it's hell. The thought of getting trapped in the mountains after your iffy supplies have all but run out and you have no real friends to rely on, well, that's even worse. So, as their story encompases some of my most horrible nightmares anyway, you can see how I would be intrigued by the thought of adding werewolves to the mix. It didn't disappoint.
Virginia Reed is 13 when she begins the journey with her family that will change her life forever. Her father has promised a new beginning in a place called California, but before they even leave Virginia sees something that causes her concern. Although halfway dismissing it as excitement and imagination, she can't help but wonder. The trip is hard and frought with danger, death, and strange goings on--graves of travelers dug up, livestock missing, strange howling in the distance. Virginia becomes increasingly suspicious of certain individuals in their party and their strange behavior. In what is now Wyoming the decision must be made to take the more established route, or the route her father is pushing for--the unproven Hastings cutoff. The cutoff, it is argued, can cut their trip by hundreds of miles. This was a route actually pushed by Jim Bridger to get travelers to his trading post. The decision to take the cutoff sealed the Donner Party's fate. We have all heard the tales of what transpired that winter, now find out what really happened.
Let me just say this, the book was stellar. The blending of historical characters and events with some pretty nasty creatures was fantastic. Now, I know this has been done before with other historical characters and with classic literature, but somehow this just seemed to work...better. Well done Duncan McGeary. I look forward to reading his newest-The Dead Spend No Gold: Bigfoot and the California Gold Rush