The Hunger

The Hunger

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone--or something-...

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Title:The Hunger
Author:Alma Katsu
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Hunger Reviews

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    The tragedy of the Donner Party is retold with a supernatural twist in The Hunger, a dark mix of historical fiction and horror. For context, in the May of 1846 a wagon train led by George Donner and James Reed set out from Independence, Missouri like so many other pioneer families hoping to settle a new life in California. Instead of following the typical route, however, the Donner Party opted to travel the new Hastings Cu

    4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    The tragedy of the Donner Party is retold with a supernatural twist in The Hunger, a dark mix of historical fiction and horror. For context, in the May of 1846 a wagon train led by George Donner and James Reed set out from Independence, Missouri like so many other pioneer families hoping to settle a new life in California. Instead of following the typical route, however, the Donner Party opted to travel the new Hastings Cutoff, encountering poor terrain and other difficulties that slowed them down considerably, until they became trapped in heavy snowfall somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Many of the party died, and some of the survivors allegedly resorted to cannibalism to stay alive.

    Alma Katsu’s re-imagining of this journey—while staying true to many of the real-life people, places, and events—also plays to the mystery surrounding the terrible fate of the Donner Party, injecting a speculative element in the form of supernatural horror. While one could argue that the facts are already horrific enough, the author takes the suffering, terror, and dread even further still in this Oregon Trail story from hell that makes dysentery seem like a cakewalk. The Hunger follows several characters from the group of almost 90 members in the Donner Party, including Tamsen Donner, George’s wife; James Reed, the co-leader of the group; Mary Graves, a young woman from a large family traveling with the wagon train; and Charles Stanton, a bachelor traveling with the party with no relatives. In addition, periodic interludes are provided in the form of letters written by a journalist named Edwin Bryant, who has undertaken his own journey into the wilderness to conduct research on the mystical traditions of the Native American tribes living in the area.

    Many of the other families are mentioned as well, bringing the number of people involved in this book to a staggering figure. The result? Virtually limitless potential for complex character dynamics and fascinating relationships. And indeed, Katsu made sure to take full advantage of this, giving her characters interesting backgrounds full of scandal, controversies, and mischiefs. For many, starting a new life also meant leaving the old one behind along with painful, unwanted memories. Flashbacks are provided for most of the major characters, explaining their reasons for heading west. These backstories also explained many of their motivations, and gradually revealed hidden pasts. After all, secrets don’t last for long in conditions such as these, where travelers lived cheek to jowl within cramped confines, sharing spaces with multiple families.

    As you can imagine, disagreements and bitter rivalries also occurred pretty often, and these clashes only intensified as the Donner Party ran into more problems. In books like The Hunger, the horror aspect usually comes at you at multiple angles. First there is the stifling terror of the unknown, and of course people fear the supernatural because it is impossible to understand. But more frightening still is the underlying darkness of human nature that reveals itself when pushed to extremes. There are two kinds of monsters in this book: the literal kind, but also the kind that good people turn into when they feel trapped or if they or their families are being threatened. Stress, paranoia, and desperation all play a part in this tale, making the horrific aspects feel even deeper, more distressing and malignant.

    From the moment the mutilated body of a missing boy is found at the beginning of the book, I was wrapped up in the story’s suspense. Graphic descriptions and scenes of violence are used to create horror, but as always, I found that the most nerve-wracking aspects came not so much from what’s written on the page, but rather from what we don’t get to see and from what’s implied. The author utilized these effects to great advantage, slowly dropping hints and details here and there, all the while sowing dissent among the party with spiteful rumors, arguments, and jealousies. An atmosphere of suspense was kept up for the most part, though because of all the POV switches and number of flashbacks involved, these tensions were frequently interrupted. However, this was just a minor nitpick, and besides, considering the amount of character development we got out of it, I deemed it to be a worthy trade-off.

    The Hunger would be perfect for fans of dark historical fiction, especially if you are drawn to the period of American history which saw a great number of families leave their homes in the east for the west coast. Alma Katsu does not shy away from the details of hardship and sacrifice while on the trail though, so be prepared for a harsh and unflinching look at life as a pioneer. Readers with a taste for horror will probably enjoy this even more, and those familiar with the bizarre and macabre details of the true Donner Party will no doubt appreciate the author’s attempts to spice up the episode with a supernatural twist. All in all, a standout read.

  • Tammy

    This is a re-imagining of the tragedy of the Donner Party. There is terror and horror contained within these pages. The characters both real and fictious are fully developed with backstories that enhance the tale. You will want to keep the lights bright when reading this one.

  • Carrie

    The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a fictional novel that is centered around one of histories most famous events when it came to settling the western U.S. This story gives a new imaginative supernatural twist to just what may have happened to the Donner party on their trek across the country.

    The book uses the real characters and events from that time to give the story that realistic feel while also adding in it’s own elements to make a whole new version of events. The story starts off letting readers g

    The Hunger by Alma Katsu is a fictional novel that is centered around one of histories most famous events when it came to settling the western U.S. This story gives a new imaginative supernatural twist to just what may have happened to the Donner party on their trek across the country.

    The book uses the real characters and events from that time to give the story that realistic feel while also adding in it’s own elements to make a whole new version of events. The story starts off letting readers get to know the situation and characters just as they may have been back during their trek to the west.

    The point of view will switch between those in the group introducing multiple key characters in the story. There are also several scenarios given as to why such a large group may have been slowed down which was ultimately the downfall of the Donner party when they became trapped by the snowfall.

    I found the beginning of the book very engaging as the author fleshed out the characters and story and could really picture the wagons heading out along their journey. I will admit though it did have it’s slower moments before the supernatural twist really ramped up towards the end though making it drag here and there for me. In the end though I found the book to a nice balance of reality with the fictional twist that made for fascinating reading.

    I received an advance copy from the publisher via Edelweiss.

    For more reviews please visit

  • Juli

    In April 1846, 90 settlers left Springfield, Ill headed for California. The Donner Party was led by Jacob and George Donner. At first they followed the established route -- The California Trail -- reaching Wyoming without incident. It was at that point that they took the advice of a trail guide, Langsford Hastings, who offered a quicker route. This route proved to be dangerous and nearly impossible to navigate. The Donner Party wasted precious time trying to get through, and arrived at the Sierr

    In April 1846, 90 settlers left Springfield, Ill headed for California. The Donner Party was led by Jacob and George Donner. At first they followed the established route -- The California Trail -- reaching Wyoming without incident. It was at that point that they took the advice of a trail guide, Langsford Hastings, who offered a quicker route. This route proved to be dangerous and nearly impossible to navigate. The Donner Party wasted precious time trying to get through, and arrived at the Sierra Nevada mountains late in the season. While attempting to pass through the mountains, the group was snowed in, running out of food and supplies. Survivors ate the bodies of those who died in order to survive. Only about half of the doomed group lived through winter and arrived in California. This is what history tells us happened to the Donner Party. Alma Katsu paints a much more horrific, terrifying picture of that fated trip. What's worse than cannibalizing dead bodies? The thing that the Indians call Na'it. The Hunger.

    OMG! I loved this book! I am always in favor of creepy horror stories, but when it's a re-telling of a famous (and already creepy in itself) historical event I am even more on board for a good scare. This tale delivered creepiness, outright horror and suspense! As the story unfolds, the horror of the group's situation builds.....not only are they running out of supplies but they are being stalked. Animals disappear. People disappear. Then there's the whispers from the woods at night.....and the strange crazed men that appear, ranting about being hungry. So hungry.

    Awesome storytelling! A nice mix of history with fictional horror. It definitely kept my attention from beginning to end. This is the first book by Alma Katsu that I have read. She also wrote The Taker series. I'm going to read that series because I enjoyed this book so much.

    **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Putnam via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

  • Debra

    "Maybe it takes one demon to keep the others away." He paused. His eyes glistened with tears now. "Lucifer had been an angel first. I always remember that."

    Is it okay to say that I devoured this book?

    Seriously, I picked this book up after I had read "The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing saga of the Donner party" (It's wonderful and I highly recommend it.) I was worried that I would not like this book as much. I had read some positive reviews of this book and even Stephen King endorsed it,

    "Maybe it takes one demon to keep the others away." He paused. His eyes glistened with tears now. "Lucifer had been an angel first. I always remember that."

    Is it okay to say that I devoured this book?

    Seriously, I picked this book up after I had read "The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing saga of the Donner party" (It's wonderful and I highly recommend it.) I was worried that I would not like this book as much. I had read some positive reviews of this book and even Stephen King endorsed it, so I was very excited to start it. But I was also apprehensive as I often find I am not on the bandwagon with hyped books. Plus, would I hold it up to the high standard of "The Indifferent Stars Above"?

    The first chapter I was worried. It started a little slow for me. But I kept reading and let me tell you this book has some teeth. Okay bad pun. This book drew me in and showed it has legs and can stand on its own merit. This is a re-telling of the Donner party with a supernatural element involved. The Author mixed history with fiction effortlessly. She gave personalities and back stories to the characters and often I wondered about the survivor’s family members would approve. If this book starts slowly for you – keep with it. It sucks you in and there is not going back!

    We all know about the wagon train knows as the Donner party and how they faced tragedy when faced with horrific snow, hunger/starvation, failing mental and physical health. The Author uses some supernatural elements to bring on the creep and bring a little horror to the story. Are they being followed? Is something sinister out there in the dark? Could animals be stalking them? What dangers lies in the dark? What danger lies in the heart of men.

    Making the book even more suspenseful is the belief that one among them is a witch, there are secret relationships, deaths and of course, the hardships of the trail itself. There are a lot of characters in this book, but I had no issues keeping track of them. I also liked that the trail and the landscape itself felt like characters. This book was atmospheric and creepy. There is a feeling of dread throughout this book. Life was hard back then. The trail was hard. Trying to survive on a day to day basis is hard and it makes people hard as well. As the group begins to dwindle in number they begin to wonder, what evil lies in wait for them - is it out there or has it been with them the entire time?

    Hitch up your wagons and load your supplies because you are in for a journey along the eerie and riveting pages of this book!

    See more of my reviews at

  • Ann Girdharry

    This book is partly based on a historical event and partly fiction. I didn’t know anything about the history of the pioneering settlers on which this story was based and so this book was pure fiction for me.

    A group of ninety settlers are heading west on a trail across America. They want to get from the east coast to California and are in covered wagons, with horses, mules and oxen accompanying them. There are families, lone men and some lone women with children. Winter is approaching and they d

    This book is partly based on a historical event and partly fiction. I didn’t know anything about the history of the pioneering settlers on which this story was based and so this book was pure fiction for me.

    A group of ninety settlers are heading west on a trail across America. They want to get from the east coast to California and are in covered wagons, with horses, mules and oxen accompanying them. There are families, lone men and some lone women with children. Winter is approaching and they decide to take a little known short cut to try to get over the mountains before the snow comes.

    Basically, it all falls apart.

    The journey is long and hard. Due to the hardships, divisions rise up amongst the families, people shoot their neighbours, old feuds are re-ignited (mostly between the men) and the group splinters into factions. There are infidelities. There is incest and abuse. Most of the characters seem to have dark secrets they are trying to run away from but the reality is they’ve brought all that baggage with them. In fact, there are so many dark secrets, I began to lose count.

    Then there is the difficulty of the terrain they are crossing. The terrain is vast with few outposts. It’s a lawless zone. Under poor leadership, they decide to take a little charted trail to cut down on time. This involves crossing a desert where most of their cattle die and the oxen go mad with thirst. Finally, the winter comes on them before they have crossed the mountains and they are trapped with little food and men who are at each other’s throats.

    In the background of the story there’s a supernatural/horror element.

    Something or someone seems to be stalking the wagon train and picking off weak members. Children go missing. Mutilated bodies are found. Though, as I understand it, there was an allegation of cannibalism in the historical Donner story, the horror element is the part which diverges from historical facts. The deaths and the feeling of being tracked are layered onto the already plummeting fortunes of the group. This was very well done in parts. At other times, I felt it was impossible to retain the tension at such a high level without the need to shovel in even more dark secrets and more murders.

    For me, one strength was the depth of the main characters – Charles Stanton, Donner, Keseberg, Reed, Thomas, Mary, Elitha, Tamsen – to name a few. However, there were far too many characters for my liking and it was difficult to distinguish between them, especially in the first half of the book.

    Another strength was the quality of the writing.

    Also a strength was the way the author portrayed the historical setting and the atmosphere of the pioneers setting out on a mad adventure into the unknown.

    However, there were significant weaknesses that spoiled it all – as I mentioned - too many characters, also an unending series of horrible mutilations and deaths - so that by the end, every character I actually liked ended up dying in nasty ways. Who was there left to root for? Well, no one really.

    Also, there were one or two side stories that hardly made sense and letters that were written where it was difficult to fathom who sent them (and to whom) and when (before or after certain individuals left the wagon train to set out on their own).

    This is a difficult one to rate.

    Here is my overall breakdown - 5 stars for writing quality, characterisation and atmosphere. 2 stars for the ending and 3 stars for the thriller element, which, in the end, became a little tedious.

    That makes something like 4 stars overall.

    (Bottom line - I enjoyed it. It’s worth reading because it’s unique, but watch out for the pitfalls.)

    Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book. This is my honest review.

  • Jack +The Page Runner+

    It’s books like these that make me mad, mad, mad. Not mad because the book was bad or poorly written (it wasn’t), not mad because of the liberties taken by the author (they enhance the story, so are acceptable), and not mad because a favorite character died (this is about the Donner party, people die). No, I’m mad because I didn’t think of this concept first. I mean, come on, a group of settlers/pioneers who get trapped in the mountains and resort to cannibalism? That’s the perfect zombie setup

    It’s books like these that make me mad, mad, mad. Not mad because the book was bad or poorly written (it wasn’t), not mad because of the liberties taken by the author (they enhance the story, so are acceptable), and not mad because a favorite character died (this is about the Donner party, people die). No, I’m mad because I didn’t think of this concept first. I mean, come on, a group of settlers/pioneers who get trapped in the mountains and resort to cannibalism? That’s the perfect zombie setup if I’ve ever heard one.

    I’m trying to put more horror in my book diet, and while there are plenty of choices out there, I’m finding myself more and more drawn to titles that aren't quite mainstream, or with unique concepts. Sure, I like a haunted house story as much as the next guy, but after a while you need something different to cleanse the palate. And

    by Alma Katsu is the perfect palate cleanser. It takes the “historical fiction” concepts of authors like Nathaniel Philbrick, Dan Simmons & Erik Larson, and adds a nice supernatural spin that makes already tragic story that much more ominous. But let it be known that this is not a fast-paced monster book where there are surprises and cliffhangers around every corner.

    is a more methodical thriller, more patient in its approach, and doesn't just hand the reader everything on a silver platter.

    As a child growing up in California, I was actually already pretty familiar with the history of the Donner-Reed party. I’ve driven up to the very locations where the crossing was most severe in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, I’ve been camping in Truckee and seen Donner Lake, and have hiked some of the wilderness where the last part of this story takes place. I am also living in Utah at present, so I know very well the Wasatch mountain range and the salt flats. It’s ironic, as it seems like it takes forever to drive through these locations (generally many hours), and yet that’s in a vehicle travelling at 70 mph on paved roads. I can only imagine how difficult of a crossing it must have been with wagons (dubbed prairie schooners by how the canvas tops resembled the sails of a ship) and packhorses, travelling at maybe 2 miles per hour, having to hope for good grazing areas and being ever conscious of water and food stores. The pioneers of old were far braver and endured more hardships than we as a comfortable society will ever know. Hell, we even have a restaurant here in Ogden called The Prairie Schooner where you sit in small simulated wagons and eat hearty meals while surrounded by mockups of high desert flora & fauna. It’s weird how things have changed for us as a people and a society.

    Like all my reviews, I will attempt to avoid spoilers whenever possible. To be honest, anyone even remotely familiar with the history of the Donner and Reed families and they tragic trek west will know that most folks didn’t make it, so spoilers here would be kinda non-existent. Regardless, I will do my best to avoid giving away any significant plot points.

    Told partly in third person, and partly in epistolary format,

    truly is a unique book. And while some people may not like the epistolary format, I find that in the context of historical fiction it works quite well. It helps give a book that old-timey feel, and is perfectly at home here. We also get a few flashbacks for some of the characters, which is good, as we generally don’t know much about them when we are first introduced to them. In fact, they’ll make some interesting choices or have strange reactions to a situation, and we only learn later on, through their flashback, why they reacted as they did.

    So while there were a few liberties taken and a few fictional characters added to round out the tale, the folks who populate

    were by-and-large real people. And we get a pretty good selection of them as point of view characters. Charles Stanton, Edwin Bryant, James Reed, Tamsen Donner, Elitha Donner, Mary Graves, and a few others round out the POV roster. I hesitate to say that there’s any one “main” character, as there really isn’t. This trek was a multi-family affair, and the story being told here, fictionalized though it may be, belongs to everyone. So it works that no one person has the lion’s share of the tale. That said, the points of view that we do follow are nice and varied.

    Charles Stanton is a single man seeking to leave a troubled past behind. In a group mostly populated by families, large and multi-generational, a single man is a sort of oddity. But though Stanton might be a slight outcast, he is a capable man with a good head on his shoulders.

    Edwin Bryant is more of a scholar than a frontiersman, and is also travelling alone. But while Stanton is a loner by nature, an outsider by his own design, Edwin Bryant is more accepted within the wagon train, especially due to his limited medical knowledge.

    Tamsen Donner is the much younger wife to George Donner, the “leader” of the pioneers heading west. Beautiful and aloof, many of the pioneers (especially the women) think she is some kind of witch, hoping to ensnare the attention and affection of their men.

    But while Tamsen may appear to be one thing on the outside, she is quite a different person once the layers are peeled back.

    James Reed is a family man and one of the more sensible men within the group, but his timid nature means that nobody really listens to him. He has a past he is also running from, a secret that he has kept hidden from everyone, including his family.

    Elitha Donner is George’s daughter from his previous marriage, and is incredibly sensitive to potentially supernatural events that are transpiring in the book. She's a sweet girl with a caring nature, but everything happening around her is threatening to consume her sanity.

    And Mary Graves is somewhat of a tomboy and is rather outspoken, unafraid to speak her mind and question the decisions of her elders. I always wanted more of her chapters, as she was refreshingly straightforward and generally cut to the chase of any conversation.

    There’s also a few chapters from a few other perspectives, which are also just as entertaining and effective. And though we may think we know all we need to know about a person, there will be a chapter where they up and surprise you. Though they lived in simple times, and maybe lived simple lives, these were no simple people…and years on the trail leaves plenty of time for introspection.

    I also daresay that the harsh and desolate landscape is nearly just as much of a character as the actual people in the book. Harsh, unforgiving, and endless, the path that our settlers/pioneers travel is expertly rendered by Alma Katsu. This book is heavy on atmosphere, with evocative descriptions of the inhospitable landscape and the sheer isolation of the party. This is a somber tale to be sure, though there are few moments of levity thrown in, generally a “head of the nail” observation made by one of the women.

    It must also be said that

    is just plain well written. The vernacular fits the time period, and there are some genuinely beautiful passages. As our intrepid party gets further and further into the unknown reaches of western America, their desperation manifests in interesting ways.

    These are people who have left everything behind them, and on top of an arduous trek across an unforgiving landscape, they have to deal with the growing supernatural threat that is stalking them. Not everyone emerges with their sanity unscathed.

    And speaking of that supernatural threat…Alma Katsu does a great job of taking the “zombie” concept and turning it on its head, making it fit the theme of the story very well. I read somewhere that this is “The Walking Dead” meets a pioneer trek, and I can honestly say that isn’t the case, and slightly misrepresents the book. I suppose the publishers want to put the name of a well-known cultural hit out there to drum up interest in the book, but it’s almost a disservice to

    . For the Walking Dead zombies and the creatures here in this book are nothing alike, and I actually find Alma Katsu’s creations much more dangerous and interesting. If you like your zombies in the traditional Romero vein, you may have a problem with the creatures here. But if you go in with an open mind, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I don’t want to say much more about it, as the joy is in the discovery, so we’ll just say that I’ll never look at spare ribs quite the same way again.

    I was very happy with how the issues of gender and heritage were handled in

    . Neither women nor American Indians were treated particularly well in these times, and Alma Katsu does a good job at showing this, without being insensitive or timid. These were the discriminations of the times, and while they don’t need to be glorified or over-done, they shouldn’t be glossed over either.

    I did have a few issues with the book, where some part of the tale maybe didn’t add up. Charles Stanton seems to know a lot of what happened to Edwin Bryant when goes off on his own, but then later we are told that the letter that Bryant wrote to Stanton was never delivered to him. So if that’s the case…how did Stanton know who Bryant was travelling with and such? It was mostly just little nit-picky things like that.

    I also wanted more horror from

    . While it is deep and dark and unsettling, and doesn’t skimp on the blood or violence, it’s not a particularly scary book. Or maybe I’m just inured to the horror, as it takes a LOT to really get to me. But I daresay that even casual readers will find the book more uncomfortable than truly frightening. Fortunately, Alma Katsu pulls no punches when describing victims the infected. And yes, even some of the aspects of cannibalism are described, though not to excessive levels. That said, some of the more squeamish readers may not want to read about when bone marrow and starving people collide...

    But let’s not have it said that the book isn’t entertaining. It is that, and much more. While I’ve never read anything else by Alma Katsu, I plan to rectify that in the coming months. She’s a damn good author, with a gift for evocative prose and compelling characterization. I was totally hooked by this tale, and absolutely would love to read more of her works.

    Now...who's up for a rare steak or juicy ribs?

  • Bex (Beckie Bookworm)

    ⭐⭐⭐⭐STARS

    ARC BOOK REVIEW.

    Release Date-6/3/18

    "The Hunger" By Alma Katsu was such an immersing read with such diverse interesting characters you couldn't help but become hooked and transfixed by the storyline.

    With its rich tapestry of history, you actually felt transported back into another place and time.

    Taking the story of the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party, one of the deadliest and most disastrous western Journey's in American history and putting its own horrific slant on it.

    T

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️STARS

    ARC BOOK REVIEW.

    Release Date-6/3/18

    "The Hunger" By Alma Katsu was such an immersing read with such diverse interesting characters you couldn't help but become hooked and transfixed by the storyline.

    With its rich tapestry of history, you actually felt transported back into another place and time.

    Taking the story of the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party, one of the deadliest and most disastrous western Journey's in American history and putting its own horrific slant on it.

    The author has managed to meld fact with fiction, giving us this portrayal of history mixed with an ominous presence of dread throughout.

    The story takes various members of this party and tells its narrative from different POV giving us such a diverse understanding of the dynamics and powers that were at play.

    Different members insights show the good and bad of all involved here and how easy breakdowns in communication, as well as fear mongering, can spread like a plague throughout a group.

    This was truly shocking in places and I was suitably impressed with how the fiction had been interwoven into the known facts.

    Being from the UK I was not aware of the Donner Party myself so this was a new story for me and got to say a very enjoyable read.

    Give this a go if you like stories rich in history and character.

    So I was provided with an ARC of "The Hunger" By Netgalley of which I have reviewed voluntary.

    All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

    Reviewed By Beckie Bookworm

  • Blair

    In

    Alma Katsu takes a real historical event – the dreadful fate of the

    – and reimagines it as a horror story. (Of course, you could say it's

    a horror story, but in this case it's the supernatural kind.) We follow a large cast of characters as they head out on a journey from Missouri to California in 1846. They're beset by bad luck from the start, and their inept 'leaders' repeatedly ignore warnings to avoid the treacherous route ahead. When a boy goes missing and

    In

    Alma Katsu takes a real historical event – the dreadful fate of the

    – and reimagines it as a horror story. (Of course, you could say it's

    a horror story, but in this case it's the supernatural kind.) We follow a large cast of characters as they head out on a journey from Missouri to California in 1846. They're beset by bad luck from the start, and their inept 'leaders' repeatedly ignore warnings to avoid the treacherous route ahead. When a boy goes missing and his body is later found bizarrely mutilated, it's just the beginning of a series of horrifying developments that will ultimately claim the lives of many of the party.

    There are lots of people in this story – the majority of them based on real historical figures. We spend the most time with Charles Stanton, a single man seeking to escape a fraught past; Mary Graves, who falls in love with him; James Reed, another man with secrets he'll do anything to keep; Tamsen Donner, unfaithful wife to George; and Tamsen's 13-year-old stepdaughter Elitha, who hears the voices of the dead. I was a little resistant, at first, to the idea of reading lots of backstory and everyday detail about all these people, but there's more than enough charm and colour to make them intriguing. I actually found the pacing to be the most troublesome thing about the story. In the final third, lots of things happen very quickly, and the potential tension and terror of these climactic events are lost in a confused, fast-moving narrative.

    Going by the cover and blurb, I assumed the bulk of the story would take place in the frozen mountains – I was hoping for something supremely evocative and chilling, akin to Michelle Paver's

    In fact, most of

    sees the group crossing barren desert, and Katsu's main focus is fleshing out the (human) characters. This is great if you're looking for a character-driven historical saga, or want to learn more about the lives of American pioneers in the mid-19th century; not so much if you're in it for the atmosphere and creepy scenes. The end result is a historical novel with an element of supernatural horror in which the latter is largely incidental.

    The Hunger

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