I became a fan of Alma Katsu’s writing with her Taker Trilogy. When she contacted me about reviewing her latest release I could not answer yes fast enough. She sent me a copy of The Hunger at no charge for my honest review.
About The Hunger:
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.
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 isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.
As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.
Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.
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About the Author:
Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.
Most people have at least heard of the Donner Party and their travails as they headed west. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like for them. Just reading the wiki was horrifying. Much has been written about this incident in history but The Hunger adds a dash of horror to the well, horror.
I generally do not read thrillers, horror or fantasy types of books but for a very select few authors. Ms. Katsu is one of those authors. Her writing is magical and powerful and in all honesty I would read an operations manual that she wrote. No questions asked. I have that much faith in how she writes. I was not disappointed when I opened The Hunger and started reading. In fact I opened and really didn’t want to put it down but I did have to sleep – not that the underlying horror didn’t invade my dreams. (Which is why I don’t read horror/thriller books.)
The books picks up near the end of the story with a quick prologue to set the mood. To remind the reader as Ms. Katsu writes so eloquently, “Snow kept secrets.” That line stayed with me. In truth, it still haunts me. Three words, so much meaning especially when you know what happened. But this story adds to what the horror of the reality with a new, stalking horror. What IS out there?
After the prologue the story goes back in time to introduce the main characters – mostly the real people who were on the trip but a few new, fictional characters are added to help the story along. Ms. Katsu explains in the author’s note at the end. As with any historical fiction rendering of a tale there is a bit of fast and loose with facts and some supposition but it’s fiction. None of it takes away from what is a truly compelling read.
I found it to be a true page turner. The suspense and horror slowly build as the story progresses. You see what is, in effect, a small composite of society with wealthy and poor moving along to an end goal. Even when troubles start they do not pull together but rather remain segregated with each for himself. Somewhat of a life lesson where you wonder had they pulled together perhaps the outcome might have been different. We will never know.
OK – off of the soapbox.
It’s a great read. It’s the kind of story that just sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. If you don’t know much about the Donner Party you’ll probably want to learn more. You also might think twice about sleeping alone in the Rocky Mountain wilderness.