{Review} The Hunger by Alma Katsu

Posted October 17, 2019 by Leah in Reviews / 4 Comments

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, language, and/or violence.
{Review} The Hunger by Alma Katsu

The Hunger

by Alma Katsu
Pages: 376
Published on March 6, 2018
by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Genres: Adult, Historical Fiction, Horror
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

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--is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck--the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions--searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand--evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves "What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased...and very hungry?"

3.5 Stars

The Donner Party was one of the most tragic events in California history. Not only was it doomed to fail from the moment it started, it is now associated with an infamous ending. As taboo as the ending is, this reimagining of the Donner Party’s journey is made more horrifying by author Alma Katsu. Due to the subject matter of the real life events, The Hunger is not for everyone.

The Hunger feels cinematic. The way Katsu writes paints images that makes the reader feel as if they’re watching a film unfold. It captures the isolation of the California wilderness, with its deep forests, rugged mountains, and the brutal winter. It manages to be beautiful yet dangerous. The large cast of characters are fully realized, adding layers to the story that bring out different emotions. As their journey starts, they are already uneasy. The trail is hard, leadership is always being questioned. When a boy in their group goes missing, it makes everyone suspect each other. The tension rises when it turns out to be something even more sinister.

I was always on edge reading The Hunger, and the characters (many of which are based on real life members of the Donner Party group) are the main reason for it. Once they start descending into fear that the other can’t be trusted, it made my stomach drop. They don’t have to like each other, but they’re part of a group trying to get to the same place, so there has to be some trust there. This book succeeds in building the foundation of distrust. Nature can be scary, but people can be scarier. As for the horror aspect of the book, it is fascinating in an unsettling way, the thought of which unsettled me even more.

While the book has a strong presence throughout, the last quarter feels rushed. The book had taken its time to craft a brutal, terrifying world, and it quickly falls apart. So much work for a weak climax and even weaker resolution.

If you’re feeling brave, I’d recommend The Hunger.



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4 responses to “{Review} The Hunger by Alma Katsu

  1. I hadn’t heard of this one, but the author caught my attention, because she’s got a book coming out that I should be reading soon. 😀 The Donner Party story is already creepy, but this sounds like a really good read! Shame that the ending is rushed. D: I hate when stories start out so good and fall flat at the end. I’ll probably check this one out, though, because it sounds like the sort of atmosphere I’ve been really looking for in a book lately!

    • Leah

      Ohhh, I’m also waiting for The Deep! I think The Hunger is worth checking out, can’t wait to see your thoughts.

  2. czai

    This one caught my attention when it first came out then totally forgot about it. Didn’t know it was a historical fiction though although I know nothing about the Donner Party. But the idea of this as a whole still intrigues me. Adding it to my goodreads tbr (have to make sure not to forget it again).

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