Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Book Review: The Hunger by Alma Katsu

First line: Everyone agreed it had been a bad winter, one of the worst in recollection.

Unlike most of the planet, I didn't like Katsu's debut novel, The Taker. Which I was bitter about, because Katsu impressed me with her potential.

With The Hunger, I got the novel I always wanted: taut, moody, dangerous, atmospheric, and creepy.

I don't know where to start with my squee-ing. It helps that the premise -- supernatural take on the Donner Party tragedy -- is just so delicious. Katsu doesn't speed through the trip, and through the early days we learn how fractured these people were, and the many demons that chased them. She takes her time to give the characters space to breathe, and we're rewarded with rich plot threads and deeply flawed and oh-so appealing characters.

For history sticklers, this book will surely aggravate, as Katsu takes some wild liberties with the histories of the Donner Party members: victims of sexual abuse, secretly gay, murderer. But I uh-dored this inventive, sordid re-imagining, for it made the slow approaching doom all the more welcome and fraught. Our travelers had no idea was horror was ahead of them, but we do, and the slow chipping away of the party's morale (and population) ratcheted the tension up with every page.

This novel reminded me of Dan Simmons' The Terror, which I enjoyed; unlike The Terror, however, Katsu manages to hold everything together right to the end, offering a conclusion that is fully supernatural yet entirely plausible.

Undoubtedly, a top ten read for 2018.

Death had been chasing them a long while, she knew, but it had never gotten this close. Now it was at their heels like a begging dog; the smell of it was in their hair and under their fingernails. It was everywhere, and it was waiting.

Title: The Hunger
Author: Alma Katsu
Genre: Fiction (Historical / 19th Century / American West / Marriage / Historical Figures Fictionalized / Donner Party / Pioneers / Supernatural)
Publisher/Publication Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (3/6/2018)
Source: My public library
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction


  1. I thought I had read this author before and even this book but I was wrong on both counts. It's sounds interesting. I like the comparison to The Terror which I loved.

    1. I saw an article somewhere begging for Season 2 of the Terror to just be The Hunger, which I would die for. This book was SO GOOD. I hope you love it!

  2. Oh my God, this sounds amazing?? I read a bit about The Terror and had some problems with the premise, plus I kind of have to be convinced to read books by white dudes these days, but this sounds PERFECT. I'm adding it to my list right now!

  3. I'm reading this now, and I love Katsu as a person and writer. I've had the pleasure of meeting her in person twice now. This one is more suspenseful and creepy. I think this is some of her finest writing, and I did enjoy The Taker series.