"You must try to remain calm, Mamma," said Mary. She herself did not look calm so much as addled: Her eyes were glassy, and she walked with the shuffling, stumbling steps of a clumsy somnambulist. "Remember: Mr. Ford hadn't been interred yet. If what I've read of the sorry stricken is correct, it will be days, perhaps even weeks, before more can dig their way from the grave to attack us."
"Days? Weeks?" Mrs. Bennet cried. "Do you hear that, Jane? You have mere days to marry a man of means and rescue us all! Or you, Elizabeth -- you'll be out in two weeks' time. Catch a husband at the Goswicks' ball and spare us a fate worse than death! Oh! Oh, my! You don't suppose they'd cancel the ball, do you? They wouldn't! They can't! I need both of you on the market if we're to head off utter disaster! Ohhh, by the time this business is done, we'll all be roaming about in our shrouds with fresh brain smeared around our mouths like so much marmalade, you mark my words!" (from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, pages 21-22)
After finding Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith just okay and not being able to finish Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, I'm not sure exactly why I wanted to read the prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Steve Hockensmith's Dawn of the Dreadfuls, but I'm glad I did. I think the lack of original writing in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is my main problem with those books. (It has nothing to do with other writers expanding on or altering Austen's novels and characters, as the Austen permutations are a guilty pleasure of mine.) Dawn of the Dreadfuls is all original writing, whereas the other two books simply insert zombies or sea monsters here and there and the rest is Austen's original work. Honestly, if I'd wanted to read Austen, I would have grabbed my well worn copies of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility!
Dawn of the Dreadfuls takes place several years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The Bennet daughters are in their teens; in fact, Elizabeth hasn't even come out into society yet. The Bennet family is attending the funeral of their neighbor, Mr. Ford, who sits up in his coffin and causes all hell to break loose. Although readers never learn exactly what caused the zombie plague, Hockensmith writes about battles that took place during the previous outbreak many years before. Now the dreadfuls are back -- and Mr. Bennet knows that only experience in the deadly arts will save them. Although Mrs. Bennet is more concerned about the upcoming ball and doesn't want Mr. Bennet to transform Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Lydia, and Kitty into warriors (I guess gowns and swords don't mix), the girls rise to the occasion and begin training with Master Hawksworth, who is fascinated with Elizabeth and her warrior skills. As the zombies rise in number and the soldiers sent in to protect Meryton are more likely to run than fight, the Bennets are left to pick up the pieces...or more accurately, hack the zombies into pieces.
Hockensmith makes an effort to use Austen-esque language, and he stays true to Austen's characters for the most part. Jane still sees few faults in people, Elizabeth is still the strong sister, Lydia and Kitty find a way to gossip and banter even while fighting zombies, and Mrs. Bennet still has her nervous problems and her sights set on marrying her daughters to well-off men. He also introduces several new and eccentric characters, including Dr. Keckilpenny, the absent-minded professor type who befriends Elizabeth and solicits her help in studying the zombies up close; Capt. Cannon, a soldier who lost both arms and both legs in past zombie battles and now directs his men from a wheelbarrow pushed by soldiers known as Limbs; Lord Lumpley, a cad with designs on Jane; and Lt. Tindall, who doesn't let his disgust for the warrior ways of the Bennet sisters get in the way of his attraction to Jane.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls far exceeded my expectations. There's humor, action, and even (sometimes gruesome but always entertaining) illustrations. Hockensmith does a great job building tension and keeping the tone light and funny at the same time. The only things missing from the story were Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. I would have loved to see how they dealt with the return of the dreadfuls. (One last thing: The Girl absolutely loves the cover, so much so that she's begged me to let her be the girl in the picture for Halloween. This will be a fun costume to put together. I'm actually looking forward to it.)
Jane Austen Challenge.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls from FSB Associates for review purposes. I am an Amazon affiliate.
© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.