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Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

Friday, April 3, 2015

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls
Steve Hockensmith

Genre: HorrorParody
Paperback: 287 Pages
Publication: March 23, 2010
by Quirk Books

As our story opens, the Bennet sisters are enjoying a peaceful life in the English countryside. They idle away the days reading, gardening, and daydreaming about future husbands—until a funeral at the local parish goes strangely and horribly awry.

Suddenly corpses are springing from the soft earth—and only one family can stop them. As the bodies pile up, we watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a naive young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. Along the way, two men vie for her affections: Master Hawksworth is the powerful warrior who trains her to kill, while thoughtful Dr. Keckilpenny seeks to conquer the walking dead using science instead of strength. Will either man win the prize of Elizabeth’s heart? Or will their hearts be feasted upon by hordes of marauding zombies?


Now I know what some of you are probably thinking: "Roxanne, why didn't you read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies before picking up Dawn of the Dreadfuls?" Well, it's a little experiment on my part. I'm usually pretty fond of origin stories, but this is my first time actually reading a prequel to another book. I thought it'd be fun to read this first and see if any of it fits in the continuity of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which I do plan to review in the future. For now, let's talk about the merits of this book.

We're literally thrown into the lion's (or in this case, zombie's) den from the very first chapter. The book opens with a funeral where the deceased sits up in his coffin and, lo and behold, it turns out he's a zombie. What really struck me was the fact that this is a world where people are familiar with zombies, as there are frequent mentions of The Troubles, a time when there was a similar infestation of zombies in England. Another thing that really caught my attention and made this world so wonderfully wacky was the fact that some people were trained in the deadly arts, use of weapons and some martial arts, in order to get rid of the zombies, a great warrior among them being a woman named Lady Catherine de Bourgh (those of you who have read Pride and Prejudice will probably recognize her).

Something else that stood out to me while I was reading was the characterization of the Bennet family. (Keep in mind, my knowledge of their personalities comes from their portrayal in the original Pride and Prejudice.) We get an idea of why Mr. Bennet acts like such a curmudgeon, especially towards Mrs. Bennet, as well as learn some interesting tidbits from his past, specifically from the time of The Troubles. Elizabeth's strength and cleverness is obvious to us here, as is her father's favoring her. Lydia's clear manipulation of Kitty is also seen here, as is Mrs. Bennet's frivolousness and Jane's innocence and naivete. We also get more time spent with the middle Bennet sister, Mary, who is barely mentioned in the original book.

This was my first time reading a full-length book about zombies, and it was a lot of fun. I love the fact that people of proper society don't call the walking corpses zombies, opting instead for words like unmentionables, the sorry stricken, and the titular dreadfuls. Mrs. Bennet throws a fit when Mr. Bennet declares that he will teach his daughters the deadly arts, and the girls are immediately shushed by their mother if they say "the  Zed word" (zombie). The absurdness of the whole thing made me giggle. There are zombies running around the countryside, and Mrs. Bennet is more worried about her daughters acting like proper young ladies.

Truth be told, I wanted some more moments with the girls fighting zombies. What we do get is good, since we see how nervous and scared they are about exercising all that they've learned during their training. The scenes with zombie slaying had their share of gore, but it wasn't so graphic that it made me feel squeamish or stop reading. That being said, I felt like there was more time spent seeing the girls as they train with their father and later with Master Hawksworth. There is a big scene when a mansion is overrun by zombies Night of the Living Dead style, which would've made for a great scene with zombie slaying. But we don't get much action in this sequence, which was a big lost opportunity in my mind. However, there's a tiny thing that happens during the training that you don't pick up on until later in the book, and when this is revealed, it changes your opinion of one of the characters.

I was looking forward to the love interests in this book, and I got a bit of a surprise. Though not the focus of the book, it's revealed that Jane has a suitor in the form of a local lord. Her mother wants Jane to develop an attachment to this man, who is revealed to be really low and foul. Elizabeth's suitors, Master Hawksworth and Dr. Keckilpenny, were quite interesting in their respective portrayals. From the moment he arrives, Master Hawksworth comes across as, for lack of a better word, a badass. He's a bit of a mystery, an incredibly young man who has been to trained well in the deadly arts and is a strict teacher. After he's trained the Bennets for a while, it becomes obvious that he has some sort of feelings towards Elizabeth, though he himself seems to be struggling to understand what he feels. Dr. Keckilpenny is delightfully loopy, and you can definitely see the passion he has for his studies. I was actually surprised when he revealed that he had feelings for Elizabeth; the revelation was sporadic and felt kinda out of place. At least  there are a few hints of feelings in the case of Master Hawksworth, even if they are subtle.

However, the love triangle was the weakest aspect of the book, in my mind. You can tell Elizabeth is interested in both men, but I don't know if I could quite see it as a romantic interest. There's literally only one scene where Master Hawksworth and Dr. Keckilpenny are face to face, and nothing really happened between them. Okay, so they do size each other up and argue over Elizabeth, but it doesn't lead to anything physical going down between them. It's Elizabeth who has a major epiphany, and it's this clever moment that shows the origin of her prejudice against pride, which I think we will definitely see in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies when she meets Mr. Darcy.

This book wasn't amazing, but it was definitely entertaining. The love triangle was negligible, and there could've been some more scenes with zombies, though the scenes we do get with them are rollicking and fun to read. The world the story takes place in is delightfully wacky, from the outbreak of zombies to the training of warriors, and it was this that really gave this book its juice. I'm really looking forward to reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies now, especially since the ending to this book leads up to it well, and because people tell me that it's the best of the Quirk Classics. Now if you don't mind, I'm gonna go out, buy myself a bo staff, and practice my battle cry.

Rating: 4 stars

  1. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
  2. Dawn of the Dreadfuls (prequel)
  3. Dreadfully Ever After (sequel)

Similar Books
  • Android Karenina by Leo Tolstoy & Ben H. Winters
  • Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen & Ben H. Winters
  • Creature violence
  • Physical violence
  • Brief language
  • Some gore

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