Wednesday, March 3, 2010

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

Right on the heels of the delightful Pride and Prejudice and Zombies comes its prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a completely original work (it’s not based on an Austen classic like the original was) with a different author than P & P & Z. Yet, it still manages to retain the charm and bloody action of P & P & Z.

Dawn of the Dreadfuls takes us through the colorful account of the Bennet sisters as the “unmentionable” menace threatens their idyllic life in the English countryside. After a corpse reanimates during a funeral, Mr. Bennet insists that his daughters be trained in the deadly arts. After much wailing about impropriety, reputations and what the neighbors will think, Mrs. Bennet finally accepts his decision and the rakishly handsome martial arts instructor Master Hawksworth is brought into the household and takes a special liking to his star pupil, Elizabeth. Meanwhile, soldiers are also amassing around the countryside in preparation to fight the growing zombie horde and Elizabeth meets their peculiar but charming scientist Dr. Keckilpenny who likes to conduct experiments on the “unmentionables” to better understand them. Not only is Elizabeth’s heart pulled between Master Hawksworth and Dr. Keckilpenny, but she also has to mind the ever-increasing numbers of zombies roaming the countryside. Everything comes to a head at Elizabeth’s coming out ball, held at repugnant Lord Lumpley’s estate, when an army of undead decides to attack the party-goers.

As a prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is an extremely fun and fulfilling novel that manages to fill in a lot of the back history of how the Bennet sisters were trained in the deadly arts. It is just delightful to see the Bennet sisters grow from na├»ve young country maids to deadly warriors. I also enjoyed the interaction between Elizabeth and the colorful characters of Master Hawksworth and Dr. Keckilpenny, both who vie for her attention in very different ways. Author Steve Hockensmith has populated the novel with many other colorful characters as well, including Captain Cannon, who lost all his limbs to zombies and now has four soldiers acting as “limbs” for him, the previously mentioned Lord Lumpley, whose physical description matches his name but doesn’t prevent him from womanizing, the legendary Catherine De Bourgh, zombie slayer extraordinaire, and many more!

Though the novel doesn’t match the witty Austen-isms from P & P & Z and lacks its clever dialogue, it makes up for this with action and its interesting characters. The characters I discussed above, but the action is just as great. From the sisters training in their dojo to having their first experiences with killing zombies to the great zombie siege at the end, the book moves fast and the action comes quick. I also didn’t mind the few hints at romance but also appreciated that Hockensmith didn’t go overboard with it. What he did go overboard with was the gore, which I more than gleefully appreciated! From desiccated corpses to the freshly undead to decapitations, impaling, and all sorts of gore, the novel didn’t disappoint!

Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a fun zombie period piece that will work well for both fans of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and fans of just zombies in general. Since it isn’t adopted straight from a Jane Austen novel like P & P & Z was, it is more accessible to the general horror populace with a craving for brains. With full-fledged zombie mayhem contrasting against a genteel English populace, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is the perfect cup of tea for horror fans thirsty for an entertaining zombie novel!

Order Dawn of the Dreadfuls on Amazon!

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