Reviewed by Mr. Dark
Written by Steve Hockensmith
Published by Quirk Books
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Android Karenina. Little Vampire Women. It’s a sensation, this taking of classic novels and remixing them a bit to include horror and humor. P&P&Z was the first, though, and as such it’s the first to spawn a sequel or, in this case, a prequel.
P&P&Z took Jane Austen’s classic tale of the Bennet sisters and their quests for romance and marriage in early 19th Century England and made them highly skilled martial artists defending king and country from a zombie outbreak. Dawn of the Dreadfuls shifts backwards a bit and shows the Bennet sisters begin their training to become the dedicated slayers they are in P&P&Z.
Roused from their idyllic upper-middle-class upbringing by a reanimated corpse at a funeral, the girls discover their father was once a mighty zombie killer in wars that occurred prior to their birth. As he had once pledged to bring up his children as warriors, only to be left with five daughters instead of sons, he instantly begins their training to contend with what he is sure will be another zombie outbreak.
We follow the girls as they train, cope with suitors wanted and unwanted, and deal with prejudices against them as improper and unladylike for their combat training and skills.
The single biggest change between the original and Dawn of the Dreadfuls is that this is not a mesh of classic material and new edits. This is an original work set in the universe of the classic novel, using the same characters and settings. This change is a great benefit to the novel. I felt the original dragged at times when the focus was on the original Austen romantic entanglements. How many pages are we going to spend reading about which sister is off visiting what town and being ignored by who and why and oh God…I’m sorry, I’ve lost my will to live. This isn’t a fault of the original ‘remix’ author; you’re either going to enjoy that classic Austen text or you aren’t. I never read Austen. That was an intentional, informed decision.
This novel, being Austen-free, is left to craft a much more cogent story with vastly more interesting and colorful characters than the original. The satire is broader, the violence more prevalent, the plot twists more interesting and enjoyable. This is just a fun, fun book. It revels in the setting and stereotypes of the era and the writing style of Austen and her contemporaries without slipping into full-blown spoofery. Elizabeth Bennet is still Elizabeth Bennet…she’s just drastically more interesting here.
This isn’t a perfect book, by any means. The story does drag a bit in the middle, and some of the characters are a little too comedic for the rest of the tale. However, by the third act things are running strong, and a few clever plot twists arrive to drive the story through to an exciting finish. In fact, that finish is by far the strongest point in the book. After a rather light and fluffy first two thirds, things get rather dark. Romero finale dark. The body count rises, the angst spikes, and more than a little tragedy is thrown into the mix.
The biggest question around this is whether you should read it. If you have never read Austen, the original P&P&Z, and have no knowledge of this era in time or literature, you’re not going to have the best time. There’s some fun to be had, but a great deal of the joy is the setting and the history. Without knowledge of those, many gags will fly over your head. However, if you’re familiar with any of the above and enjoy a good zombie romp, you’re going to have a great time with Dawn of the Dreadfuls. You absolutely do not have to read P&P&Z to enjoy this book, which is the beauty of a prequel. Reading this might even enhance your enjoyment of P&P&Z if you haven’t read it, as I hadn’t.
Heading into summer, many are seeking a light, fun read. Dawn of the Dreadfuls is just that. Wade into the woods with the Bennets this summer. Just bring your favorite musket, and don’t forget to be a lady or gentleman at all times.
4 out of 5
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