I should have posted a review of the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls months ago. It was a wholly enjoyable book and I started reading it when it was released in March. For the delay, I cite personal reasons, although I think most Pride and Prejudice fans would agree. The problem: There is no Mr. Darcy.
Of course there isn’t. This is a prequel set before the characters are introduced to Mr. Favorite Literary Crush. But when I figured out he wasn’t in this book, I put it down and cried for a few months. Then took a deep breath, brought the book to the beach and loved it.
Of course I loved it. It’s funny zombie fiction. And it’s set in Regency England, where zombies aren’t just deadly, they’re an insult to good manners. The tight-lipped repulsion just leaps off the page.
Although it carries the same branding, P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a very different sort of book from P&P&Z. Rather than a literary mash-up of Seth Grahame-Smith‘s zombies and Jane Austen‘s prose, the book is original fiction by Steve Hockensmith. I had never read his other books and, although it appears that he’s a newcomer to zombie-fic, his humorous historical fiction has received much praise. Hockensmith’s writing is accessible and engaging, bringing a lightness to the P&P&Z franchise that should make it attractive to those turned off by Jane Austen’s profuse punctuation and pontification.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls begins at a funeral, when the body rudely awakens and reminds Hertfordshire of the dormant zombie plague it ought not to mention. As the undead continue to stumble from their graves, Mr. Bennet is forced to train his five daughters to be ninja warriors like himself — with the help of the handsome, strapping Master Hawksworth. Despite the dearth of Mr. Darcy, Hockensmith creates plenty of male characters to match up with Austen’s swarm of females, each of them flawed in ways that thankfully allow the ladies to kick lots of zombie butt.
Unlike in P&P&Z, the zombies are not an after-thought — or perhaps a never-thought on the part of co-author Austen (a point that I suppose is debatable). The zombies in Dawn of the Dreadfuls are plentiful and, as in most zombie books, the horde size increases with the page number. The black and white engravings also help to bump up the zombie-quotient, although I would rate the gore in this book as slightly less than in P&P&Z.
Overall, P&P&Z: Dawn of the Dreadfuls is a fresh, fun zombie book: a historical rom-zom-com with ninjas too. I give it 4.5 brains out of 5.