The success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies bought a new genre to the world of Jane Austen fan fiction, the mash-up. Many fans clamored for more and Quirk classics and Steve Hockensmith happily listened to them and brought us a prequel to P&P&Z, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Set four years before the events of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls tackles the questions of “how did Elizabeth Bennet turn into such a fearsome warrior?” and “how did the dreadfuls come about?”
The inhabitants of Meryton live a nice quiet life attending balls, dinner parties, masses, weddings, and funerals with no fear of the dreadfuls. The funeral that takes place at the beginning of the novel changes all of that. In the middle of the service the corpse sits up in its coffin and comes back alive. Mr. Bennet, a veteran of the last war of the dreadfuls years earlier, knows how to stop this zombie from hurting anyone. Getting everyone out of the church except Lizzie, Mary, the priest, and himself, they quickly discuss what must be done to kill the zombie. This singular event causes Mr. Bennet to panic because the unmentionables are back in England! Rushing back home after the funeral Mr. Bennet turns the family’s greenhouse into an outdoor dojo and begins trying to train his five daughters in the deadly arts. (The deadly arts are a mixture of ninja skills and martial arts training). Seeing that all is not going well in their training Mr. Bennet writes to some “friends in the east” and is sent eighteen year old Master Hawksworth. It’s up to Hawksworth to turn the Longbourn ladies into unmentionable warriors. Will he succeed and make warriors out of them, or will he fail and see them fall to zombies??
Dawn of the Dreadfuls was SO much better than the original. I think a lot had to do with the fact that it was a completely new and unique storyline. There was no original text that Hockensmith needed to change around or alter, and that added to the pleasure I had in reading it. Hockensmith weaves his own storyline into what Grahame-Smith originally wrote seamlessly. His rendition of how Elizabeth became the fearsome warrior she was in P&P&Z was awesome, but most importantly it was believable. What we see in her starts out as uncertainty in her abilities and turns to complete belief in her strength and passion as a warrior. Hockensmith has an uncanny ability to get into Elizabeth’s head and write her in a way that makes the reader understand her journey.
Hockensmith also gives us a large amount of colorful characters that adds to the humor of the novel. The funniest character by far has to be the armless and legless Capt Cannon. He is strapped into a wheel barrel and is “driven” around by two soldiers who he calls left limb and right limb. His characterization is so eccentric that it’s just humorous. Over the course of the novel you come to find out that Cannon was Mrs. Bennet’s first love. There is one scene where he is in the sitting room with Mrs. Bennet reading her poetry, and in the middle of a sonnet yells for his right limb to give Mrs. Bennet a rose and for his left limb to turn the page. The ridiculousness of his character added to my enjoyment of the novel infinitely.
Between the interesting character additions and unique storyline I found myself snickering throughout the novel. Even if you didn’t like the original, you should definitely try reading Dawn of the Dreadfuls. This new and fresh storyline was really intriguing, spunky, and a lot of fun!
4 out of 5 Stars
This is my ninth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
Quick Classics (2010)
Paperback 284 pages
For my review of the original Pride and Prejudice and Zombies click here