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Back for more Victorian zombies

By Staff | Mar 31, 2010

If you didn’t get enough Regency romance and zombies in the mash-up that was Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith’s “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” don’t go hissing for brains. Just released is Steve Hockensmith’s “Dawn of the Dreadfuls,” a prequel to the crazy popular book.

If you wondered how the Bennet sisters became the expertly trained zombie killers they were in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” look no further than “Dawn of the Dreadfuls,” which takes place four years before the events of the first book.

Elizabeth and her sisters are content to dream of future husbands (Mr. Darcy!) until the day a town funeral goes amiss when the body rises up from the coffin. Mr. Bennet springs to action and his daughters face the choice of fleeing with their mother or staying with their father. Elizabeth and Mary stay and get a first glimpse at how their father used to be a warrior in the fights against the Dreadfuls before retiring to be with their Mother.

Not that the dreadful menace is back (it’s impolite to say the word ‘zombie’), Mr. Bennet has decided the girls need training and sends for a Master from the Order to which he belongs.

Master Hawksworth is young and good-looking, but stern and a taskmaster to the girls and their father, and they slowly become warriors before his eyes. But one girl stands out, and that is Elizabeth. And she’s beginning to notice Master Hawksworth too.

As the dreadfuls continue to gain in numbers and the girls gain in their experience with the deadly arts, Elizabeth meets a handsome young scientist named Dr. Keckilpenny, who wants to find a way to communicate with the zombies in hopes of bringing their minds back. 

And while Elizabeth finds her heart torn between the two men, she may literally have her heart torn in two or have her brain eaten, as a showdown with the dreadfuls is imminent.

I actually enjoyed this one more than the first book. Hockensmith is free to use his own voice and tone for the book, and does exceedingly well, blending humor, horror and romance together effortlessly. In Elizabeth’s suitors (loved Dr. Keckilpenny!), you can see elements of Mr. Darcy, so it’s natural that she would be attracted to him later, and you can also see where their weaknesses are his strengths.

The secondary characters are quite humorous, including the uppercrust and depraved Lord Lumpley and the soldier Capt. Cannon, who lost all of his limbs in the war against the zombies and now uses soldiers as his ‘limbs.’

I would love to see Hockensmith continue on with the story, showing readers what happens to Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy in the land of the undead.

Contact Amy at letters@graffitiwv.com