Reviewed by Jennifer Jensen
Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith, the eagerly anticipated prequel to Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is even more gory and comedic than Quirk Classics’ debut novel. Hockensmith’s advantage over Grahame-Smith was getting to create a somewhat unique story from scratch. All of Jane Austen’s original characters are brought to life in Dawn of the Dreadfuls, along with a few new characters to sweeten the plot.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls takes place four years before the events in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. All has been quiet in the town of Hertfordshire for several years since the end of the last zombie outbreak. A man who “wakes up” in the middle of his own funeral is just the beginning of a new uprising of zombies who will set out to consume the brains of the living. Mr. Bennet sacrifices his daughters’ upbringing as fine society ladies when he forces them to train in the deadly arts of zombie slaying under the tutelage of Master Hawksworth. The Bennet sisters have their work cut out for them as they attempt to balance their training and their “coming out” into society.
No novel using Jane Austen’s beloved characters (yes, even Mrs. Bennet) would be complete without a little romance. Before there was Mr. Darcy, there was Master Geoffrey Hawksworth and Dr. Keckilpenny. Both have an invested interest in the unmentionables; Hawksworth is the master who trains the Bennet sisters, and Dr. Keckilpenny is one who believes that zombies can revert back to a human existence. The more time Elizabeth spends with each one, the more confused her feelings for each young suitor becomes. I found the end result of their flirtations to be one of the best parts of this book. But Elizabeth is not the only one with suitors at her heels: Jane finds herself pursued by a baron with a dark sinister purpose, and Mrs. Bennet reconnects with a handsome militia man from her past.
Since I’ve read the original Pride and Prejudice at least half a dozen times in the last 10 years, I know the story and the characters extremely well. Surprisingly, Hockensmith did a remarkable job at making his Austen characters as true to themselves as he could. At times, I felt Elizabeth to be a bit more outspoken than normal, and in one instance Jane to be entirely out of character. But adding these small adjustments to the characters made the conclusion of this novel entirely unpredictable and more fun than I imagined.
Please visit the Dawn of the Dreadfuls site at Quirk Classics!
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.