Who’d have thought that the little book PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, written by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith, would have sparked an entirely new sub-genre in the literally world? By simply inserting some zombie passages into Austen’s classic novel that to this day still haunts high schoolers everywhere, Grahame-Smith did the impossible. He made reading Austen enjoyable (sort of) and he created a bunch of other “monster-literary mash-ups.” To be completely honest I wasn’t that impressed with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES. Let’s face it, it was still about eighty-five percent Austen with only fifteen percent new zombie content. I felt I was back in high school being forced to try and get through Austen’s tedious novel while missing an entire season’s worth of CHEERS on TV!! Yeah I admit it; the original one bored me to tears.
Then when the first sequel, DAWN OF THE DREADFULS by Steve Hockensmith, came out in 2010, I kinda let that one slip by. But I kept hearing some pretty positive things about it; enough to pique my curiosity. This brings us too DREADFULLY EVER AFTER, again written by Steve Hockensmith. The publisher, Quirk Books, sent me over an advanced copy and I reluctantly sat down to read it only to be pleasantly surprised. Not only were the confines of Austen’s novel gone, but Hockensmith wrote a stand alone novel that picks up about four years after the first novel ends (the second novel went into the origin of the zombie menace). DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is a fast read with way more zombie action and fighting than the first novel. I was relieved!!
The plot is pretty simple as we re-visit Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, now married. Elizabeth loves Darcy but feels she’s lost her own true identity. Ever since she married Darcy she’s had to put away her weapons and become the “proper wife of a gentleman.” This goes against every fiber of her being especially since she’s a zombie, or ‘dreadful,’ killing machine expertly trained in the deadly arts by a Shaolin master (as all her sisters are). She is now forced to kill dreadfuls away from the eyes of proper society and alone on her own property. But not being able to be what she truly is is taking a toll on her marriage. That is until one day when she’s taking a stroll with Darcy and they come across a young boy. Darcy is careless for a split second and is bitten on the shoulder. Suddenly Elizabeth’s world is thrown upside down as she’s torn between her love for her husband and her sworn vow to put down any and all dreadfuls no matter who they used to be.
We’re also re-introduced to Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Darcy’s aunt, and a rather deadly and crazy bitch who’s never approved of Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage. Catherine is trained in the Japanese art of ninjitsu and is as deadly as she is bitchy. Catherine and Elizabeth, you might remember, fought at the end of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, and it seems they both hold nothing but contempt for each other still. But Catherine does offer them hope: A doctor in London, Sir Angus MacFarquhar, has apparently developed a cure for those bitten by a dreadful and she devises a plan (I guess it’s more of a scheme) to steal the cure from the doctor. So the Bennet’s head to the big city, London, to track down Sir Angus and steal the cure.
The first thing you’ll notice is how much quicker a read DREADFULLY EVER AFTER is than the original. We aren’t simply reading Austen’s novel with a few zombie passages inserted into it. This is an original novel that stays within the “PRIDE AND PREJUDICE” universe but is fresh with a fun and engaging plot.
I also liked the decision to move the bulk of the action to London so we get to see how the zombie outbreak has effected life in the big city. There’s not one aspect of life that the dreadfuls haven’t affected. This isn’t more apparent as the coronation of the new king of England draws ever closer (Sir Angus is also the king’s personal physician). The action here is divided between following the Bennets as Elizabeth attempts to seduce Sir Angus in order to get closer to him in order to steal the cure, and with following Darcy, who stays back at Catherine’s estate with Catherine’s daughter Anne. We get some great writing as Darcy fights off succumbing to the infection that courses through his veins. Hockensmith does a great job keeping the action moving and with giving us plenty of kick ass fight scenes between the Bennet girls and dreadfuls, between ninjas and dreadfuls, between the Bennet girls and ninjas, and ultimately between Elizabeth and Catherine. Fun stuff!!
Along the way we get some interesting asides, like when they go to the race track which consists of an Irishman running around a track being chased by dreadfuls so the rich can bet on the dreadfuls, and some insight into the organization SPCZ; the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Zeds. And just wait until the final scenes in London during the coronation of the new king!! Hockensmith also does a great job keeping all the main players in their “true characters” that Austen originally wrote. We still get the sub-text of people maintaining a “proper society” in which everyone has their role to play and which everyone must be “decent” in the eyes of that society.
Steve Hockensmith does with DREADFULLY EVER AFTER what I wanted to see done with the original PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES … we actually get a zombie novel with gore, violence, and plenty of action. He does this while at the same time maintaining and keeping the spirit of Austen’s original novel alive (or is it “undead”??). If you’re like me and were disappointed (and bored) with PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, fear not … DREADFULLY EVER AFTER will satisfy your blood-lust of watching proper English girls slice, dice, and tear apart zombies. Check this one out.
Author: Steve Hockensmith
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer