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Book Review: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever AfterPride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After
By Steve Hockensmith
Paperbook | Kindle
Quirk Books
Release date: March 22, 2011

Prior to 2009, who would have thought that zombies invading the world of Jane Austen’s literary classic Pride and Prejudice would be the break-out hit of the fiction bestseller lists, spawning countless similar monsters-meet-classic novel mash-ups? But that’s just what the Quirk Classics tale Pride and Prejudice and Zombies did, so it’s no wonder that the publisher decided to delve back into this twisted version of early 19th century England to churn out an original prequel, PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls, as well as a sequel, the newly released Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith.

The trilogy centers around Miss Elizabeth Bennett, one of five sisters, each of whom has been trained in martial arts and are experts at dispatching “dreadfuls,” the undead creatures who crave the taste of the living. In the prequel, we learn how the Bennett sisters became the deadly protectors of England that they are; in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Elizabeth must balance her role as a proper young lady in society and her mother’s wish for her to find a suitable husband, with her very unlady-like duty to protect her family and countrymen from the hordes of attacking zombies. In the end, Elizabeth snags the most eligible of all bachelors, the well-to-do Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, and the couple live happily ever after… right?

Unfortunately, the honeymoon is short-lived for the Darcy’s — what’d you expect from a title like Dreadfully Ever After? While Elizabeth loves her husband and being with him, married life is not what she expected. Etiquette dictates that a married woman cannot carry a weapon in public, so she must venture out unarmed. She longs for her old life as a warrior and less for the role that society places on her as Mrs. Darcy. Mr. Darcy knows something’s bothering his wife, so on their walk home he implores her to open up to him. Surprised by his wife’s confessions, Mr. Darcy doesn’t notice until it’s too late that the little boy coming towards him is actually a dreadful. Before Elizabeth can react, the boy takes a chop out of Mr. Darcy’s neck, dooming him to a horrible fate.

In any other scenario, Elizabeth would have quickly beheaded the victim on the spot to prevent that person from coming back as a zombie, but this is her beloved who’s newly infected. How could she possibly kill him? Thus begins Elizabeth’s dangerous quest to procure a supposed cure for the virus so she can save her husband and truly live happily ever after.

The world of Pride and Prejudice is one I’ve always enjoyed and even Austen’s version, Elizabeth is a positive feminine role model, so to see her in this alternate universe as a master zombie-slayer and all-around ass-kicker is highly enjoyable. That’s why when in Dreadfully Ever After our heroine is relegated to the role of a simple society wife — and an unhappy one at that — we want more for her, too. Her capabilities make us less afraid for the dangers she faces in obtaining the antidote than for what will happen to her reputation and her husband’s respect for her if she succeeds in her mission.

As with the two previous novels, Dreadfully Ever After gives us plenty of action, including arena races where Irishmen must run for their lives against rampaging dreadfuls for sport, as well as hand-to-hand combat, swordplay, and ninja craziness. In this final installment, Elizabeth is reunited with her father and sisters for combat and espionage, while poor Mr. Darcy is at his Aunt Catherine’s home battling his ailment under the care of his eerie cousin Anne.

Unlike Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which took the bulk of Austen’s novel and inserted zombies making it more of a spoof, Dreadfully Ever After is an original tale with a very serious tone. The severity of Mr. Darcy’s situation and the gravity of Elizabeth’s mission make this story less about hungry, mindless undeads who are fodder for those skilled in defeating them and focuses more on an even scarier foe — humans with evil intentions.

If you enjoyed the previous novels, then by all means Dreadfully Ever After is a must-read. It’s fast-paced, and even with all the seriousness, Hockensmith gives us something here and there to smile about, as do the book’s black-and-white illustrations by Patrick Arrasmith — my favorite being Lady Catherine atop her horse carrying a string of severed heads.

Hat’s off to Hockensmith, who took the premise of zombies in the uptight propriety-driven British Regency era and successfully segued it into a true horror sequel filled with gore, suspense, intrigue, and lots of heart.

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