Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith
Series: #1 in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies series
Release Date: March 4, 2010
Publisher: Quirk
Pages: 287
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page 


From Goodreads:

In this terrifying and hilarious prequel, we witness the genesis of the zombie plague in early-nineteenth-century England. We watch Elizabeth Bennet evolve from a na├»ve young teenager into a savage slayer of the undead. We laugh as she begins her first clumsy training with nunchucks and katana swords and cry when her first blush with romance goes tragically awry. 

Written by acclaimed novelist (and Edgar Award nominee) Steve Hockensmith, Dawn of the Dreadfuls invites Austen fans to step back into Regency England, Land of the Undead!


What kind of reader are you?

Look, I think this is pretty obvious, but if you're the type of fan who believes the original Pride and Prejudice is a sacred text that should never be tampered with, then this really isn't the book for you. If you don't like zombie books where the zombies are of the hoarding, mindless brain-eater variety, then you probably won't like Dawn of the Dreadfuls

If, however, those sorts of zombie stories appeal to you and you don't mind inserting a little zombie slaying into Austen's classic, then you should definitely seek out a copy of this book!

Funny and fun times

This is kind of a strange mash up, but I thought it worked pretty well. There's just something about combining the "proper" civility and over the top husband hunting of Pride and Prejudice with the decidedly improper brain-seeking zombie that I find amusing. When Mr. Bennett is trying to drive home the importance of an impending apocalypse due to the rapidly spreading zombie infestation and Mrs. Bennett is simultaneously worrying about finding eligible bachelors to throw her daughters at, well, I giggle.

That's pretty much the strength of the book for me. It's just all so absurd and over the top, but it never once tries to take itself seriously. Even the humor seems to be of the level of a really bad pun that is hilarious precisely because it is so horribly bad, and it knows it. I was never really laughing out loud, but I did smirk through most of it.

The action is steady, not quite as brisk as I would normally like, but never slow. Short chapters also helped to move things along. The zombies were more amusing than scary, though there were a number of pretty gross images. Think typical zombie gore with rotting flesh and easily detached appendages.

The final showdown at the end was the highlight of the book for me and the only part that really got my pulse pounding. Up until that point the zombie threat didn't seem all that threatening, but that climax really had me wondering if our heroes were going to make it out alive or if everyone was going to die (even though, yeah, obviously everyone doesn't die given this is a prequel. But it still felt like it was possible).

Is there really a story here?

One of the biggest things I wondered when I picked up this book was if it would actually have a plot that could stand on its own beyond the gimmick of inserting zombies into a classic. The fact that it was a prequel worried me even more.  

I'm happy to say that Dawn of the Dreadfuls is fully able to stand on its own with a solid and original storyline that kept me entertained throughout. While the girls do learn how to slay zombies like the blurb says, the plot revolves around a lot more than just watching them practice swinging a sword.

Original characters help flesh out the cast and provide romantic interests, antagonists, and comedic relief. None of the characters, even the Austen-created characters, were very fleshed out (I'm sure there's a pun in there somewhere), but I really wasn't expecting much depth of character anyway. The Austen originals behaved pretty well in line with the Pride and Prejudice versions.  

Bottom line

This was more fun than horror, and is best approached with mild expectations. It wasn't my favorite book ever, it didn't change my world, and it won't stay with me for years and years. But I'm glad I read it. I had fun and I would read the rest of the series (though I'm less interested in the one with Jane Austen's text and the other author. Steve Hockensmith is a big draw for me and I enjoyed his book Holmes on the Range even more than this one). Recommended if you're looking for something light and fun with zombie slaying.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!


  1. I know I'm probably being incredibly shallow, but I'm very put off by this cover - I generally don't like this style.

    Plus, I don't mind the occasional re-telling of P%P (I'm even guilty of writing one!) but I don't dig zombies.

    So I guess this one isn't for me :P

    Thanks for the thorough review :)

  2. Honestly, I'm in the process of reading Dawn of the Dreadfuls right now. I like it, but 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' was a MILLION times better. They're by different authors, and the writing style changed. Whereas, as you say, Dawn of the Dreadfuls is all bad puns, PPZ is all really good puns, that are really well written. Have you read PPZ? If not, then I definitely suggest you do. It seriously is MUCH better that Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

  3. Hmmm I'm not sure if I should try this or not. I HATED P&P&Z, not because the original is a sacred text (it kinda is - but I don't mind fun retellings - hello Bridget Jones) but because I feel like not enough was done to make a difference. I loved the concept but felt like the Zombie stuff was literally a tack-on, it wasn't funny enough or Zombie enough to justify the changes. I wished the author had done more with the idea. I wonder if I'll like this more, considering it's a different author and (I'm assuming) a completely new text, albeit with another writer's characters.

  4. I tried reading it, but I found it to be rather boring and I didn't mind not finishing it. And I don't believe that Austen's book is a sacred text either. :ppp

  5. That cover is kind of scary! Well done but still makes me go EEK! Not sure if it is my type of read but glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  6. I like stories with zombies in it, but I'm not sure about this one. I'm just not sure I'm going to like this one. Maybe if it's on sale. ;)

  7. Oooh, I dunno about mash up's. In music they can be fun, but I'm not sure about them in books. That said, I haven't actually read one. I guess they don't appeal. Also, I am a proud zombie free zone. They freak me out big time!

    That cover is so scary to me!

  8. Eh, that cover is super creepy! And if the book is more fun than horror, I'm not sure what the publisher was trying to portray with that. Anyway, thanks for the insightful review :)

  9. I was wondering when you'd read this book. That cover is so creepy it kind of freaks me out just looking at it. I know you've said it's more funny than scary, but I just don't think I could read it. I'm very glad you enjoyed it, you zombie loving gal lol.

  10. Alex, Haha, I'm super shallow like that too :P I'm really grossed out by this cover. You wrote a retelling of P&P? So cool! Nope though, if you don't like zombies then you probably won't like this one.

    Ashley, Really? Good to know! I wasn't sure if I'd like it as much because it's mostly the original text but now I'll check it out. I loooove puns :)

    Belle, Hm, well I think you might actually like Dawn of the Dreadfuls more then. The zombie stuff felt natural in the story and the whole book was an original plot.

    Bookishhobbit, I did find it a little slower than I usually want. I found it very easy to put the book down. I thought the climax was fun though :)

    Nic, The cover is totally scary!

    Nina, It's often on sale! I think there was just an e-book sale for it for 99 cents. I think that sale is over, but you should probably be able to find another one sooner than later.

    Leanna, haha, yeah, definitely not for you!

    Hafsah, I agree, that cover is scary!

    The Slowest Bookworm, I read it a while back but I have so many reviews stored up that it takes a little while between reading and posting. Haha, you read Scary Mary! I think you could handle the scary, but if you don't like gross gore then maybe better not :)

  11. Never read Pride and Prejudice before but I assume that that's not terribly necessary if this one is a prequel? I'm pretty sure I would like this one. I love the absurdity of combining zombies with a classic. How silly and amusing. I was smirking just reading your review so I can imagine how I'd react reading the book. But for real, I should read P&P sometime.

  12. I tried to read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but I guess it was what you said-- too over the top for me. Not my thing. I do love zombie books, but they just didn't fit well in that story. Enjoyed reading your review of this one -- great thoughts.

  13. Yeah, I could never read this; all of these mash-ups just make me cringe. I do however like the cover for "The Meowmorphosis," but that's because I love cats.

  14. I like concept of mashing classic books with another genre, but I just don't think I can enjoy it without cringing from the original text, you know? Glad you found it enjoyable.

  15. I haven't read any of these mash ups but I think the concept is fun. Love what they do with the covers.

  16. Aylee, No, I don’t think you’d have to read Pride and Prejudice first. The only reason it might be helpful is that I suspect a lot of the characterizations are dependent upon the development Austen did, so they might feel even thinner if you’re not familiar with the original. Probably not that big a deal though (this isn’t exactly a book you’d read for great depth).

    Annette, I had read a bit of P&P&Z and I felt similarly. They seemed to fit in a lot more with this book, probably because the whole storyline is original.

    Bookworm1858, Haha, yes I can see why they would be cringe-worthy. :P

    Rummanah Aasi, I know what you mean. You might like this prequel more then because the whole storyline is original. It’s not like the others where they take the original text and then mix it with new stuff.

    Alyssa, Me too! I love the blend of classic and horror, though this cover is creepy!

  17. I can never remember which author is supposed to be the funny one. So this is the one that does it right?
    I'll remember that. Good review!


  18. Heather, well, I think this author is funny. Though I liked his Holmes on the Range book a lot more.


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