The comic book style antics begin with the town apothecary rising during his funeral and the discovery of a missing seamstress's reanimated corpse in a nearby lake. Mr. Bennet - whose first name turns out to be Oscar - is a veteran of the zombie wars of yore. He grudgingly realizes it is time to train his daughters in the deadful arts. Their instruction is soon usurped by the dashing Master Hawksworth who puts the girls through their paces in the martial arts transforming them into warriors. His strict facade is only pierced by his admiration for the innate courage of Elizabeth Bennet.
Lydia and Kitty at age eleven and twelve differ little from their later incarnations. Even at a young age, they show a propensity to giggle and fawn over any handsome man they encounter. Mary is more fully realized showing a stout heart and developing unrequited feelings for their new master. Jane is bland and over-trusting in Meryton's reigning noble, Lord Lumpley. Employed as his bodyguard, the repulsive coward gets more than he bargains for when he fixes his lecherous eye on her.
While feeling physically drawn to Master Hawksworth, it is the absent-minded Dr. Keckilpenny who actually saves Elizabeth from an unmentionable. The good doctor captures a zombie in order to use science and rational thought to reawaken its humanity. Elizabeth is enthralled by the workings of his mind, yet she questions his detachment from reality.
The elder women are given more depth and range than most of the Bennet sisters. Mrs. Bennet is reunited with her first love, the now fully amputated Captain Cannon, who was forced to leave her in their youth in order to subdue a zombie outbreak. The still infatuated soldier pledges his love for Mrs. Bennet - to of all people - Mr. Bennet. The lovestruck captain proclaims his intent to finally marry Mrs. Bennet should her husband succumb to the jaws of an unmentionable.
But the biggest surprise is the warrior background of Lady Catherine de Burgh who is viewed as a national heroine throughout all of England for her renown against the undead. Her prowess is held in high esteem and the Bennet sisters strive to attain her level of greatness. It is Lady Catherine who plays a pivotal role upon the climatic siege of Lord Lumpley's Netherfield ball by thousands of zombies ravenous for their glutenous fill of human brains.
The novel contains over a dozen illustrations by Patrick Arrasmith highlighting pivotal scenes containing the putrefied flesh and deformed countenances of the unmentionables. The Bennet sisters arrayed in practical, simplistic Grecian inspired frocks are shown wielding swords, knives and pistols. One noticeable omission is the lack of an artistic representation of Master Hawksworth whose English gentleman meets Asian warrior demeanor garners much feminine ardor.
Overall, fans of Jane Austen should be warned this version of Regency England is more guts and gore than romance and wit.
Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith is available for $12.99 at Amazon.com and at QuirkClassics.com.
A complimentary review copy was provided by Quirk Classics.
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