The Daily Monocle

Critical book reviews from a literary skeptic.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith

Posted by J. P. Wickwire

For four years Mr. And Mrs. Darcy have been living in wedded bliss... and then disaster strikes. While taking an amiable stroll together in the countryside, Fitzwilliam is caught off guard and bitten by a young unmentionable, and by all reasonable accounts, is doomed.

Of course Elizabeth won’t give up that easily. Lady Catherine de Bourgh says there are rumors of a cure rising in London. To save her husband, Elizabeth will take up the katana again... but at what cost?

Dreadfully Ever After by Steve Hockensmith is the third book in the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies romantic zombie comedy (RomZomCom) trilogy.

Hockensmith’s take on the stricken Regency England is quirky and fun, but still offers a more realistic and modern vision than the original PP&Z. With Austen’s original prose out of the way, Hockensmith suddenly has the ability to exert full control over the story. What emerges is a surprisingly thought-provoking foray into not only the customs and tendencies of the Regency era, but a sociopolitical commentary on the issues of the time that adds a level of depth previously unseen in the trilogy.

Stylistically, Hockensmith’s prose isn’t steeped in pseudo-Regency vernacular. It isn’t as “true,” I suppose one could say, to the times and situations, but still preserves the base integrity of Austen’s intentions with the original Pride and Prejudice--that is, to show a vivid, romantic representation of England in the early 1800’s... it’ just that this England has been overrun by zombies.

Dreadfully Ever After’s real strength lies indelibly in it’s characters. Kitty and Mary Bennett in particular finally get a chance to shine. Kitty rises above being the shadow sister of the promiscuous Lydia Wickham; Mary--though still a little stiff--emerges as a thoughtful and intelligent feminist sort. Even Darcy’s cousin, Anne seems a little more alive (and creepier than ever, but that’s another matter entirely).

Dreadfully Ever After’s weakest point is it’s plot line. And while the plot itself isn’t necessarily tepid, it is convoluted. A little on the predictable side--a little slow at parts. The backbone of the story is definitely its characterization, but that doesn’t mean the plot is bad by any means. Just not as deep as it’s characters.

Strong as a standalone, but stronger in the context of the trilogy, Dreadfully Ever After is another delightful romp in stricken Regency England. Hockensmith offers readers an alternate view into history that, while stylized and fun, still presents a thought-provoking commentary. Definitely a fun summer read for the eclectic beach reader, and a fresh take for zombie fans.

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