Dreadfully Ever After
by Steve Hockensmith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Dreadfully Ever After / 978-1-59474-502-7
I thoroughly enjoyed the Quirk Classic "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", and I loved the manner in which the ultra-violent zombie mayhem was cleanly and precisely inter-woven with the original Austen prose and settings. Now we have "Dreadfully Ever After", a sequel to PPPZ, and the end to the trilogy that was rounded out with prequel novel "Dawn of the Dreadfuls".
"Dreadfully Ever After" has a very different tone from the first PPPZ - neither Jane Austen nor Seth Grahame-Smith have contributed to the writing, and it shows - almost all of the dry wit and sardonic social commentary from the first has been removed and replaced with attempts at self-referential humor and double entendres jabbing at English sexual austerity. Whether or not this will delight the reader will be a matter of personal choice, and I can see how the writing could be pleasing to many readers, but for me personally it often felt as though the text was trying TOO hard to make certain I "got" the joke. Overall, I would have preferred a more subtle writing style that was humorous in terms of the Austenian society + zombie mayhem mishmash rather than in-text jokes about British sexuality.
Whereas PPPZ obviously took some liberties with the characters of the Bennet girls, these liberties were finely interwoven with the original text so that while the girls were transformed from delicate maidens to hardened warriors, their essential underlying personalities were still very much the same. "Dreadfully Ever After", however, strains somewhat under the character changes presented here. On the negative side, Elizabeth Bennet has been frustratingly reduced to a shadow of her former self, and while a valiant attempt is made to justify these changes in text (I rather imagine spending four years doubting your self-image and struggling to maintain your skills in a socially acceptable fashion *would* leave one a little rusty and vacillating), I'm still unconvinced that Darcy and Lizzy ended PPPZ as the type of people that would let social expectations make them unhappy and filled with self-doubt. As a result, the changes to Lizzy's character seem rather forced for the sake of the story.
On the other hand, the upgrades applied to the characters of Mary and Kitty are very welcome, even if the girls do end up stealing the show entirely as the overall goal of the plot seems to wallow a bit near the middle of the novel in order to spend more time on romantic angst. Still, most of the romantic dialogue occurs during fight scenes, which is always a bonus in my book.
I'm not sure who this book will appeal to, necessarily. If you really liked the characters of Lizzy and Darcy in PPPZ and wanted to see the continuation of their story, then "Dreadfully Ever After" will sate your hunger in that regard, providing you won't be too put off by some of the changes to Lizzy's character in order to propel the plot. On the other hand, if you really only liked PPPZ for the skillful interweaving of Jane Austen's social satire and Seth Grahame-Smith's hilarious zombie mayhem, then I'm not certain "Dreadfully Ever After" will scratch your itch for more sardonic wit and hilarious genre juxtaposition - this novel has its funny moments, but the tone is definitely noticeably different from the first. I'd recommend reading the first chapter or two and then buying the book if that sample hooks you.
NOTE: This review is based on a free Advance Review Copy of this book provided through Amazon Vine.
~ Ana Mardoll
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