Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the monster mash-up that started it all back in 2009, has inspired an entire sub-genre of literary classics (and the lives of the writers who penned them) that have been infiltrated by the dark side. Now, after a New York Times Best Seller prequel (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dawn of the Dreadfuls), Quirk Books delivers the actual chronological sequel to the original mash-up, in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Dreadfully Ever After.
The beginning of Dreadfully Ever After picks up the story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy four years after the original mash-up ends. The zombies (or as they’re referred to in polite Regency society: the dreadfuls, the unmentionables, the sorry stricken, or the zed words) are still terrorizing the country, but finding herself now the wife of a respectable gentleman, Elizabeth has hung up her katana and throwing stars to lead a life of quiet wedded bliss. It would seem, however, that our favorite kung fu couple are experiencing a problem of their own in the form of Elizabeth’s unshakeable, unplaceable discontent. Deep into a long walk and serious discussion, the pair run into a boy from the estate and fail to notice the “odd tilt to the boy’s head and the gray palor of his skin and the smell of death and feculence that drifted with him onto the road.” Consequently, Mr. Darcy is bitten and infected.
The warrior within dictates that Elizabeth should promptly behead her beloved and burn the remains. Instead she turns to her nemesis and Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, one of the most renowned zombie slayers in the country. We learned in the first book that Lady Catherine was working on developing an antidote to the evil plague. To help save her nephew (in spite of the fact that he once spurned her strange, sickly daughter), she sends grief-stricken Elizabeth, still-silly Kitty Bennet and a happily wife-free Mr. Bennet to a dreadful-infested London and the source of the fabled cure. Mary Bennet, unwilling to be left out of the excitement, shows up in London to join in the fray.
Add an eccentric, fiery tempered Scotsman with access to the cure and his handsome, idiotic dandy son to the cast, along with a mysterious Man in a Box, a couple of mangy dogs, a sneaky ninja with an eye for Kitty and a very important bunny, and you’ve got Dreadfully Ever After.
The story lines—both the Bennet family’s quest for the cure and the intrigue abounding back at the residence of Lady Catherine, where Darcy is being held, er, healed by his aunt and creepy cousin—moved at a clipping pace. Dreadfully Ever After spotlights characters who were previously thrust into the shadows, as Anne de Bourgh has a pivotal role in the book. I also really enjoyed the development of Mary and Kitty as they each broke from the static, typecast roles thrust upon them in the original, the mash-up and its prequel. I was impressed with how author Steve Hockensmith went beyond simply writing a goofy, fun monster mash-up to including actual character development and ending the book on, dare I say, a didactic note? I won’t give away the ending, but I will say it was one with an unmistakable moral lesson.
The creativity with which Hockensmith built up a Regency London society plagued with dreadfuls had me giggling, snorting and oversharing with my poor mother, who has absolutely no interest in anything dark or, well, dreadful. But as a die-hard snobby Brit-lit enthusiast, even she was chuckling at some of the excerpts I read aloud. For example, the book opens with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy, back-to-back, surrounded by a herd of recently unearthed unmentionables. “As his beloved Elizabeth shattered the nearest zombie’s skull with a perfectly placed axe kick, Fitzwilliam Darcy saw in her eyes something that had been missing for a long, long time: joie de vivre… Although one couldn’t say the creatures had joie de vivre, both joie and vivre being long beyond them, they were undeniably enthusiastic in their quest for succulent flesh.” Such little quips are sprinkled heavily throughout the narrative, making the book much more light-hearted than your average zombie infestation.
Bottom line: The newest book in a well-established series, Dreadfully Ever After, is undeniably fun, well-written and engaging. I definitely recommend it, even if you’re not typically a reader of zombie lore.