I’ve said that my biggest problem with Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is that it never really lets loose and has fun with the subject. And it wouldn’t be as much of a problem with me if it wasn’t for the existence of Dawn of Dreadfuls. This reads like the book the original P&P&Z should have been. Hockensmith takes the idea, sets the plot five years earlier, and runs with it like a madman with a blue box. Whereas P&P&Z reads too close to the original book, Dawn of the Dreadfuls manages to develop these characters in surprising new ways and actually lends some explanation to the future events. The tone and characterization remain largely in line with Austen’s works, but they’re also able to stand on their own. It makes Lydia Bennet an interesting character, which is saying something because I cannot stand Lydia in the original book or the predecessor. (Particularly the scene where she’s convincing Kitty to do the “Scissors of Death” on an unmentionable.) Aside from the villain, there’s some really interesting backstories that are developed and we get some glimpse into the world the Bennet girls are forced to give up and the impact it has on their lives. Elizabeth’s story actually does feel like something that could be present in the original book—caught between two men who insult her pride, so she ultimately turns them down. It explains more for the this universe, but I still liked the Lizzie in this book a lot more. Even the love triangle is handled admirably. It does feel like an obvious commentary on the prevalence of such romances, but, as with everything else in this book, it manages to hold its own in the context of the novel. And while it could have gone the easy route and killed off both love interests for the sake of drama, it doesn’t. (Not right away, anyway.) The resolution stays true to Elizabeth’s character and she ultimately rejects both of her suitors. And it’s also shown that there are good and bad sides to both Hawksworth and Keckilpenny. They’re not good matches for Elizabeth, but it gives good reasons why she would be attracted to them. And I love the action scenes. There’s not as much focus on the gore factor, and it really gets into the fact that the Bennets are not trained killers, but they have potential. You also get the idea that these characters are fighting for their lives—the standoff at Netherfield is fantastically written. Even knowing that the Bennets are going to make it out alive, I still got caught up in the ending and hoping that they make out alive. And there’s also a much better idea of the type of decorum and societal manners the Bennets face by taking up the sword and fighting. It’s easy to write off Mrs. Bennet and her two youngest daughters being upset, but it does touch on the very real mores that were not crossed in Regency England. One of the issues I have with a lot of Pride & Prejudice-inspired fiction is the tendency to make Elizabeth more of a modern feminist, and this actually makes her a lot closer to the reality of the times. It’s a nice touch to the book. (Also, the other historical references, such as the villainous Lord Lumpley trying too hard to imitate Beau Brummel.) The one problem I have with the book is that it followed P&P&Z. As a standalone book, this is fanatastic. Had the two books been planned and written together, I probably wouldn’t have much of an issue. But because it was written to capitalize on P&P&Z’s popularity, it’s extremely jarring to go from the first book (which sticks very close to the original story) to this (which…doesn’t.) I love what Hockensmith does here, but it just doesn’t gel with Seth Grahame-Smith’s style.Even if you didn’t like the original Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, I would recommend reading this. As I said, this is the book its predecessor SHOULD have been. It throws caution to the wind, and runs off with the concept, while illustrating some of the more historical aspects of the period without resorting to tongue-in-cheek jokes. And it’s a fun book with zombie killing. What more could you want?