4 out of 5 stars for Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
I wasn’t prepared to like this book as much as I did but the story concept and cover art definitely hooked me in the bookstore. I decided to give it a try. I am a big fan of Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies so I had high hopes for the Civil War undead and I was not disappointed, although the story had a few issues (as all zombie stories seem to have). The book is set in an alternate reality in which zombies rise up from the ground at Gettysburg and the United States is changed forever. Our protagonist, Jane McKeene, is finishing her schooling in combat and manners Miss Preston’s School of Combat.
Per the book description:
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.
In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.
But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.
But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.
But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.
And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.
I like to have a character to root for in my stories and Dread Nation gave me several, including Jane and her rival-turned-friend Katherine. In addition, the author makes some timely social and political points within a story set during the Civil War. She hits on racism, both systematic and overt, as well as laws that on the surface are for the good of society as a whole but really bad for the disenfranchised.
My issue, as mentioned above, is as always why clumsy, slow-moving brainless dead can only be killed by certain characters, while everyone else is helpless zombie/story fodder. It’s nitpicky but I’m gonna keep picking at it. The author does try to address this later in the story, hinting at a deeper plot but it was an unsatisfying explanation. It didn’t keep me from devouring this book though.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who loved Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies. Dread Nation was fresh enough to keep me engaged. With violence and mild sexual references, I feel this book is suitable for teens and older.
I apologize for the long delay between blog posts. As always, I’ll try to do better. Thanks for sticking with me.