Pros: Jane Austen’s wonderful plot and text
Cons: Some elements felt forced
Elizabeth Bennett is a young woman trained in the arts of war; her enemies are the zombies rising from the earth of England. Added to her woes is the presence of Mr. Darcy, who has accompanied his friend from London to the village of Meryton. The two are quickly at odds with each other, despite Mr. Darcy’s growing feelings. Will misunderstandings and ideals keep the two from each other? Or will zombies get to them first?
When I looked at this book, I was immediately intrigued by the idea. Classical literature and zombies? This could either be something very wonderful, or very terrible. The potential was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, as I began to read I was overwhelmed by references to the zombie infestation and the necessity of combat and training. I understand that the author’s trying to set up the situation, but I don’t need to have my nose rubbed in it. A few references would have sufficed.
There were also moments in the story when I just had to stop, set the book down, and go, “What?” There were elements that felt completely out of place. Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters have all received training in the “deadly arts” from a master in China. They made the trip, both to and from China, in the 19th century. I couldn’t help but wonder how long the journey would have taken, and then to add the years of training on top of that; it just didn’t make sense to me. And then there were the ninjas. Yes, ninjas. Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy’s aunt, keeps an entourage of Japanese ninjas, a few of whom Elizabeth duels at one point in the book. It just ruined my picture of Elizabeth’s world, to have these seeming random elements thrown in.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never actually read Pride and Prejudice, but from what I do know of the story, Grahame-Smith has kept to the original text as much as possible, adding in various zombie encounters as he goes. Most of these fit decently well into the story, but the very first zombie encounter had a couple of details that didn’t seem to mesh. Zombies attack during a ball, and Elizabeth and her four sisters form the “Pentagram of Death” and proceed to clear the entire room of zombies by beheading them with their daggers. Now we’re never told how many zombies make up the attack, but I have a rather hard time believing that five young girls, no matter how well trained, could take out a large amount of zombies while emerging completely unscathed. I also have a hard time picturing a dagger beheading anything human sized without the wielder being injured somehow.
The story was actually quite good, in large part because Grahame-Smith does keep relatively faithful to Austen’s ideas. I was captivated by the zombieless areas of the plot, and by the interactions between characters. Given the frustration with the elements, I was surprised at how much I was beginning to care about what was going to happen between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. It’s a tribute to Austen’s skill with prose, that she could keep me involved with the story. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to pick up the original Pride and Prejudice and give it a read.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad book, but there were definitely areas with room for improvement. If you’re looking for random zombie encounters with the occasional ninja, this is the book for you. Otherwise, the original Pride and Prejudice might be a little more up your alley.