Historical fiction meets the zombie apocalypse in Justina Ireland’s addictive new novel, Dread Nation.
The Civil War came to an abrupt end when the dead rose from the battlefields to feast upon the living, and slavery fell sometime later, with the passing of the Native and Negro Reeducation Act. Children of a certain age (and race) are required to go to combat schools to learn how to fight the dead. Jane McKeen has nearly finished her training at Miss Prescott’s School of Combat for Negro Girls when a friend requests for help from Jane and Katherine (another girl at Miss Preston’s) regarding a missing family, it leads to the discovery of a deadly conspiracy that puts all three of them in danger.
Historical fiction with zombies—two of my favorite things put together meant I had to read this book. My only regret is that I didn’t start reading it early in the day, because I read 80% of this in one sitting. (I would have finished it in one sitting, but my eyes kept insisting on closing. How rude!) I was hooked from the moment I read the Prologue title: In Which I Am Born and Someone Tries to Murder Me. What a way to kick off a book!
Each chapter title began the same way (In Which I…) and I looked forward to each one. Chapter titles aren’t used much anymore (at least, not in the books I read), which is a shame because they really add something to the overall reading experience that is quite enjoyable. I’m going to go on record right now and blame those enticing chapter titles for keeping me up all night. If it weren’t for those little hints of what each new chapter held, I might have been spared the major book hangover the next day… but no! There they were, making it impossible for me to set the Kindle aside and get some sleep… and I’m SO glad! 🙂
Dread Nation never shies away from the unsavory topics of racism and white supremacy. It’s used in the context of the historical setting, but one cannot help but acknowledge that it’s remains a serious blight on present-day lives; as such, it serves as a subtle commentary on the race issues that continue to plague America.
Ireland’s writing is simply fabulous, and the world she created within Dread Nation is frightening in more ways than one. The zombies, known as shamblers in the book, are a definite threat in this world, but they aren’t the sole enemy. As with any good zombie story, people—white, religious zealots, in the case of Dread Nation—are the biggest threat to people of color.
I loved the fact that a woman is the main protagonist in this story. Jane is everything you could want in a heroine—she is courageous, a fierce fighter whose loyalty and need to protect her friends is as deeply ingrained within her as her will to survive. Jane is a force to be reckoned with—an admirable character that I won’t soon forget.
Dread Nation is an outstanding cross-genre novel that readers are sure to love. I’m extremely excited for the next novel in the series, and can’t wait to see what awaits our fierce heroine in the next chapter of this thrilling series. I’m highly recommending this novel, as it is truly a book worth reading!
Author: Justina Ireland
Title: Dread Nation
Series: Dread Nation #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Alternate History
Published: April 3, 2018 by Balzer+Bray
Rating: 5 stars
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville—derailing the War Between the States and changing America forever. In this new nation, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Reeducation 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.