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.
I haven’t listened to many audiobooks, but when I had a long drive ahead of me traveling to a writer’s retreat, I downloaded Dread Nation, a book that has been in my TBR for a while. Now I get why people have favorite narrators, because this one is excellent, in my opinion. I’d listened to another audiobook not too long before this one, and was unable to finish it due to one of the narrators, who honestly ruined the book for me.
I haven’t read much YA historical fiction (more like alternate historical fiction, because, well, zombies), but I really enjoyed this novel. The second I heard Jane’s snark, I knew we’d get along just fine. Watching her enemies-to-friends relationship with Katherine was especially enjoyable, as was the way Jane deals with those who doubt her strength, intelligence, and worth. Having read several zombie books, the world-building is done well, with its own unique spin.
When the setting changes from Baltimore to the west, I felt the pacing slowed a bit, but picked up again around 75%.
If you’re a zombie/shambler fan, or just enjoy books with strong, sarcastic female heroines and an intense plot, I’d highly recommend Dread Nation. It’s a series I plan on continuing.