Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Published: April 3rd, 2018
Genres: YA, Historial Fiction, Fantasy, Horror
My 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.
This book was great. I’ve read my fair share of zombie apocalypse books, but this one is something truly special. I think it’s the intertwining of historical fiction with the zombie story added something fresh to a story that can sometimes feel like it’s been told thirty-million times.
Race plays a huge roll in this book, and I think it really shows some of the systemic issues with race we have still in the United States; at the same time, I think it highlights the attitudes of the time this book is set in extremely well. I don’t want to pretend that I know anything about the racism that people of color faced in 19th Century Maryland as I am a white woman from 21st Century New England, but I’m going to take a wild guess that Justina Ireland knows what she’s talking about. Some of the language used by characters in this book made me super uncomfortable, and I’m 95% sure that was the point of using it. This book doesn’t pretend that just because there are zombies that racism stopped existing.
I also loved how different the two main girls, Jane and Kate, were. Jane is a pretty straightforward YA protagonist. She’s clever, doesn’t play by the rules, and fights against the norm. Kate, on the other hand, is more proper and wears corsets and wants to look pretty while killing zombies. I enjoy how the two play off each other throughout the book and how Kate is, affected how Jane is able to deal with the events that unfold around her as she tells us her story.
Overall, this book is a masterpiece. It’s so good. I don’t think I can give it higher praise. The storyline is great, I loved the unfolding mysteries, I loved trying to figure out how different players in the stories were going to figure in. I highly recommend this one. If you’re into historical fiction but iffy on zombies, it’s for you. If you’re into zombies but not into historical fiction, also for you. Pick up this book. You won’t regret it.
Until next time Internet