Dread Nation #1
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.
Publisher: Balzar + Bray
Published: April 3rd 2018
Racism, Slavery, Violence, Death, Gore, Torture (Whipping), Colorism
This is one of those stories that start off slow and picks up gradually. For the majority of the book, I had no idea what I was rating this. It was an interesting concept, I liked the characters and I was engaged. But it was slow, the middle kind of stalling in a way…and then BOOM. My heart knew this was a four star read.
Keeping it short: it’s the Reconstruction Era and black kids are sent to schools to fight zombies. We have a badass, hotheaded bisexual main character, a corrupt system and a whole lot of trouble. It’s impossible circumstances; being forced to train in school to learn how to fight zombies because of the way you look. Jane’s character arc gives us a look at what women of color have to go through as well as how often people underestimate those around them.
This isn’t the fastest moving book, a lot of it is our main characters are stuck in one place, going through the motions, but I didn’t mind it. In the beginning, I was more a fan of the flashbacks and the letters between Jane and her mother, yet as the story progressed, I was into the whole thing.
Our lead, Jane, is an actress, a liar, and unapologetically deadly with some sickles. She had a strong voice and a strong presence: it’s been a while since I genuinely liked a character on a personal level and I love this girl so much. Her soul isn’t clean, she’s done some questionable things and by the last few chapters, she won my heart 100%. I did have an issue on how Jane describe anyone who wasn’t lightskinned— the colorism in her narrative bugged the hell out of me.
Katherine is another well flesh out character— in my mind she’s just as much of a main character as Jane. She’s light skinned enough to pass as white, causing resentment from her those around her and is on the ace-spectrum without explicitly using the terminology. Which is always great.
However, she also bugged me with her constant woes of the disadvantages of being lightskinned and pretty and white-passing. If you want to have a flawed character, go for it, but this ain’t it.
I know there’s a sequel and such, but there were a lot of things that weren’t expanded on. Certain side characters weren’t fleshed out, the main characters— though in a terrible situation, didn’t feel in any real danger and the writing was just okay.
However, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy myself and I do plan on reading the sequel.