In Justina Ireland’s America, nobody won the Civil War. The war simply never ended, because of the shamblers.
The shamblers are the dead that rose up from the battlefields of Gettysburg and began to walk, hungry for blood and flesh. The country needed to band together to fight this new threat, and the war simply petered out.
Most of the cities in the South are simply gone. Burned. Destroyed. Overrun by shamblers. The cities in the North are doing slightly better, but its hard to get a straight answer out of the politicians about what the future may look like.
Young African-Americans are taken from their homes in their early teens, and brought to special training academies, where they are taught to be “attendants.” They learn to fight and kill. And they learn to protect their white employers. No matter what.
Jane McKeene is one of these girls, training to be an attendant. She’s smart, she’s fierce on the battlefield, but she hasn’t been hired as an attendant yet, because she has opinions of her own, and she keeps failing her etiquette classes.
While the other girls at school, including the beautiful Katherine, dream of landing a job in a fine house, with nice dresses, all Jane wants is to go home. Back to Rose Hill, the farm where she grew up, and back to her mother.
But of course, as this is a novel about zombies, we know that things probably aren’t going to go the way Jane wants.
Bottom line: I really enjoyed this.
It was fresh and fun. Jane was smart, even when she did things that she knew were stupid and might get her in trouble. I liked that Jane was a loyal friend, who would do anything for those she cared about. I liked that the main characters did not all fall in love with each other. I liked that this book could clearly continue with a sequel, but that there really isn’t any need for it to.
And I loved that the girls and women in this story all kicked ass, while the majority of the men sat around being stupid.
But what I liked most about it was that while it took place during the Civil War era, the themes and subject matter (not including zombies) were 100% contemporary. Racism. Sexism. Financial inequality. Education. Political power.
“See, the problem in this world ain’t sinners, or even the dead. It is men who will step on anyone who stands in the way of their pursuit of power.”
Justina Ireland has a lot to say, and we should all be listening.