Jane McKeene is a black young woman living in a post-Civil War world; a post-Civil War world that is being overrun by the undead. In Dread Nation‘s version of history the war ended because the dead rose up and started killing people and turning them and the Native and Negro Reeducation Act required that children like Jane be sent to special schools that educate them in the arts of proper society as well as in how to fight and kill the shamblers (zombies).
Jane is nearing the end of her education and her plans mostly involve heading back home – a plantation in Kentucky that her mother (a white woman) is mistress of. However, her headstrong attitude and penchant for ignoring the rules lands her, fellow student Katherine, and ex-boyfriend Jackson on a train to western territory. Here they find a corrupt preacher and sheriff (father and son) running a walled in city struggling to regain the glory of the “old days” (where slavery still existed and the dead stayed in their graves). But more than just cruelty and harsh conditions Jane and Katherine might be on the verge of discovering a far reaching conspiracy.
Jane’s narrative can be a bit uneven and drag a little at times, but overall she’s an exciting main character who goes after information and takes control of situations. She makes mistakes, but her curiosity, sharp wit, and talent with a sickle keep her a step or two ahead of death. A book full of action and mysteries and I’m looking forward to the next one.