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Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Posted on Feb 5, 2012 by in 4 stars, Book Reviews | 0 comments

Dearly, Departed

Author:  Lia Habel
Series:  Gone with the Respiration #1
Format:  e-Book Galley
Source:  Del Rey/Spectra via NetGalley
Release Date:  October 11, 2011
Dates Read: 
January 31-February 5, 2012

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

This book was obtained freely from the publisher, Del Rey/Spectra, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Dearly, Departed is an excellent display of genre-mashing.  The very premise of the book is a paradox.  It is a steampunk novel, but it is set in the future.  The New Victorian society of parlor visits, poofy dresses, parasols and conservative morals co-exists with modern technologies like holograms, ID chips and mobile phones.  The science fiction part of the novel rears its head with the unique take on zombies Habel adopts.  Zombies are still created via the transmission of a disease through bodily fluids.  However, while a bite will guarantee you a swift death, it will not seal your fate as a mindless, brain-hungering zombie.  Some people do not lose touch with reality when they turn.  They remain cognizant, retain their former values, and do not wish to partake in the instinctual hunt for human flesh.  Many of these zombies, it seems,  have been relegated to a unique military unit, which works to hide the existence of the living dead and to destroy the dangerous, feral variety, known as the Grays.  Their bodies are maintained and kept in good physical shape by a dedicated team of scientists.

Nora Dearly gets thrown into the mix because of her father’s role in this history.  She is nearly kidnapped from her home by a group of the Grays, but instead ends up being taken by a group of zombies more concerned with her well-being.  But everything is not as it seems.  Nora and those around her must deal with the ramifications of politics, prejudices, and power plays as everything she once knew comes down around her.

I thought that Dearly, Departed was a very enjoyable book.  It has a little bit of everything.  It is steampunk, science fiction, Victorian, futuristic, full of adventure, laced with heart-pounding thrills, touched with horror, affected by betrayals, and marked with love and some teenage angst.  It is a wonderful novel for fans of paranormal romance, science fiction, and zombies.

That said, however, there are a few things that kept Dearly, Departed from reaching its full potential pinnacle of excellence, as far as I am concerned.  The biggest issue for me was the plethora of points of view.  Each chapter alters the perspective to another character.  At times, this flows very well.  I found that it worked particularly well with Nora and Bram (her undead love interest).  However, some points of view changes just seemed jarring, and didn’t add much, if anything to the story.  I think it would have been best for Habel to eliminate Wolfe’s perspective entirely, as it didn’t add anything to the story for me.  It disrupted my immersion in the story to suddenly be in the head of someone that was not at all sympathetic to the good zombies.  The other points of view did add things to the story, but left me with a feeling of disconnect.  While I really enjoyed the novel, when I saw that the next point of view switched to someone that was totally separated from the current action, I often felt like putting the book down.  I believe the novel would have felt much more solid if the number of narrators had been restricted.

I will say, however, that the characters were my favorite part of the book.  I really enjoyed seeing Nora’s reactions and responses as the biggest concern in her life changes from her unloving aunt trying to marry her off for money to dealing with the new world of living dead she gets thrown into.  I loved Bram.  His thoughts and actions as he realizes he is falling in love with a living girl, and as her struggles became his struggles were well-written and endeared me to him.  He is such a caring individual that the reader sometimes forgets that he is a dead man, but his concerns, regret, and self-deprecating thoughts are a constant reminder of the fact.  It makes him believable, and really shows that he is a great man.  I enjoyed the other characters very much as well.  Bram’s friends are quirky, and each have their own personality.  I particularly like Chas, who is so unladylike and improper.  She certainly infused a bit of humor into the book, and provides a respite from the upstanding proper New Victorian mores.  I also like Pamela, Nora’s best friend.  It was interesting to see the development of a potential zombie apocalypse from her eyes.  I think these characters, and others I will not mention for fear of spoilers, really make the story what it is.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone that thinks it sounds like their cup of tea.  I know I look forward to the next installment, Dearly, Beloved.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

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