Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Title: Dearly, Departed
Series: Gone With the Respiration #1
Author: Lia Habel
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Supernatural Fiction, Dystopian Fiction
Elements: Zombies
Publisher: Del Rey Books, Random House Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 467 Pages
ISBN: 978-0-345-52331-0
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Borrowed from Wentworth Library
Rating: 4.5/5

Tagline(s): Love can never die.

Summary: 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.


In Dearly, Departed, Lia Habel has created a unique dystopian world with a supernatural twist. The old meets the new. The past meets the future in this world where society has regressed and technology has thrived.

A hundred and fifty years earlier, the world went through an apocalypse of ice, pestilence, famine, and ash. Entire nations ceased to be, war broke out, and those who survived migrated south. After years of rebuilding the people never forgot the past and soon became more old-fashioned. Conservative clothing, polite etiquette, respect for elders, and the understanding of your social station became the norm. Violence and crude behavior is frowned upon. When it came to structuring their society, the people chose the Victorian era for its civility, order, and prosperity. They saw it was a Golden Age, but refused to see the dark side because they wanted peace, tranquility, and beauty. And for a while it was so, that is until the Punks showed up. They protested everything from the aristocracy to the advancement of technology, arguing that the New Victorians have forgotten the events of the past and would bring destruction upon the world once again.

This is such a unique world that Lia Habel has created. I love learning about history and I like that she chose to take society backward in time instead of into a futuristic time, though there are future advancements she included in her New Victorian world. Practically everything is digital--every citizen has a chip in their wrist, there are holograms, digidiaries, even the carriages are electric. It's a mish-mash of the past and future. But no matter how pretty the outside looks the ugly side cannot be completely hidden.

Nora Dearly, though small in stature, more than makes up for her childlike appearance with her intelligence, stubbornness, and bravery. Unlike most heroines, Nora does not accept the supernatural element of the story--the zombies--right away. She takes time, and locking herself up in a room, to wrap her head around what can't even be possible. And when she finally feels she's safe to come out, she approaches the situation--and the zombies--with caution. And though she's a skilled guns woman, she knows her own strength and leaves the fights she can't win to the trained professionals. Nora's love and loyalty are unmatched. She'd risk her very life to help those she loves, and she'd never abandon them in their time of need.

Bram Griswold is...well...dead. Captain--in name only--of Z Company, Bram holds the respect of all the undead in the unit. For a zombie he's pretty good-looking--in fact, he's practically perfect, except for the whole being dead thing. No missing body parts, full head of hair, and no one can help but swoon when he wears his "sexy clothes." Bram is honest, noble, and more alive than most living people, for someone who's dead. He's very self-aware, he knows his situation and accepts it for what it is.

The love story of Nora and Bram is not instantaneous. It grows over time, and is one of the most honest and pure love stories I've ever read. They both understand the difficulties a relationship between them will have. They know they can't have a forever and just want a right now. It's a bittersweet love story that can't end any other way but in heartache. But the fact that they can love each other despite the differences between them and want nothing more than now together is what makes this a true love.

ZOMBIES! But there's a very big difference between the good and the bad. The bad zombies are your typical animalistic and cannibalistic nightmares. The good zombies are those like Bram, Chas, and all those in Z Company. They maintain their sanity, their selves, and are able to function as they normally did...mostly. Their resilience and strength make then beautiful in a way that the living cannot achieve. And they want, more than anything, for a vaccine to be found so others don't have to suffer as they have.

I love how this book is written from alternating points of view. Most of the story is told from Nora and Bram's  respective viewpoints, but intersperced through the book are viewpoints from Captain Wolfe, Dr. Dearly, and Pamela. This adds a depth to the story that a book from only one perspective just doesn't have. The morbid sense of humor the characters use to joke about the macabre world surrounding them actually takes some of the dark, doom and gloom out of the atmosphere.

With the mixed reviews I read for Dearly, Departed I wasn't sure if I would like this book, but once I started reading I really enjoyed it. I love the writing, the storytelling, and the world. The characters are believable and feel real--even the zombies. The romance is sweet and pure. Everything just worked for me in Dearly, Departed. I can't wait to see what happens in the sequel, Dearly, Beloved.

Excerpt (Pages 311-312):

Bram regarded me with soft eyes. He took a deep, chest-expanding breath, and when the air came out, he said, "I'm dead, Nora."

I'd known this was going to come up, either from him or someone else. "It's hard to think of you as dead when you laugh with me, walk with me, smile at me..."

He shook his head, some of his hair coming to rest before his eyes. He didn't brush it away. It shadowed his face, made him look sad. "I'm dangerous."

"Oh, and other people aren't?" I heard the growing temper in my own voice. "You've spent the last week convincing me that you're not a monster, and now you're going to make like you are? Don't try to pull that. Men turn on their wives of twenty years with hatchets, go insane and murder their children. Everyone is capable of becoming dangerous, going mad. What makes you so different?"

"Different?" He took a step closer and grabbed my wrists before I could back away. "Do living men have dreams about people dying? Do they occasionally get the urge to chase you? Do they--no matter how well they repress it, no matter how well-behaved they are--always have in the back of their mind the idea that your flesh would be the best thing they ever tasted?"

I held my ground. "Probably not," I replied. "But I have dreams about people dying. I've been so angry that I couldn't think straight. I know what it's like."

He let go of me, his expression folding into confusion. I slowly reached up and touched his bottom lip. He flinched away, but I persisted. "Go ahead. If you're so out of control, go ahead. This isn't my shooting hand."

Bram folded his arms over his chest. He didn't fight it as I traced his lips, his chin, the top half of his throat. He did catch my hand before it ventured any lower, though. My tongue flattened against the roof of my mouth as I kept my eyes on his, letting him do what he wanted.

He kissed my satin-robed wrist, over the glove's bottom opening, and dropped my hand.

In that moment, I found him fully, absolutely beautiful. The way he kissed me was so honest; the way he stood there, calmly embodying his own space, was attractive in that it simply was. He just was, when he shouldn't be.

About this Author:

I'm an author, and consequently spend the majority of my days locked up in my own head. When I'm actually actively participating in the groundbreaking experiment in groupthink known as "reality," you'll find me designing and sewing costumes, trying to teach myself to play roller derby (I do not tackle pedestrians, contrary to popular belief), planning trips, and watching zombie movies.

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