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Review of Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel | What YA Reading?

December 5th, 2011

Dearly, Departed

by Lia Habel

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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 disease 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, steampunk meets 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.

 

Before I begin this review I must admit that I’ve never read a book of the steampunk genre, let alone a steampunk book about zombies.

And, boy, will I be reading one again.

Dearly, Departed was awesome. Never before have I read  a book that mixes romance, zombies, and a futuristic twist so well, transforming such classic elements into one unique tale that captures its readers’ thoughts. The world building was detailed and well thought out, the characters were intriguing and had remarkably strong personalities, and the plot, well… let me just say ‘action-packed’.

I’m going to start with my one issue to get it off of my shoulders.

At times, Dearly, Departed was confusing.  Like, what-the-hell-is-going-on? confusing. There were quite a few conversations that left blinking, thinking ‘Wait… what?’. I reread these, and still didn’t understand them. So. I blame Habel for this, not my lack of sleep :) Also, this book is written from 5 different first person point of views. Five different point of views. Although I didn’t find this frustrating and actually liked being in the 5-different-sources-of -information created loop, the ever-changing first persons really fueled the confusion fire. Perhaps, had Habel limited herself to, say, 3 or 4 view points, I would have understood a great deal more.

So, that’s it for the negatives.

I loved the New-Victorian world. Elements such as the single-sex schools, the marriageability-representing parasols, the holographs and the digidiaries never ceased to amuse me. Furthermore, I was very pleased that Habel explained the whys and the hows of the world building within the first few chapters of the novel, gracing readers with details that most world building authors omit. Also, if you’ve read my review of I am Number Four or Delirium , then you’ll know that I am a huge fan of explanations. Huge. The whole undead zombie thinig in Dearly, Departed was explained very well, actually. So kudos to Habel.

The characters were awesome. So, so awesome. They were all brave and strong in their own unique ways and I admired every last one of them. Well… most of them. There’s always a bad guy, right? In any case, Nora was my favourite character.  The event that sort of sets off the whole plot of Dearly, Departed is Nora getting attacked by zombies. One would think that a young, Victorian, woman would hide or call for help, right? Not Nora. Nope. Nora sees a bunch of big, bad zombies, and what does she do? She gets a gun and she shoots them. That’s right. Girl power to the max. I also very much liked Pam. Although she starts off as a sort of whiny, romantic girl, she vastly improves herself and embraces her inner warrior. One of my favourite quotes came from her, actually…

I hope that there are zombie sharks in there and they bite you and you die!” I screamed.

Such a lovely young lady.

I equally loved every character from Z comp. They all, Chas especially, were nice, courageous and funny. Bram was a perfect gentleman.

Speaking of Bram, I am blown away by his and Nora’s romance. There was a no ‘I’m a zombie.’ ‘Don’t worry, babe, that’s sexy.’ There were no initial sparks of love. There was no ‘Wow, he’s hot…’  upon their first sighting. This was simply a slow, realistic romance. This being the YA genre of all genres, I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I didn’t think that this was possible. So thank you very much, Lia Habel, for enlightening me with such a dose of reality. YA needs a little reality every now and then.

Oh, and one more thing… the comments on Twilight had me laughing so hard. So, so hard. I would recommend this book based on the Twilight comments alone.

My final verdict: Dearly, Departed merits 4.7/5 stars. Do not read this book if you can’t stand multiple point of views. However, if you can, Dearly, Departed is a nicely-proportioned blend of steampunk, zombies and romance. I rather liked the zombies, actually. Go team Z!

You can read an excerpt from Dearly, Departed here.

 

I’ll keep you posted,

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