DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel
Published October 18, 2011 by Del Rey
eARC received via NetGalley
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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.
When I saw DEARLY, DEPARTED by Lia Habel on NetGalley, it automatically became my first request. Science fiction-meets-steampunk-meets-zombies?! You had me at hello! My own hype for this book became an undeniable and overwhelming force in my head. When I dug into the book and started reading, I found myself growing disappointed. The writing is nice and the plot is very original and unique, but there was just something…missing, I guess you could say. Or maybe it just had way too much to deal with.
DEARLY, DEPARTED tells the stories of Nora Dearly (a young orphaned student living in a future Earth that has gone back to Victorian ways), Abraham Griswold (an army captain and zombie), Pamela Roe (Nora’s poor best friend), and Victor Dearly (Nora’s scientist father). I might have actually missed someone. Wolfe? I think he had a chapter, but let’s forget him. This novel had a lot of POVs – I’m thinking there were no less than five first person narrators constantly switching back and forth. Herein lies the first problem of the book – there is way too much head jumping going on, and this added weight also inflates the page count and drags down the pacing of the novel. At 470 pages, this is a thick book. Losing 150 pages or so and a POV or two wouldn’t have hurt it.
Another problem I suffered from was the setting. I have a hard time believing in the premise of the world Habel created. Why would the world revert back to a Victorian way of life? Why would South American governments allow all these Anglo-Saxons to take over their continent? I would have liked to know more about this because in this state it wasn’t entirely believable. I enjoyed her creativity and her attention to detail, such as the futuristic hints and bits and bobs. The book is described as steampunk, but I didn’t get nearly enough of the steam to make this work in that capacity. There were occasional hints of steampunk ideas, but it wasn’t entirely there.
But there was stuff I loved! Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a completely negative review because I actually liked this in the end. The characters were just great. Nora and Pam were both kick butt heroines, just the type of character that I love to show off on Book Brats. And Bram… For a zombie he is charming, sweet, and just to die for. I’m feeling punny today, so shoot me! There was just a tiny bit of instalove going on, but I was swept off my feet by the amazing Bram just like Nora was. I was rooting for them from the moment they met, and they romance was all too sweet and believable.
Writing action sequences is definitely one of Habel’s strong suits. Fighting zombies with weapons as varied as guns and parasols, she conveys a real sense of urgency and anxiety to the reader. Although she gets carried away by adverbs and other modifiers almost every sentence of the book, in these scenes of panic and hurry we are swept up in the story and can’t help but be pulled along. Zombies fighting zombies is especially fun, and for these scenes alone, I would recommend the book. Paired with an excellent romance and some smarmy characters that you will want to punch just like our heroes, and DEARLY, DEPARTED definitely has stuff going for it. It just also has issues I couldn’t look past.
VERDICT: At 3.5/5 stars rounded down, this book suffered from too many pages, too many POVs, and too many adverbs, but with a romance you’ll root for, a great original premise, and action scenes galore, it’s a book you should still pick up.
♥♥♥ - THREE HEARTS