Love can never die.From the moment I saw the cover of DEARLY, DEPARTED, I was in love. And when I read the synopsis, I knew this book had to be mine. So I put the lovely on pre-order and anxiously awaited for DEARLY, DEPARTED to make it's way into momma's (my) hands. But then, as usual, life got in the way. I became a slave to my reading schedule (by the way, have you ever heard a nerdier phrase than "reading schedule"?). Then I saw that a couple of my blogging friends were reading it and I decided that enough was enough. I picked up my copy and dove right in, hoping for the best.
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. ~From GoodReads
I got the best. DEARLY, DEPARTED rocked my world! I started the book full of anticipation and never once felt let down. My enthusiasm is so strong that I feel myself veering into rambling territory, so I will try to keep myself reigned in. Here's what I loved about DEARLY, DEPARTED.
Let's start with the world-building. The setting is year is 2195 and the setting is New Victoria. Earth and it's people have undergone huge transformations, sending what's left of the people into the southern hemispheres of the world. New Victoria is located in the northern portion of South America. In an effort to assert control in a world gone mad, the survivors have gone back to a time of order and refinement, a "Golden Age" in history, the Victorian era. So we have what feels like a historical time to the reader, yet it's the future. Women wear dresses with petticoats and corsets, carry parasols; couples "court"; manners are imperative. I felt as if I were reading a historical piece of work, until such things as "Holos" and "digidiaries" were mentioned. Or a character would say "freaking" or mentioned that their ancestors would use words like "duh" and "epic". Yet, and this is what I love, the setting is also futuristic... and it's steampunk. I loooove steampunk. There were airships and carriages powered by coal and a tribe of people called Punks. It was wonderful!
Now for the characters. Nora was an absolute delight. She is irrepressible, thoughtful, not easily intimidated. Imagine being taken in the night by zombies! Nevermind that these are the "good guys", zombies are freaking scary, no matter how you slice it. Yet Nora, ever cautious, takes a semi-calm and rational approach to the situation. Her best friend Pamela could have been an afterthought, the filler character. I actually expected her to have no true impact on the story. Was I ever wrong! Pam was a true heroine in her own right, absolutely worthy of her own book.
I'm not a zombie fan. They really gross me out, I can't even watch them on television without getting queasy. But I fell in love with the zombies of DEARLY, DEPARTED, the good ones at least. Due to a technique developed by Nora's father, some of those infected with The Laz are able to retain most of their human qualities. They have become a force in the Army dedicated to protecting the people. These are the zombies who have taken Nora Dearly and their leader is Bram Griswold. Remember how I said zombies gross me out? Strike that thought when it comes to Bram. I can't tell you if he's all that handsome now that he's two years past dead, but from what I can gather, he's hot for a zombie. But what I loved about him is his personality. Bram is gentle and kind, protective and enamored with Nora. His efforts to earn Nora's trust and friendship made me love him. Maybe my favorite part about Bram is his choice to let Nora make her own decisions. Instead of keeping her in the dark about events or trying to keep her from taking part, he includes her in the process and is resigned that she won't sit idly by (see my second quote below).
Author Lia Habel is a creative genius. Many stories take something beautiful, maybe a vampire forever frozen at a young age, and go from there. Habel took something we often consider hideous, because what's more gross than a zombie, and made characters so achingly human and beautiful. She never lets the characters or the reader forget that Bram and the others are, in fact, technically dead. There most likely will not be a happily ever after for Nora and Bram, but it is precious for however long it lasts.
DEARLY, DEPARTED is an alternately ingenious, sublime, and morbid take on everything I thought I knew about love and zombies.
"She tried to compose herself then, with several deep breaths. I gave her as long as she needed, all the while mentally designing my tombstone. R.I.P., Captain Abraham R. Griswold. He was completely useless and made girls cry." (pg. 125)
"Returning my voice to a conversational level, I called back, 'Nora, I'm not attempting to embarrass you or single you out. I know you're capable. But stay behind Chas, okay? You die, you die permanently, and for various reasons that we've already gotten angsty about together, I don't want that to happen.' "
Hardcover, 470 pages