Review: Dearly, Departed

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dearly, DepartedDearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Series: Gone with the Respiration #1
Published by Del Rey on October 18, 2011
Genres: Dystopian, Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
Pages: 470
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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.

From the beginning, Dearly, Departed was a fascinating read. There is just so much going on in here, most of which I approve of. For example, this book, the start of a new series, manages to be both set in a future society and steampunk, which is, traditionally, historical in nature. So, while not technically steampunk, it reads that way entirely. Given that and the zombies, I bet Cherie Priest loved this book (or will love it…I have no idea if she’s read it or not).

Above that, Dearly, Departed is also a dystopia, or at least has enough dystopian elements to keep me happy, er, unhappy. Actually, it has pretty much every kind of dystopia possible. Habel explains that the society in which Nora lives came about in reaction to a series of calamities that befell the human race in entirety (and Americans especially) 150 years previously. These include an ice age (didn’t see that one coming), catastrophic storms taking out island countries, disease, famine, nuclear war, and the explosion of the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone. While I do think it’s awesome that Habel included that stuff, I also feel like it may just be, focus on the pun, overkill.

That’s one of my two concerns about the book: Habel seems to have tried to do a bit too much. While this didn’t distract from my enjoyment of the novel too much, I did sometimes shake my head in response to the sheer number of crazy things, some of which were markedly unnecessary.

My other concern, in case you were curious, is zombies being hot. That’s right, folks. Now, all paranormals are hot, even zombies. Of course, I have seen zombies that had relationships before, but they only dated other zombies (Breathers); this is my first run in with a couple composed of one living person and one dead person. That said, I really do like Bram, and, all things considered, this has been done as well as is possible. However, I cannot ship this or think it will end in anything but tears and/or nomming.

What I really loved about the book were the strong female heroines, Nora and Pamela. They are vibrant and really rise to difficult occasions. Despite being raised to be proper New Victorian girls (think Victorian social mores and customs), they refuse to be put into a box or onto a pedestal. Their chapters are definitely the best ones; I think I would have liked the book even more had it been told exclusively from their perspectives and could definitely have done without Wolfe’s and Victor’s sections (the POV switches). Examples of how cool these girls are: one of them climbed up rose bushes with bare hands while also firing at zombie attackers and the other killed a zombie with a parasol. Yeah, with a parasol.

To sum up, who doesn’t want to read a good zombie novel where the living dead get taken out by a deadly parasol?

P.S. Is anyone else tired of every single paranormal book having a cheesy tag line on the front, such as this one “Love can never die.” That’s so melodramatic…and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen virtually the same thing on at least ten other books.


One response to “Review: Dearly, Departed”

  1. Kelly says:

    I read an ARC of this a while ago and loved it. The one thing I will debate you on is Bram being hot. Because I’m pretty sure he is described as really not hot and in fact fairly terrifying to look at. However, I do see your point about now even flesh-eating zombies are having girls fall in love with them. And I totally agree about not needing the Wolfe and Victor POVs.

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