Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Book Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

First published: 29th September 2011
This edition published: 18th October 2011
By: Del Rey

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.

My review:

I expected a fun read from this book and I got one. The most enjoyable thing about Dearly, Departed is its setting - I think a future where America takes on the culture and values of Victorian England was a genius idea from Lia Habel. It means that she can make use of the themes of 19th century fiction (like young women struggling against the social restrictions) but she doesn't have to worry about being historically accurate. It's not history, it's the future and it means Habel can cherry-pick what she wants from the Victorian era and our own, which allows for a lot of the humour. Proper ladies in corsets and respectable gentlemen in waistcoats dropping lines like, "As our esteemed elders used to say: Duh" is just funny. It just is.

Into this New Victoria, Habel also drops zombies. This is the first zombie novel I've read that didn't portray zombies as only mindless flesh-eaters, but as people, who happen to have died and then reanimated. I thought Dearly, Departed did a great job with Bram; he was a likeable and empathetic character and, despite being dead, Habel somehow made him seem dreamy, too, which was quite the feat. His relationship with Nora had a good build up and I really enjoyed their scenes together - I found myself rooting for the zombie to get the girl (although zombie kissing scenes were, um...I'm not quite ready for them yet).

The story is told in alternating points of view and this was both good and not-so-good. As I mentioned, I loved Bram and liked Nora, but I wasn't sure why Wolfe, Bram's army captain, was given a PoV as it didn't seem to add anything to the story. However, I loved following Nora's best friend, Pamela, as she tackles zombies armed with only her parasol, and her parts were some of my favourites. I felt that Pamela actually had a more interesting narrative than Nora did, as switching to other PoVs does slow down Nora's plot for a while and once she meets Bram, it seems like nothing really happens to her for some time and other plotlines (like Pamela's) get all the action.

There is a lot going on in the world of Dearly, Departed, though; Habel has created something very big and detailed. Even without the zombies, New Victoria has a bucketload of problems; like civil war, class prejudice and political intrigue, which should provide enough material for the novels to follow (Dearly, Departed is the first in a series). Although I admired the inventiveness, I felt like some of these ideas were executed a little clumsily - there are many info dumps throughout the novel and the villains of the story, once caught, explain - in explicit detail - everything they did and why in a way that isn't entirely natural or believable. I was also not a fan of the epilogue, which seemed to hurriedly throw out even more ideas to set up the next book, almost as if the author wanted to squeeze in everything she could before she exceeded her word limit. It was rushed, to say the least.

What made this book a winner for me overall was the humour, the characters and the premise. I laughed so much, I adored Bram and a zombie-infested New Victoria is a fun place to visit, even if I wouldn't want to live there.

Rating: 4 stars

This book was provided to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, how I loved this book. This is a book that I'm going to be greedy about - it's not going to a contest or a trade. Nope. Mine all mine.


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