by Lia Habel
Series: Gone With the Respiration #1
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.
Dearly, Departed is a YA steampunk novel with a splash of romance. It contains elements of horror fantasy and a post-apocalyptic dystopia. This is Lia Habel’s debut novel and despite some flaws, I found it to be refreshing and delightful.
The futuristic world of New Victoria is fascinating. It’s exactly how you might picture the world in 2195 with a few twists. The place is riddled with technology. Some neighborhoods are built below ground, complete with holographic skies and trees that blow in the wind. There are micro-chip ID’s, digital diaries and flat screens everywhere. The homes, transportation, clothing and social classes all resemble the late 1800’s to early 1900’s Victorian era in England. Habel’s history of how this new world comes to be is interesting and believable. I love this world she creates, and could easily immerse myself in it. There has been an on-going war with outsiders known as the “punks”. This war has consisted of propaganda and border skirmishes, stemming from a difference of opinion in social statuses and government.
The zombies in this world are caused by the “Laz” virus. Habel’s explanations regarding zombies, their cravings, classifications and needs are clever. When reading a zombie book, I expect slow moving, mindless, flesh craving monsters. Habel provides these and they are referred to as the “Grays.” She also provides us with smart, witty, caring zombies. These zombies are part of “Company Z.” They are comrades, they like music, care about clothes, music and the living. They may be dead, but they don’t want to be dead-dead.
The story is told from the POV of five characters. I enjoyed reading the different perspectives, including those of the villain. My problem is that it pulls the reader into too many directions and makes the overall flow of the story cumbersome. If the story had been limited to the POV of Bram and Nora, it would have been brilliant. Nora Dearly is a strong, witty, brave, young woman. I like that Habel made her fearless. She is a girl of privilege, who lost her mother early in life, was pushed away by her father and eventually lost him. She was left in the care of her self-serving Aunt and she could just as easily have been a spoiled, hateful, brat. Captain Bram Griswold is sixteen years old and leader of “Company Z.” He is brave, charming, smart, thoughtful and dead. The romance between Nora and Bram is sweet, innocent and heart-breaking. Habel makes you believe a romance between a zombie and a human is possible. It is pure magic. Despite the fact that I disagree with Pam having her own POV, I loved this spunky, lower class, zombie kicking girl. I hope to see more of her in future books.
The overall theme is compelling and I became immersed in the storyline. Dearly, Departed starts off slowly, as Habel lays the ground work for this tale, but stick with it. The middle was riveting and the ending set the stage for book two. I enjoyed Habel’s writing style and imagination. Her characters each have their own voice and personality. The banter between them is witty and I love how she combined Victorian era dialect with modern futuristic dialect. The details regarding this world, the war and the disease are wonderful. I question the validity of some of the characters and sub-plots in the novel, but since this is to be a series, I will take a wait and see approach.
I will definitely be reading book two of this series entitled Dearly, Beloved. It is my hope that it will deliver all that Dearly, Departed was capable of. Without the above mentioned flaws this book would have easily received a five coffee cup rating from me. I thoroughly enjoyed Dearly, Departed and recommend it.
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