Title: Dearly, Departed (Gone With the Respiration #1)
Author: Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Rey
Release Date: October 18th 2011 by (first published September 29th 2011)
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.
I've had this book on the TBR pile for over a year now. I've been putting it off mostly because of the cover. Now, the cover I included at the top of this blog post is not the one that adorned my copy of the book. The cover to the right is the one I was faced with.
Urg. Cheesy bad, right? Can you blame me for sort of avoiding this?
I've always been a firm believer that it is perfectly acceptable to judge a book by its cover. There are very few books that this approach hasn't worked for. If I'd had the alternative cover then I might not have waited so long before picking up this book.
I wish I'd had the alternative cover because I really loved this book! I wasn't sold on the idea of a love story that involved a zombie. The premise seemed... kind of icky! However, if the whole "vampire" thing can become a romantic phenomenon, then why not Zombies? The book puts this quite well when it says, "Vampires are just zombies with good PR". That made me laugh.
A Zombie love story isn't an entirely new thing. The very first book review I ever posted to this blog was on Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies, which is basically an undead-reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. I thoroughly enjoyed Marion's book, but the zombies in it were a lot closer to the traditional idea of shambling corpses. In comparison, Dearly, Departed is a lot less yucky. Habel's zombies are dead, but not rotting or slow-witted. They're very much like vampires actually, except they don't heal and they don't live forever. They get a few years of decent brain activity before finally becoming more like the traditional George A. Romero creatures. I'm sure this is going to up the conflict of the next book!
Dearly, Departed is told in the first person but from a variety of different narrators. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would at first. Usually when secondary characters are given too much focus, I find myself longing for the moments when I can get back into the thick of the main plot. However, in Dearly, Departed, this wasn't the case. Sure, I wanted to see more of Nora and Bram, but I enjoyed the other perspectives too.
I have enjoyed the recent trend of Steampunk in YA literature and Lia Habel weaves Victorian ideals and futuristic technology together with aplomb. I loved the juxtaposition of corsets and tablet-computers. It's a world I could rather enjoy! And...that made me sound a bit dodgy, didn't it? Oh well!
Overall this book was very enjoyable. The unusual world was built fluidly, without there being too much exposition. The characters were rounded and strong. The narration was engaging and excellently-paced. This is a story I was able to submerge myself in and I was beyond thrilled to get an ARC of the sequel from NetGalley earlier this week!
I'm going to award this book five stars. It was original and dark and funny all in a nice 470 page bundle! I whole-heartedly recommend this fabulous read to all fans of steampunk and distopia!