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Review: Dearly, Departed

my thoughts in a few sentences: While Dearly, Departed starts out tortuously slow, failing to keep me utterly immersed within the first hundred pages, the story suddenly picks up speed, jumpstarting a fascinating thrill-ride into a post-apocalyptic, technologically advanced New Victoria, in which everything has reverted to the ways of historical Victorian London with a futuristic spin to form a relaxed, peaceful society. Stirring my interests with rebels hateful of these changes and a secret pocket of government-trained zombies, mindless cannibalistic ones aside, Dearly, Departed shot me into a riveting mash-up of genre elements and fed me (har har) a sweet, heart-aching romance that made me want to bear-hug the couple. An AMAZING cast, constant action, equal parts witty and sober, Dearly, Departed definitely recovered from its unhurried beginning, delivering the story I hoped I would find behind its stunning cover.

hooking first line: "I was buried alive."

Rating: Sud-Kissed | Del Rey • Bought • Paranormal/Post-Apocalyptic • 10/18/11 • $15.13

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
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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. KNOW. The above summary is a lot to take in. High-tech historical nation? Main character kidnapped by a group of zombies, though not the same ones as the military-trained ones? Deadly viruses? Forbidden romance that's not? SHE FALLS IN LOVE WITH A ZOMBIE? What the what?!? Just calm down. It's not as overwhelming as it seems. Imagine the Victorian London in our history textbooks, in the movies. Now imagine that society—cool clothes, awesome accessories (top hats and pocket watches), and elegant manners and all—in the middle of a fantastic everthing-is-digital setting. Throw in a ballsy heroine more inclined to whip out a shot gun than faint dead away at the sight of ravenous Undead and a sososo sweet young Captain of a rag-tag band of AMAZING zombie fighters, Dearly, Departed is subtly addictive, full of booming impact, and adventurous action, toting the power to back up breath and implant adrenaline and terror in the most appealing fashion.

The completely terrifying beginning, in which we are first exposed to the unintentionally charming Bram Griswold, leads us to believe that we are in for more blood-spiking horrors and a non-stop rush, yet we are forced to slow down with the pace of the plot, as we first 'meet' Nora Dearly directly after. This immediately takes away from our excitement, as we anticipate zombie attacks and fight-for-life showdowns, eager for the gore and action, and must settle for learning about the world we now find ourselves in. It's like being introduced to a really fabulous video game, witnessing the opening credits and hearing all its fabulous qualities, and then, when the moment of anticipation has peaked for us, our friend buckles down and first demands that we learn all the ins-and-outs of the rules before we can play. We want to shove away the rule book and the explanations so to speak, and just get right down to the crux of the amazingness that is surely awaiting us. It takes a while—a good hundred pages—but then the fun really begins, sweeping us off our feet even as Nora is swept off hers—literally, of course—by the man we've been dying to meet and his team of freakishly fantastic Undead soldiers.

Although the switch in first-person perspectives is jarring and bewildering at first, we push past that and actually enjoy gaining insight into all these characters. The entire lot of characters settle into our hearts, warming us and tickling smiles and laughter out of us at every turn, even as they astonish and injure us with their pasts, mistakes, and pains. We feel so rightfully connected to each one, unable to amputate them from our focus to concentrate on the other well-written aspects crucial to the story. They are the source of cheer and romance and admiration, gifting us with the beauty of their personalities. Despite the sometimes lengthy info-dumps and the somewhat ordinary writing, the characters truly shine, reeling us even further into the story Habel has so painstakingly invented.

Fans of Cinder by Marissa Meyer—those who enjoy strange mash-ups of assorted pieces of other genres—will take an interest in Dearly, Departed, recognizing a wild story with a similar feel. Looking for the inevitable creep factor that goes hand-in-hand with zombies? Then look no further. Want a fleshed-out romance that incites dreamy sighs? Well, hop on down and get to know Bram and Nora, because their relationship is lovely, full of that slow burn we can't get enough of. Dearly, Departed is a vivid, biting (Yup. I did it again.) tale that rattles our nerves and nearly stops our hearts countless times, setting us up for what's sure to be an equally frenzied and enjoyable sequel!

Taking a deep breath, I opened the door wide. With both hands, my eyes shut, I thrust the bear out in the hall. "Keep this in mind, though: one false move and the teddy gets it!"
I held this position for half a second, before opening my eyes.
Bram's mouth was twitching. "Good morning to you, too." His eyes fell from my head to my stockinged legs. "Alice."
I didn't know what to say to this at first. The it hit me—white stockings, blue dress, hair ribbon. I slowly lowered the bear, my cheeks heating again. "My face is up here, bunny boy. I'm just giving myself an edge, in case I have to run for my life." (146)

The one with the book whirled around and held up his hands. "Before we do this formally—you." He looked at me, and I took a step back. "Have you ever heard of vampires?"
I nodded. Who hasn't?
"Had you heard of zombies before you came here?"
I shook my head.
"See?" He thumped the book for emphasis. "Vampires are just zombies with good PR! That could be us in a few years!" (185)


Giselleco said...

Oh glad you liked this Asher! I loved all the POVs too but a lot of people didn't. It was very original as well. Awesome review! :)

Jenny said...

"It's like being introduced to a really fabulous video game, witnessing
the opening credits and hearing all its fabulous qualities, and then,
when the moment of anticipation has peaked for us, our friend buckles
down and first demands that we learn all the ins-and-outs of the rules
before we can play."

Wow. That's a really brilliant analogy Asher, I can picture exactly what you're describing:) I'm not really a zombie fan, they freak me out, but this sounds likes it's a story too good to miss, and I want to jump in, hurry through the rule book, and see what the fun is all about. Wonderful review!

Danny Bookworm said...

I really liked the mix of genres here! However, unlike you I had a little more problems with the switched POV, there were just a few too many for my taste.. I liked it but I wasn't so excited about it! 
Wonderful Review :)) 

Liz. R said...

I've been wanting to read this one for a while, I love the premise! I think I'd like all the different ideas and POVs! Love the excerpt you included - my favourite line: "Vampires are just zombies with good PR! That could be us in a few years!" Lol! :P Awesome. Thanks for the review :).

Mimi Valentine said...

We have such similar thoughts on this, Asher!! I was wondering how Lia would incorporate so much awesomeness into one small book, but she did such a great job! And oh my goodness, I love Bram so much!! He was THE sweetest zombie I've ever read about! And the rest of the characters were fun to read about for me too! :)

Amazing review, Asher! If not for the zombies, we should definitely move there so we can rock the corsets and cool technology! ;) <3

rogier said...

(Yup. I did it again. loli need2 read this soon

Asher_Knight said...

 Aw, thanks, Jenny <3 It was the only way I could think of to describe my frustration. Zombies are riveting for me even as they creep me the eff out. I can't explain it. It's like watching a car wreck, leaving you both horrified and fascinated simultaneously. And there are so many awesome things to like about it, that it would be a shame if you missed out on this story, Jenny. I see you falling for the characters, too. :)

Asher_Knight said...

 It's so strange, but it works! Which is why it reminded me of Cinder, even though DD came out first *LOL* At first, when the POVs kept switching, I was like, WHAT THE WHAT? It took some getting used to, but I liked the characters so much that I didn't mind reading the story from so many different viewpoints. Thanks, Danny :)

Asher_Knight said...

 I could see you digging this one, Liz. I don't know why, it's just one of those feelings.

XD I thought so too when I read that part. I couldn't stop laughing because it's so true. <3

Asher_Knight said...

Yes, the length gave her a lot of room to maneuver the story in exciting, though sometimes gradual ways. I fell for Bram BIG TIME. Which isn't news, because when do I not fall for a fictional guy? Unless he's a douche, if he's a zombie and cute and sweet, you bet your butt I'm going to love him.

Totally, Mimi! I'd meet you there in a heartbeat, and we can see if we can find our own Brams... Though, preferably living. You know, 'cos I don't want him to die on me later...

Asher_Knight said...

 Cool! I hope you enjoy it! I really liked it, so I hope others do too :)

Megan Reti said...

I really want to read this book. I'm sure it will be in my next big purchase.

Asher_Knight said...

 It's lengthy enough to keep you entertained for a while and it's a good story, so I say it's money well-spent ;)

Raimyrawr said...

I loved Cinder and I really fancy reading this one so it's good you reckon fans of Cinder will like it! I must get hold if it soon 

Asher_Knight said...

I just love it when people say fancy :D I think they're similar in their crazy mash-up of genres especially. I hope you enjoy it!

Brodie said...

Hahaha I LOVED the zombie PR line <333

Oh my gosh Asher, the characters! You nailed it, they were AMAZING. The impossibly sweet romance between Nora and Bram (where the hell can I find a zombie boy? I don't care about the chapped lips and milky eyes!) and Bram's group of friends were totally win <3 Every character SHINED and made this such an incredible book. And I loved the worldbuilding. So fascinating.

Your beautifully written review sums up so much of why I fell in love with this book and am begging, DEMANDING, for Dearly Beloved to please hurry the heck up and fall into my hands.

Asher_Knight said...

I cracked up so bad when I read that myself. :D

XD *rofl* *dies* You are so ridiculous, I <3 you. And I totally dig your perspective on this. I, too, find myself craving the company of handsome, preferably all-put-together zombie boy. Milky eyes? I can get past that. Chapped lips? We'll try some Blistex. Each zombie character was my favorite. I couldn't even decide. And yeah, the world-building is WAY OUT THERE, and completely fascinating.

Thank you <333 Dearly, Beloved feels so far. *reaches out and grabs air* *cries*

Sarah (saz101) said...

I'm SO glad you wound up enjoying it, but YES! Like Jenny said! That's a FABULOUS analogy... hmm... if I eat your brain, will I get your super powers? :D:D:D

I'm still really wanting to read this one, but I'm kind of... hmm... I'm scared about the problems we spoke about, you knoooow?

UGH! I loved you review! LOVEEEED! Seriously, you make even the bad bits sound good...

Asher_Knight said...

 I KNOW. You saw how worried I was for a while there, but it turned around and became something really lovable. Perhaps... That is, if you ever get close enough to overcome me and try. But, remember the super powers ;)

Don't be too scared. It may be just a slow for you as it was for me in the beginning, but, like I said, it really worked out. You just have to focus on the characters and the world-building and then nothing else matters, because those elements just shine.

<333 Thank you!

Rebecca (Kindle Fever) said...

LOL, omg, I was so shocked about the falling in love with a zombie part. But seriously, I fell just as hard and I loved how well-done it was! I loved it so much I can say without a doubt it's one of my favorite reads ever, and even if you didn't seem to like it quite as much, I'm so glad you enjoyed it a lot! The ending definitely made up for the a bit slower beginning!

Asher_Knight said...

I WAS TOO. I mean, HOW CAN YOU FALL FOR A ZOMBIE? That's just... what the what?!? As much as I love zombies, never did I have an inkling to be ensnared by one. But Habel approaches this romance in just the right way and it really touched me. And, oh, YES, that ending. Gosh, I can't wait to be with Bram in the next one :D

Bookworm1858 said...

I really liked this book too. I preferred Nora, Bram, and especially Pam's narration to the two adult narrators and I thought it was a little overstuffed. But I enjoyed this a lot and am excited for the next one. I am someone who loves these genre mashups so so much!

Asher_Knight said...

Nora/Bram/Pam are fabulous narrators in the whole thing and they give such a fresh, exciting take to each face of the story. I can't wait for the next one either! So glad you enjoyed this one.