Genre: YA Science Fiction
Pub. Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Goodreads says, "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."
Imagine a world in the future where although it may be technologically advanced, society is more like it was in the Victorian Era with a class system, fancy balls, tea parties, strict rules and strict etiquette. This new world is called New Victoria and Nora, essentially an orphan, lives with her aunt who runs a tight ship. She wants her to marry for money and climb the social ladder; however, Nora cares more about about history and educating herself. One day Nora is almost kidnapped by zombies and she meets Bram, a soldier, who is "dead." There is definitely more to Bram than meets the eye and their relationship evolves as Nora learns more and more secrets about her world. Lia Habel's debut, Dearly, Departed, is a new take on zombies and is no doubt entertaining; however, it left me feeling rather indifferent.
I must admit that Dearly, Departed is outside of my comfort zone. I remember reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth and was completely freaked out, so I want to preface this by saying Dearly, Departed isn't a book that I would normally read. Thankfully the zombies in this novel aren't as freaky as I expected, thanks to the technology in Nora's world. Due to advances in science, some of the undead can hold onto their personalities, mannerisms, behaviors, etc, and that is the case with Bram. Habel does a good job developing a connecting between Nora and Bram, but for me, it didn't work. I wasn't completely absorbed as I would have liked and it wasn't believable enough.
On the other hand, the setting is really very cool. The year is 2195. I like how Habel is able to juxtapose advances in technology with the strict world of New Victoria. I admired Nora for not being a typical "Victorian" female; she is feisty, determined and unconventional. Also, I enjoyed learning more about her past, her family and the secrets surrounding New Victoria. That is what held my interest the most in Dearly, Departed.
One of the major flaws with Dearly, Departed is the fact that are way too many first person narrators. With each chapter, the narration would switch from Nora, Bram, and many other characters. For me, I would have rather it focused on just Nora and Bram as it got disjointed and rather spread out. I felt that this is what contributed to the fact that I felt Nora and Bram's relationship wasn't as enjoyable as it could have been.
If you are a fan of zombies, the horror genre, or dystopias, I would suggest picking up Dearly, Departed this summer. However, if you are like me and tend to be shy about from anything that could fall under the "horror" category, I would skip Dearly, Departed as the paranormal romance aspect of the book wasn't strong enough for me to get over my disdain for zombies.