Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
Book 1 in the Gone With The Respiration series
Every time one of my friends or work colleagues had asked me what I was reading lately I had answered with- "well... it's kind of a futuristic steampunk story where people have adopted the dress and manners of Victorian London, but it's still very technological, oh, and there are zombies... " People have gone all bug-eyed and looked at me like I've fallen off the crazy train. So I suck at describing what the book is about, but I have to tell you- it's brilliant!
This book manages to be sophisticated, quirky and DIFFERENT. With female leads who are unique and ballsy. Nora for instance is dressed up in her full gown, gloves and slippers, but when she is taken by a band of zombie soldiers, still manages to make demands and boss everybody around! Her friend Pamela, strictly adheres to all the rules of social ettiquette- but still stabs a zombie in the head with her parasol when she is cornered.
This novel has it all- plenty of action, and twists and turns, betrayals, and romance. And it's funny in places too. I highlighted so many quotes in the book that had either made me giggle or just generally made me think wow. I loved the world of this story as well. There were moments when it felt very Victorian and the character's customs made me forget that it set in the future- but then there would be emails, digital diaries and holograms, and it suddenly felt very futuristic again. It was such a clever mixture of old and modern, both in technology and speech, people have flat screens inside their carriages.
The important thing to remember is that there are good zombies and bad zombies. Some people when they are infected do just want to eat your brain, but others are harmless, and keep hold of their memories and their humanity. Nora Dearly is taken by a group of the good zombies to protect her from the bad zombies who had targeted her. Nora's father, Dr. Dearly has helped the zombies by perfecting serums and treatments to help nourish and preserve them, and tune-up or replace missing limbs. Nora is taken to the zombie military camp, and this is where she meets Captain Bram Griswold of Z Company.
I don't think zombies will ever really take over from vampires and werewolves as romantic heroes in paranormal stories, even if they are as charming and gentlemanly as Bram (something about rotting flesh and limbs dropping off is a bit of a turn off surely?) but it works so well in this book. I loved Bram- who was very sweet and always trying to think of ways to made Nora more comfortable, or taking her on little trips out to make her happy. But my favourite characters were Bram's zombie friends, who were always a laugh a minute but also so loyal, and definitely the good guys. Chastity, the only girl in the group was cute and feisty and definitely someone you'd want on your side in a fight, or as a best friend- as she was always there to loan Nora some clothes or to share some gossip.
This is my favourite quote from Bram's friends, when Nora first meets them:
"I speak the truth! In all of these books the girls are throwing themselves at the romantic heroes- romantic heroes who are dead, who drink human blood. Be of good cheer, my brothers, for I tell you there is hope!"
One of the other guys, a large black chap, rolled his lone eye.
"Okay, you're cut off. Someone get him a cookbook or something?"
"Or, you know, some fair damsel to seduce," the girl said, looking up from her reflection. When she saw us, her mouth split into a grin. "Hey, speak of the devil!"
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 his book for emphasis. "Vampires are just zombies with good PR! That could be us in a few years!"
The story is told from alternating points of view from various characters (five, I think in total), which although sometimes was a little confusing, did give us differing insights into what the characters were thinking and feeling, and also showed us the action us it happened in different parts of the country. For instance we see what is happening with Nora at the zombie camp, and then how that affects Pamela back in New London fighting through a zombie invasion, and also Dr. Dearly's attempts to stop it in another part of the country. But it did also frustratingly leave a critical situation hanging for a chapter, as I had to wait between each chapter to find out what happened next to Nora!
Overall though, I seriously recommend this book if you are a fan of quirky supernatural YA books, or zombies in general. If not- read it anyway because it might surprise you! A sassy and fun futuristic dystopian zombie romance, with fantastic characters that you will wish were real!
Thanks to Random House publishers and Netgalley for the advance copy of this book
Book 2 is titled Dearly, Beloved and is due for release in 2012.
Not really related to this book (but kind of because it features zombies) here is The Zombie Song by Stephanie Mabey. I love this song, and I've had it in my head all week!