Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed

Author: Lia Habel
Release: October 18th 2011
Genre: Steampunk, Dystopia, Zombies, YA
#1 in the Gone With The Respiration series
Sequel: Dearly, Beloved 


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.


I'm actually quite thankful for this. For a moment, I had feared I was going soft what with all those 4 star reviews I have been handing out left and right lately.

Is this a zombie novel? Or a vampire novel? We don't know, because vampire lore has been mixed with zombie lore. Instead of brains, these zombies love themselves a little blood. But I'm willing to let this slide, because the lines between zombiehood and vampirism are blurred anyways. 

Warning, though: These zombies talk. They are civilized. They can form coherent thoughts, coherent sentences. They look nice, and they smile and laugh, and most of them don't eat your brains.

I'll just break this down into tiny little pieces to make sure I'm getting everything, because I think this is especially necessary for lower ratings.

World building
You know, I'm usually on board with anything, no matter how unlikely or likely it is. Just give me a nice back story that is the least bit credible and I'm okay with it. So, when you hand me a new Victorian era, set in the future, where women have to be obedient little lapdog trophy wives and aren't allowed to join the army, I have a problem with that. I don't think that society would ever regress that bad. We have seen that having women in the army is good, having them think for themselves is good because they can help propel technology and science because they are smart. This was even too unlikely for me. While I did appreciate all the work that was put into building up this world, because we do get a lot of back story and details, I still think it lacked credibility. Because we have this regressive Victorian society but all the futuristic high tech stuff like Holograms and the “Aethernet” and mobile phones, but people still come to “call on you” like during the 1900s, so what's the point of phones anyway? I'm not buying that, because all the high tech stuff was always too convenient.

Where was it? Where was the plot? Was the plot to rescue Dr Dearly? Was it to find a vaccine? No, I think this novel suffered Twilight syndrome. Nothing happened except romance stuff, until the last third of the book. And even then the so-called “climax” was very anti-climactic.
The antagonist was revealed on page 200 something, so if we already know who the villain is halfway through the book and you're pulling this out at the end like it's the shocking reveal, I have an issue with that. That's not how it works. Either the villain is clear from the beginning and you don't try to make a plot twist out of it or don't outright say he's the antagonist and then think we're all dumber than rocks, Habel. No.

I'll give a nod to Habel for not completely fucking this one up. We have essentially five POVs during the novel: Nora, Bram, Dr Dearly, Pamela and Wolfe. I thoroughly enjoyed Nora and Bram's POVs, although I had trouble differentiating between them sometimes, not often, but it happened. The others, though, were boring. And sounded basically the same. Dr Dearly's voice had a little distinction but not much and Pamela's POV was just outright painful, which led to me actually skimming most of her chapters. Not to mention that Pamela and Nora sounded the same, either. The style was pretty good, I did like the humor particularly which is always a big, big plus. I'll give you some quotes:

I paused at the top of the steps, my breathing short and hot, trying to decide where to go. Dad's room, my brain said. Get a gun.
Thank you, brain.

“Predictably, the main questions she had were, ‘What?’ and, ‘Am I going to be on the menu?’ Oh, and, ‘What?’”

My brain followed this demonstration of loyalty to the cause to its illogical conclusion. “You don't hate me?” I blurted out. Classy.

Now, characters were fine. They were probably the only point that made me like this book at all. Nora Dearly, our female protag, was a good character. She was strong when she had to be, didn't need constant saving, she was smart and came up with clever plans. While she did have her moments when she was extremely slow (Seriously how did she not notice the ten locks on the door first thing?) or melodramatic (“Because if they are, I have to take Bram somewhere and hide. Tonight! I can't live without him, I can't...”), I'm willing to let that slide because she was decent overall.
Bram however, the male lead, was simply great. A wonderful character, very laid back and funny, for once not a dark, brooding and mysterious type. I liked him. While he did pull an Eddie during the end, being all "No we can't be together because I could hurt you, I could bite your arm off!", and it was horrible lemme tell you, he didn't overdramatize everything after that. So, since it was only once, I can let that slide too.
Pamela was, like I said, an annoying little creature and I did not like her at all. Constantly risking herself and her family and always, always doing not the smart thing, but of course the absolute dumbest thing she could possibly do. 
The other zombies were nice though, too, I liked them. They were 2D, yes, but still likeable. 

Yes yes of course Bram and Nora fall for each other. What I liked about their romance was that it wasn't insta-love and it was developed nicely, but Habel just had to go and make this angsty and dramatic and all that. Because instead of having the issue of one of them being immortal, they have the issue of one of them slowly rotting away and only having about three years left. Oh no! At this point though I feel obligated to quote Bram's horrible Edward speech, to show you how ridiculously dramatized this was at times, because after that speech they're like "lol whatevs let's kiss"

“Do living men have dreams about people dying? Do they occasionally get the urge to chase you? Do they, no matter how well they repress it, no matter how well-behaved they are, always have in the back of their mind the idea that your flesh would be the best thing they ever tasted?”

However, their romance was still cute, had it not been butchered by the unnecessary angst, I would have enjoyed it far more.

All in all, it wasn't a bad book. It's simply flawed, but it's still very enjoyable. If the plot sounds interesting or something, go ahead. This could be hit or miss. I think I'm even going to come back to this and read the sequel someday.

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