Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed
By: Lia Habel
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Reviewed by: Marylee
This Sister Says: Suspenseful, Romantic, Un-put-down-able, AMAZING

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, steampunk meets 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. (-Goodreads)

This is gonna be like a Waiting on Wednesday, Covers to Die For, and a gushing review of what may very well be my favorite book of the year all rolled into one. There is so much to love about this book I hardly know where to begin. I mean, where do I start? The gorgeous cover (ain’t it purty!)? The amazing characters? Brilliant writing? The comedy and the macabre? … Maybe the original and fascinating take on zombies? Captivating setting? The complete and mesmerizing world-building? – This book contains all of that and more, and the worst part about it was having to put it down to do basic things like bathe, use the restroom, eat, and go to work (the most torturous work day ever). I (already) cannot wait to reread it and I hope the author doesn’t get tired of my (what I’m sure will be incessant) “Are you done with the sequel yet” tweets.

The world-building in this book was so in-depth and absorbing, I felt like I could actually walk out of my house, onto the street and go down to Nora’s house or down to Pam’s father’s bakery. The vivid description just made me feel like I was right there and the backstory and history of why the people chose to revert to Victorian dress and mannerisms is actually very compelling and believable. But they also developed very advanced technology that they also use! So we get a Victorian setting with technological “improvements” such as holographs as the backdrop of this amazing epic!

Characters are usually what make or break a book for me, and Nora, Bram, and Pamela are some of the most intriguing characters I’ve read recently. And one of the things I love most about this book is that we get to see the story through several points of view. It’s always written in first person but alternates between these three and a couple of others. It’s a brilliant way to flesh these characters out and give us perspective to all sides of the story. I cannot count the amount of times I literally laughed out loud at their wittiness, and I fell in love with them so deeply that their triumphs and heartbreak became mine as well.

I just finished reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (very good!) so I thought I might be zombie-d out when I started reading this book, but Habel’s take on them was so fresh it was like I was reading about different creatures than Ryan’s zombies. The Laz (as in Lazarus… brilliant name for the disease) reanimates the dead so they come back, but some of them don’t automatically go the limb-ripping, brain-eating route. Some of them (like Bram) retain their humanity after death… for a while. The disease always eventually progresses into your typical zombie nightmare, but with the proper help from doctors and meds, the Laz is slowed down a great deal and can actually be put at bay for a few years and give the undead a relatively normal (after)life. The ones we meet are in a company that is devoted to the take-down of the “bad” zombies, the ones who couldn’t or didn’t maintain their sanity and became the flesh-eating monsters we all have nightmares about. And I love them. I can’t go into to much detail about it because I do not want to be spoilery, but they are simply fascinating and amazing and I am completely captivated by them. The history and science of the disease is explained thoroughly and makes the Laz seem like a scarily realistic problem. I loved (and was terrified by) that so much, because in no other book or movie I’ve seen or read about zombies have they explained exactly how the disease works. I feel like I understand it better and that connected me to the world of the story even more than I already was.

I think what I love most about this novel is that it’s not one that is just about star-crossed lovers and zombies. Sprinkled among the romance (which will make you squee) and the intense action (which will make you feel like fist-pumping) is an often hilarious story that gently asks questions about real bravery, true love, and what it means to live. I love stories with meaning and Dearly, Departed is full of it. As corny as it makes me sound, it made me think on what a treasure life truly is and makes me want to really LIVE every minute of it and not take it for granted. And love. Habel shows us that no matter how scary or potentially heart-breaking it can be, love is always worth the risk.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, the book's prologue is available to read on Amazon.  I hope that you read it and fall for it as hard as I did, then order the book and be even more blown away by its amazingness!  I have never read anything classified as steampunk before, but if they’re all similar to this I have a new favorite genre.  I clearly loved it and am planning on encouraging (by force if necessary) my other book-loving friends to read it as well.