Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Released: October 2011
Publisher: Del Ray
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Synopsis: 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 actually finished this book at the beginning of October 2011, and yet it has taken me nearly three months to write a review. Honestly, Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel is easily the best book I read in 2011. I think that’s why it has taken me so long to write this. It would be easy to gush about this book to others who loved the book as much as I did. But, it’s a little more difficult to write something that won’t spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet. Alas, here are my best attempts.
There is a subtitle on the front cover that says “Love can never die”. Initially I rolled my eyes and wondered what I had gotten myself into. Had I picked up yet another love story dripping with insufferable angst? And oh God, please don’t let this be about vampires. Luckily I was wrong. Habel’s Dearly, Departed, although tinged with romance, is surprisingly deep.
Much of the world we know has been destroyed by catastrophic climate changes, disease, famine, and a global war. Even though the story takes place far in the future where there is technology we can only dream of, Nora’s world has reverted back to more conservative, Victorian times in order to prevent further destruction. Despite their efforts, there is trouble brewing. Dearly, Departed is delightfully political but in a way that isn’t overwhelming to readers. The book delves into problems like classism; the problems Pamela Roe, Nora’s best friend, faces as a middle class citizen surrounded by a “new aristocracy” only begins to scratch the surface. Then, there are violent revolts led by the Punks in the south that threaten New Victoria’s reign of peace. On top of that, a new virus has broken out that is turning people into zombies, and this disease has no prejudices.
The book takes an interesting turn when Nora finds herself in the company of civilized, undead soldiers who seem more humane than some of the people she is forced to associate with. Overtime, Nora begins to develop feelings for Bram, who many look up to as a leader. It’s not as disturbing as it sounds (well, kind of considering Bram is decaying). But, the romance between the two characters is so genuine I may have felt my heart flutter.
Habel’s book also tells the story from five point of views– Nora, Pamela, Bram, Victor, and Wolfe. Each offer valuable insight into the world’s current disarray, however some POVs are more interesting than others. I didn’t favor Wolfe’s or Victor’s POV, but luckily they didn’t get as many chapters as the other characters. I found Pamela’s to be most interesting because she had more complex obstacles to overcome. Although, both are strong female characters who deserve to be considered among the ranks of heroines like Hermione Granger and Katniss Everdeen.
I don’t know if this adequately conveys how much I loved this book. So, I’ll go about it another way. The only books I’ve ever re-read are the Harry Potter books, but that’s about to change. I definitely belive I will find myself re-reading Dearly, Departed.