Monday, December 26, 2011

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

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, 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.

I never thought that zombies could be anything but gory, so I was surprised at how easily this book changed my view of them. It makes them much more sympathetic, more like the conflicted vampires we’ve all grown used to.

The author does a fantastic job of creating the steam-punk feel. She balances the old Victorian style with the modern in a way that doesn’t shock the reader too much. I do have to say some of the language is a bit too modern, even for steam-punk novels, but it doesn’t deter from the plot too much. The story line is fast-paced once it gets started, but it takes just a bit of time for it to get rolling. One of the biggest issues with the book, I felt, were the many viewpoints. It would have been enough to just have had Bram’s and Nora’s, without spending so much time with some of the side characters. Even Victor’s chapters were not entirely necessary. That did slow the pace down and detracted from the main plot.

The characters are fun, Bram being the most charismatic, with Nora taking second chair. She is sarcastic and a strong female character, which is a relief after many of the young adult books that like damsels in absolute distress.

This a fun, quick read that will please most young adult novel readers.

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