Dearly, Departed (Gone with the Respiration #1)
In 2195, Nora is living in New Victoria, a place that models it's values and social norms from the Victorian era, but is far ahead in terms of technology. When she returns home from school for the break, she finds herself attacked by a group of zombies, and saved by another group of them as well. Within this group is Bram, an undead soldier from the Punks, the enemy of New Victoria.
Amongst political unrest and savage zombies, Nora is surprised to find herself trusting Bram and the others dealing with 'The Laz'; the virus that causes the dead to rise. Along with her determination to get to the bottom of what's really going on in New Victoria, she will face uncomfortable and surprising truths about her family and her homeland. But will they be able to defeat an opposing zombie army before New Victoria is entirely infected?
I've only read a handful of books including zombies so I was unsure what to expect going into this one. I can say that this book really blew my mind and was almost flawless! Despite it's nearly 500 page count, I read it in a matter of a few days and I found myself reading it whenever I possibly could.
The world-building in this book was absolutely incredible. I feel like everything, from the actual city of New Victoria to the problem of 'The Laz' was perfectly thought out and tied together nice and neatly. I found it very easy to understand the society that Nora lived in and to picture the world that she had to navigate every day of her life. This includes settings other than her hometown, including her location when she is rescued by Bram and the others.
My favourite character was Bram. He was so full of life, despite technically being dead. I found him funny and sweet and I appreciated his tragic background story. He is one of the best male love interests I have ever come across within the YA genre. Nora was a great heroine and I found her to be strong, loyal, and determined. These two characters, and their romance, stuck out to me from many other YA paranormal romances I have read and this made the novel all the more enjoyable. The other zombies that Nora and Bram worked with made for a great cast of characters as well with their humor, tensions and drama. Much drama amongst the humans, for example Nora's friend and her family's situation, was present as well and made for a captivating read altogether.
My issue with this book was that I found it hard to follow at times. I'd wonder what was going on as occasionally things would seem a bit rushed or scenes jumped a bit too rapidly for me. For example, this book uses several different points of view, and sometimes I felt like one character's chapter would end too abruptly, or wouldn't end with any kind of explanation, which might be good to keep the reader going but I found that it made it hard to concentrate on the following chapters, told by other characters. It got a bit distracting. If this hadn't been an issue, this book definitely would have gotten five stars!
I absolutely recommend this book. While I found it a bit confusing at times it was worth the read and I am really glad that I bought the sequel while it was on sale! I recommend this for fans of YA dystopian books and romance. If you like futuristic books, romance, and zombies, then this combination of all three of these elements is sure to blow you away.
Loved the characters
I have never read a book written in as many point of views as this one. I thought I was going to be very confused, but I was not. Each character had their own way of telling the story, while continuing along the same plot line. You could always tell whose point of view it was from. Never once did I wonder what the other characters were thinking or how they felt, as you would in books written in a single point of view.
The characters were unique – none of them unrealistic, even though most were dead, they were all somewhat relatable. Nora Dearly who is the main character was the perfect, hard to find female hero. She fell in love with Bram, however their love was forbidden, as Bram is a zombie and she is a human. Although forbidden their love followed a natural path – as natural as it could be taking into consideration the circumstances, she did not fall head over heels the first time she met him. They met, she took her time building trust in him, they got to know each other and then they fell in love. The love story intertwined with the action and fighting was what drew me to liking this story.
Bram, was my favorite character in the novel. Even being a zombie he was realistic, he seemed to have a good head on his shoulders and had the ability to think and make decisions, as most of the other zombie characters did not. I kind of fell for Bram, he is what every girl should expect from a boy, even though he is dead.
Being written so far in the future, Lia Habel thought it out well. This made me think about how our world is going to be in the future, maybe not during my generation but in the generations ahead. Is this how our world is going to end? A pandemic that infects everyone, instead of completely dying, suffering from a painful afterlife. It made me think of our society, and technology and the changes it could take in the next 185 years. It really is the unknown.
So all in all, I really enjoyed this book even though I was sure that I would not. It was very well written and kept me hooked the entire time.
Let's just take a moment to take in the cover. Isn't it wonderful? Even more, every other edition looks amazing. (I think there's up to six separate covers for Dearly, Departed.)
Honestly, I didn't expect the book to have multiple perspectives because the synopsis mainly focused on Nora. Nevertheless, even with all those different character's thoughts thrown in, it still seemed quite clear that the protagonist was Nora. With the numerous perspectives, you always know what's happening in the story, whether it's Nora's experience with the zombie army, or it's with her best friend Pam, back in New Victoria.
In the characters area, however, Nora is not my number one. Generally, I make it a point to like a protagonist more than her male counterpart. Why? Because a story is about the protagonist's achievements, losses, loves, fears, and progression, not about her love life. In this case, however, Nora was just a bit whiny and immature. That didn't make me see her as a young, mature woman. My opinion may have been different if her characteristics changed more than her romantic relationship with Bram.
Dearly, Departed is a truly wonderful story built in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world with just a spark of something more. Besides, zombies? You truly can't ask for more.
Never fear though, I adored this book.
Seriously, how could I ever have doubted myself loving this book? I mean, I don’t believe I’ve come across a zombie book I’ve disliked before! I’m glad this one didn’t break the streak.
So, characters. They were all pretty fantastic. Of course Nora is awesome, but considering she already has a dislike for the society when the story starts, we could totally see that one coming. Now, what I couldn’t see coming was her best friend, Pamela. That girl was fantastic! I don’t want to give anything away, but suffice it to say that when the time comes to be tough, Pam definitely steps up.
The story itself was great. Though I found it a little slow at times, I loved it overall. The New Victorian setting fascinated me. I’m not a big historical fiction fan, so I never really read about Victorian times with their pretty dresses and whatnot, but Dearly, Departed delivered me the whole package: Victorian setting with awesome futuristic technology! Plus, you know, zombies, which happen to be my favorite.
The Nutshell: I’ve already gushed all over the place, so let’s try to keep it short. Dearly, Departed is a fantastic story which will likely surprise you. If you’re afraid of steampunk, dystopian, historical fiction, or zombies, I suggest giving this one a go anyway. It blends all these different genres together so well, you won’t even realize your reading something you’d normally turn your nose up at. (I’m not completely sure that sentence makes sense, but I think you still catch my drift.) In short, go read this book.
I feel that there were just too many voices in the story which caused me to lose interest. Just when I started enjoying what was going on with Bram, the story switched to a different voice.
But I suggest you give it a try and, if you don’t get lost in the switch of voices, you will really enjoy the love story. Did I mention that I fell for Bram, already? Yeah! This is my first zombie-love!
I'm almost tempted to just leave it there, because that alone should be enough for anyone to read Dearly, Departed...but as tempting as it is, I just have to gush about this book a little.
Lia's world-building was insanely well-done. At first, my brain kept hemorrhaging over the use of a Victorian term, like carriage, next to a 20th century technology term, like flat screen. But as Lia built up the beautifully dark world of New Victoria, it became second nature as the ease with which she incorporated technology into the mannerisms of the Victorian era was flawless. The thing I remain incredulous about is how any new-age society would regress the status of women in society like is done in New Victoria. I loved the idea behind their society - fastening onto the Victorian era "as a model of civility, order, and prosperity" - but I found it really hard to believe that any group of 20th century women would agree to completely revoke the progress of the women's movement, and return to allowing their husbands and social status to be of more importance than their personal interests or education. I am begrudgingly choosing to overlook this slight as I did really enjoy the story. So, moving on.
Dearly, Departed is told from five different point-of-views, which I did feel was a little ambitious. I absolutely loved reading from both Nora and Bram's PoVs. Nora is such a charming character, it's hard not to love her. She is stubborn and loyal to a fault and takes everything in stride. She was strong when she had to be, but showed tender moments when the situation called for it. Bram was so cute and thoughtful that he was disarming - it was way too easy to forget that he was a walking corpse. Their romance developed through trust building and unguarded smiles and in no way over-shadowed what was going on. While they were obviously developing feelings for each other, they both understood the complications of the decision to act on those feelings, and their angst was the backdrop to the politics, war and social upheaval happening front-and-cener. And there was no love triangle!!
I really enjoyed watching Pamela grow from a seemingly mindless wannabe socialite into a strong and independent young woman, but I don't feel like she needed to tell that story from her own PoV. I feel like we could have witnessed the change in her character through Nora's eyes. There were sections of her story which I found quite whiney and un-relateable, and so parts really dragged for me. I also don't feel like Victor Dearly needed his own PoV. Other than the slight info-dump we bear witness to through his eyes towards the end of the book, everything that happened to him was merely filler, and not necessary to move the plot forward. I actually would have liked to see more of Wolfe's PoV, and I feel like that would have lessened the need for the two different (but connected) info-dumps we bear witness to in Dearly, Departed. His story could have been drawn out slowly, throughout the book, and the pieces could have come together in the end, just as Nora and Bram were discovering the truth.
Dearly, Departed was such a departure from everything I have been reading lately that I think my enjoyment of it might be slightly based by how refreshingly original it was! The subject matter is quite dark and grim, but the characters come alive on the pages and their optimistic outlook on their reanimated lives is contagious. The romance is heart-warming and subtle, rather then soul-searching and all encompassing. And the ending, while leaving an opening for more books in the series, ties up enough loose ends to leave you feeling fulfilled and content.
The completely terrifying beginning, in which we are first exposed to the unintentionally charming Bram Griswold, leads us to believe that we are in for more blood-spiking horrors and a non-stop rush, yet we are forced to slow down with the pace of the plot, as we first 'meet' Nora Dearly directly after. This immediately takes away from our excitement, as we anticipate zombie attacks and fight-for-life showdowns, eager for the gore and action, and must settle for learning about the world we now find ourselves in. It's like being introduced to a really fabulous video game, witnessing the opening credits and hearing all its fabulous qualities, and then, when the moment of anticipation has peaked for us, our friend buckles down and first demands that we learn all the ins-and-outs of the rules before we can play. We want to shove away the rule book and the explanations so to speak, and just get right down to the crux of the amazingness that is surely awaiting us. It takes a while—a good hundred pages—but then the fun really begins, sweeping us off our feet even as Nora is swept off hers—literally, of course—by the man we've been dying to meet and his team of freakishly fantastic Undead soldiers.
Although the switch in first-person perspectives is jarring and bewildering at first, we push past that and actually enjoy gaining insight into all these characters. The entire lot of characters settle into our hearts, warming us and tickling smiles and laughter out of us at every turn, even as they astonish and injure us with their pasts, mistakes, and pains. We feel so rightfully connected to each one, unable to amputate them from our focus to concentrate on the other well-written aspects crucial to the story. They are the source of cheer and romance and admiration, gifting us with the beauty of their personalities. Despite the sometimes lengthy info-dumps and the somewhat ordinary writing, the characters truly shine, reeling us even further into the story Habel has so painstakingly invented.
Fans of Cinder by Marissa Meyer—those who enjoy strange mash-ups of assorted pieces of other genres—will take an interest in Dearly, Departed, recognizing a wild story with a similar feel. Looking for the inevitable creep factor that goes hand-in-hand with zombies? Then look no further. Want a fleshed-out romance that incites dreamy sighs? Well, hop on down and get to know Bram and Nora, because their relationship is lovely, full of that slow burn we can't get enough of. Dearly, Departed is a vivid, biting (Yup. I did it again.) tale that rattles our nerves and nearly stops our hearts countless times, setting us up for what's sure to be an equally frenzied and enjoyable sequel!
Originally posted at Paranormal Indulgence, 3/8/12
Above that, Dearly, Departed is also a dystopia, or at least has enough dystopian elements to keep me happy, er, unhappy. Actually, it has pretty much every kind of dystopia possible. Habel explains that the society in which Nora lives came about in reaction to a series of calamities that befell the human race in entirety (and Americans especially) 150 years previously. These include an ice age (didn't see that one coming), catastrophic storms taking out island countries, disease, famine, nuclear war, and the explosion of the supervolcano underneath Yellowstone. While I do think it's awesome that Habel included that stuff, I also feel like it may just be, focus on the pun, overkill.
That's one of my two concerns about the book: Habel seems to have tried to do a bit too much. While this didn't distract from my enjoyment of the novel too much, I did sometimes shake my head in response to the sheer number of crazy things, some of which were markedly unnecessary.
My other concern, in case you were curious, is zombies being hot. That's right, folks. Now, all paranormals are hot, even zombies. Of course, I have seen zombies that had relationships before, but they only dated other zombies (Breathers); this is my first run in with a couple composed of one living person and one dead person. That said, I really do like Bram, and, all things considered, this has been done as well as is possible. However, I cannot ship this or think it will end in anything but tears and/or nomming.
What I really loved about the book were the strong female heroines, Nora and Pamela. They are vibrant and really rise to difficult occasions. Despite being raised to be proper New Victorian girls (think Victorian social mores and customs), they refuse to be put into a box or onto a pedestal. Their chapters are definitely the best ones; I think I would have liked the book even more had it been told exclusively from their perspectives and could definitely have done without Wolfe's and Victor's sections (the POV switches). Examples of how cool these girls are: one of them climbed up rose bushes with bare hands while also firing at zombie attackers and the other killed a zombie with a parasol. Yeah, with a parasol.
To sum up, who doesn't want to read a good zombie novel where the living dead get taken out by a deadly parasol?
P.S. Is anyone else tired of every single paranormal book having a cheesy tag line on the front, such as this one "Love can never die." That's so melodramatic...and I'm pretty sure I've seen virtually the same thing on at least ten other books.
Recommended for Readers of:
Gail Carriger, Cherie Priest, Cassandra Clare, Philip Reeve