By Lia Habel
Published by Del Rey
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.
So. Dearly, Departed marks my first foray into Steampunk. I feel like I’ve crossed a milestone or something. It’s kind of cool – I really liked all of the Victorian aspects of the story and the low-tech vehicles, etc. As far as Victoriana itself, I find it both fascinating and extremely infuriating. Fascinating for the styles, the way of life etc. and frustrating because of the way women were treated. And since this isn’t a feminist manifesto I’ll leave it at that and just say that Habel does a good job of really capturing both the things I love and the things I hate about that period of history. Even though here it’s technically the future. Because much like pegged jeans and bell bottoms, people have a tendency to bring the most unappealing things back into vogue after it’s been long enough that you forget quite how awful they truly were the first time around.
I have total cover-love of this book. The colors are pretty, the parasol, the creepy trees in the background, etc. Though Nora is described quite differently than the model on the cover, so I was a little confused by that.
I love the explanation for the zombies in this book. In other words, how dead people are supposed to keep on ticking and, in some cases, stay in control of their faculties well enough to actually become soldiers. I don’t want to give too much away but I like it when authors come up with original entries into the zombie genre. It’s not easy to do.
As far as Nora and Bram, I can’t believe I was rooting for a girl to get together with a zombie. Whaaaa? I’m pretty sure that’s actually illegal or something, but Bram was just so…endearing. Charming. Those are really the best words for him. And even though the way he’s described is kind of disturbing and gross (he’s not BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL, THANK YOU TINY BABY JESUS), you can see how Nora would be willing to overlook it. Though she’s not at first. Oh no. Insta-love does not happen here. Insta-like doesn’t even happen. More like insta-repulsion, which is a fitting response. It’s only slowly that trust is built and feelings progress.
My oooonly complaint is that there were so many perspectives that I sometimes had to look back and see whose chapter I was reading. And the chapters for each character weren’t especially different in tone, so the book really didn’t have to be done in alternating perspective chapters the way it was.
I will be looking forward to the next book in the series!