Juliana's Reviews > Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
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3.5 stars | Grade: C+
This book was a first in many ways for me. It was my first book in the steampunk genre, which seems to have become all the rage. It was my first zombie and my first modern horror novel. And it was the first YA book I’ve read since being a YA myself.

I hadn’t been avoiding any of these—on the contrary: seeing review after review by my Goodreads friends has had me adding book after book that I would not normally have read or sought out. One of the reasons I’m making a point of telling you all this though is because unlike many readers who will read this review and/or the book itself, I don’t have much to compare it to—frankly, I have nothing to compare it to! But here goes …

Summary. Dearly, Departed is set in 2195 and centers around the people of New Victoria and the Punks. While they share ancestors, the two groups have been in a war with one another for generations, though at this point it’s not all-out and amounts to border skirmishes, as well as propaganda-driven ignorance and misinformation about one another.

Nora Dearly, a young woman in New Victoria, is still mourning the loss of her father a year ago. She’s home from boarding school and is greeted by the distressing news that her aunt has wasted away their fortune and one of them will have to marry advantageously to refill the family coffers. All of this gets shoved to the back of her mind though, when Nora’s life takes a dramatic turn.

Home alone one night, she is attacked by a group of flesh-eating, decomposing, and mindless zombies. Trying to fight them off, she is saved just in time by a team of soldiers—also zombies, but turns out they are the good guys.

What follows is one revelation and danger after another. She learns that being “dead” doesn’t mean what she thought it did, befriends zombies, and falls into requited love with one of them, Bram. All around her, various existential battles are being fought: Punks versus New Victorians, the living versus the dead, the good guys versus the bad ones.

Reaction. Overall, I enjoyed the book and found the middle portion very engaging. The beginning and end were fine while I was reading them, but easy to lose interest in between reads. There were several funny lines and great exchanges. I loved most all the characters and found Nora to be a surprisingly likable heroine (I have problems with a lot of the PNR ones); she also showed no signs of having been lobotomized, but instead acknowledged risks while also not freaking out at every little thing. I loved the secondary characters: they were very funny, the back-and-forth between them was entertaining, and they were well-defined; by the end, I liked some of them as much as I did the main ones

The author tries to pack a lot into one book and that was the book’s main failure in my mind. There are too many storylines being explored and too many different factions, which was a shame because on their own I found most all of them interesting. The final section feels extremely rushed and includes a huge and non-subtle information dump explaining everything.

One of the things that took a little getting used to was that the story is told in first person … from five different people’s POVs. By far, Nora and Bram get the most narration time, but we also spend significant time with the other three characters. At least the transitions were clear though, with the narrating character’s name at the beginning of every chapter. The switch was annoying when it would happen just as I was really getting into a POV. It wasn’t a deal-breaker though and I enjoyed Bram’s and Nora’s.

I have learned by now that many fantasy/paranormal romance readers have certain pet peeves, a certain type of ending being one of them (Chicagoland Vampires anyone?), so I want to include this warning: while there is not a dramatic cliffhanger like that, the ending and epilogue are most definitely a setup for the next book, with a few plotlines left dangling.

Steampunk and Zombies and YA, Oh My! Despite the issues I had with the author biting off more than she could chew, I thought this was a good introduction to these genres. It definitely piqued my interest and makes me want to move these books higher in my TBR list. I found Habel’s creation interesting and there’s no doubt she has a good imagination—I loved the Punk vs. New Victorian aspect and wanted that to be further explored.

While I haven’t read steampunk or zombies before, I love the science fiction classics, so I am familiar with world-building and etc. Though I never felt like I was back in the “regular” world, I did think that the integration was not consistent and at times confusing. Some examples are how not all the zombies were really zombie-ish (right? not an expert here), the Victorian-ness at times felt forced, and I often completely forget about this supposedly huge and defining division between the two societies.

Bottom Line. At the end of the day, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Were there problems? Yes, most definitely. But the romance between Nora and Bram was sweet, the secondary characters were wonderful, and the novel has an interesting storyline … well, several, which was one of the problems, but regardless: I did like Dearly, Departed. Though I will not be rushing out to buy the second book when it comes out, I am curious about what happens next in this world Habel has created.

Two of My Favorite Quotes
“Well, I have things I need, too. I instinctively crave fluids, because I’m drying out. I crave protein because I’m damaging my body’s tissues every time I move, even though I can’t use that protein to rebuild them anymore. And the prions living in my brain crave new hosts and tell my synapses to make me a little nippy. In short, I’m newly rewired with a burning desire for a nice, warm body. You know, like every other teenage boy.”


She reached out her hand and stroked a finger along the edge of my captain’s bars. Then, in a sudden fit of propriety, she yanked her hand back as if out of an open flame and hid it beneath her blanket. “Wow.”

I vowed that I was never taking the uniform off, ever.

I bent my head, all proper-like. “I’ll wait for you in the courtyard.”

“Okay.”

Samedi eyed me on the way out. “Oh, you scoundrel. That’s dirty pool.”

I jutted a finger at him. “You just wish you had one.”

“I don’t need one!” he shot back. “I have maturity, and strength of personality! And … and the ability to hide my own head in glove compartments and lockers to see if she’s cheating on me!”

Beryl handed him a file on her way past. “You ever try that again, I’m going to drop-kick you into the next country.”

Originally reviewed for Fiction Vixen Book Reviews. This review is of a copy provided by the author/publisher to FVBR.
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Reading Progress

10/14/2011 page 89
19.0% "'I instinctively crave fluids, because I'm drying out. I crave protein because I'm damaging my body's tissues every time I move, even though I can't use that protein to rebuild them anymore. And the prions living in my brain crave new hosts and tell my synapses to make me a little nippy. In short, I'm newly rewired with a burning desire for a nice, warm body. You know, like every other teenage boy.'" 4 comments
10/14/2011 page 99
21.0% "'If anyone should talk to her,' Renfield piped up, 'it should be me. We're the most compatible culturewise. I'm sure that on top of feeling as if she's been thrust into one of the many levels of Hades, with all of its attendant demons, she feels like a lady wandering lost amongst the mannerless cads of the slums.' We were all silent for a moment before Tom asked, 'You do realize that we're sitting right here, right?'"
10/15/2011 page 118
25.0% "'I want to take a shower. I'm not about to if you stay out there.' 'Excuse me, but - huh? Then there will be two doors between you and me.' Some of the blood stayed in my cheeks as I found myself spluttering, 'But you'll know I'm taking a shower!' 'You just told me you were going to!'"
10/15/2011 page 125
26.0% ""She tried to compose herself then, with several deep breaths. I gave her as long as she needed, all the while mentally designing my tombstone. R.I.P., Captain Abraham R. Griswold. He was completely useless and made girls cry."
10/17/2011 page 268
56.0% "'What do you learn about us?' 'That you're a bunch of social-climbing, shallow, egotistical, coldhearted neoaristocrats that've completely forgotten the lessons of history.' Well, she asked. Nora considered this. 'I'll give you about sixty percent of that, actually.'"
10/17/2011 page 290
60.0% ""I hadn't even thought about Christmas, not until Nora mentioned it. After that it was all I could think about. I had nothing to give her. I couldn't exactly arrange for a skating party or a trip into the city, or anything. I really sucked at this whole 'I am very attracted to you and would like to demonstrate this to you via attention and creative uses of my disposable income' thing.""
10/19/2011 page 295
61.0% "'I have maturity, and strength of personality! And ... and the ability to hide my own head in glove compartments and lockers to see if she's cheating on me.' Beryl handed him a file on her way past. 'You ever try that again, I'm going to drop-kick you into the next country.'" 4 comments
10/20/2011 page 342
71.0% ""Okay, I couldn't help but gloat a little. 'She likes me.' Samedi didn't even look at me. 'Well of course, you've had that bloody uniform on all day. I was half ready to tell you how much I liked you.' 'Never mind,' I sighed.""
10/20/2011 page 345
72.0% "'What do I do?' Nora asked. 'Ditto,' said Chas. Ren pointed to another wooden crate.'You two sit there, and try not to touch anything.' Chas considered this, and informed him, 'You know, when you say that, it just makes me want to touch things more.'"
10/20/2011 page 353
74.0% ""Michael gave her the five-sentence rundown. 'A fluid-borne disease made the dead come back to life. They like to attack the living. There are hundreds of them out there. The only way to kill them is to get them in the head with a weapon. There's a good chance we're all going to die.'""
10/20/2011 page 405
84.0% "It's like verbal diarrhea. We're getting the entire backstory and explanation dumped on us. Not at all subtle."
10/20/2011 page 414
86.0% "Why do the girls choose now to start acting overly dramatic and emotional?"

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead We (Bonnie and I) are going to start this tomorrow so if you find the time (not busy with "other" stuff), maybe you can join us!


Juliana Thanks Michelle!! Are you guys doing a buddy read? I've heard about those but never done one. Or is it part of one of the GR groups?


Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Juliana wrote: "Thanks Michelle!! Are you guys doing a buddy read? I've heard about those but never done one. Or is it part of one of the GR groups?"

We just kinda read the book at the same time (though I totally screw up and either fall behind or read ahead). We compare updates along the way. That's all. I'm sure there is some better way of doing a buddy read or group read but that's how I've been doing it.


message 4: by Juliana (last edited Oct 26, 2011 11:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Juliana I've never done one, but that sounds like a good way to me! Have been wanting to do one ever since I kept on seeing everyone mention them in their status updates or reviews.


Juliana Thanks Michelle! :-) :-)


message 7: by AH (new) - rated it 3 stars

AH Great review, Juliana. I struggled with this one and I've read a lot of steampunk. I found it hard to reconcile the digital stuff with the steam stuff - just didn't jibe for me. I'm glad I stuck with it because I found the second half way better than the first half.
You're right, the author did try to pack a lot in this story. Maybe too much. I am curious to see what she does with the next book.


Juliana AH wrote: "Great review, Juliana. I struggled with this one and I've read a lot of steampunk. I found it hard to reconcile the digital stuff with the steam stuff - just didn't jibe for me. I'm glad I stuck wi..."

Thanks, AH! :-) I have been wanting to join the steampunk bandwagon for awhile now, so was excited about the book in that sense, but I agree there seemed to be conflicting things going on, like she was trying to add in too many accents / genres. I also am curious about #2 though, but will probably wait to read the reviews before I decide to borrow it or not.


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