Saturday, December 08, 2012

Book Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Book Review: Dearly, Departed
Author: Lia Habel
Published: 2011
Source: Local library

In the future, a New Victorian society has arisen, hearkening back to the old Victorian ways of manners, social strata, and rigid morality. In the middle of this is Nora Dearly, a girl of middling-high social rank, who still isn't quite over her father's death a year ago. As if that weren't bad enough, she's abruptly kidnapped and taken away to a military base infested with the undead.

The soldiers of Z Company are not, however, the mindless beasts of song and story. As she gets to know them, especially the handsome young captain, Bram Griswold, Nora begins to realize that undead people are still people. They walk, they talk, they laugh and eat and dance and enjoy taking the piss out of their friends, and they can still, she learns, fall in love.

Then she gets another bombshell. Her father is still alive. After a fashion. But he's missing, and the work he's been doing on a zombie vaccine is missing with him. Meanwhile, back in New London, there's a mysterious plague that nobody wants to admit is even happening. And Z Company's living leader, Captain Wolfe, has a secret agenda of his own.

It's going to take strong stuff to avert the zombie apocalypse and rescue her father. Nora may be a New Victorian girl, but she's not that prim, she's decidedly improper, and she's up for the challenge.

When zombies started to be "the next big thing," I decided that it was going to be a hard job to get me to fall for a zombie romance. They're not exactly objects of lust. I mean, things fall off. Possibly important things. Just sayin'.

Well, I'm eating my words. Nora and Bram's romance was convincing and sweet, mostly because both Nora and Bram were strong and active characters in their own right. Nora has a dear friend back in New Victoria that she's trying to reach. Bram leads a company of soldiers and is devoted to Dr. Dearly. There's stuff going on in their lives, and more than that, there's no insta-love. Initial attraction, yes, but it was Bram's treatment of Nora as a rational human being who deserved to be told what was going on that really won her, and myself, over

Okay, so that's the good stuff. Now for the things I didn't love so much. For a zombie/steampunk adventure, the pacing dragged a lot harder than it had any right to do, and this is directly related to my other point: the whole thing is written in first person, even though there had multiple POV characters and plotlines. This means that there were five first-person narrators. This was . . . a lot. I got used to it, but I still found myself floundering when the POV switched, especially when it was between two characters in the same scene.

Overall, I enjoyed this wickedly fun, wickedly funny take on zombie/steampunk adventure. As long as the pacing problem and the POV problem get fixed, I'm ready to pick up the next one.

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