Review: Dearly, Departed (Gone With The Respiration, #1) by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed (Gone With The Respiration, #1) by Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Rey
Released: September 29th 2011
Format: Hardcover (470 pages)
Source: My local library
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.

The UK first edition
I have been wanting to read this book ever since I set eyes upon the UK first edition cover of Dearly, Departed about a year ago. A brunette in a Victorian-looking dress in the arms of a uniform-clad (*swoons*), handsome and pale guy? Insta-to-read. What's more, something told me that the pale guy wasn't a vampire. Lia Habel has given the world a zomance (term coined by Jen @ The Starry-Eyed Revue), guys. That's right. A zombie love story.

I'd never given zombies much thought before (c'mon, you know I love mermaids), nor pictured them to be possible romantic material (I'm so not a fan of horror and gore), but Habel has effectively proven the latter. As soon as I thought about the romance part, I found myself really intrigued by it. Dearly, Departed is a novel filled with zombies, steampunk, dystopian and romance.

Nora Dearly, our protagonist, is a girl who prefers warfare and history over dresses, behaving like a proper lady and finding a husband in New Victoria. A year ago, her father - a researcher of warfare and technology - died, and she's still in mourning. Throw in the zombies now. Nora fights for her survival, but she is captured - rescued, really - by them. Turns out that there are actually good and bad zombies. One of the parts I love about this book is how the good zombies (Bram Griswold in particular) try to gain her trust. It's amazing how much of this book focuses on the value and quality of a person's soul than their body, and this is clearly evident in Bram's personality. My heart broke when he told his backstory involving the most precious teddy bear to Nora. He is a zombie filled with so much courage, goodness and plenty of other admirable qualities. Given how "The Laz" virus makes zombies dream of chewing up humans almost all the time, that pretty much requires a lot of self-restraint from Bram, especially when Nora is a human. I love how there's no insta-love in this novel. Nora is a tough, unpredictable heroine - she does things when you really don't expect her to. She's so unique. Her relationship with Bram takes a great deal of trust and time to develop, and their affection for each other is incredibly sweet. Bram is totally one of my book boyfriends now.

Dearly, Departed isn't fully paranormal romance; it does focus quite a bit on military terms and warfare which I fought a little to understand. It was nice to have plenty of action happening instead of the usual I-love-you, you-love-me thing going on and on. The setting of New Victoria and its history took me some time to envision and immerse myself into, but once I got into it I discovered that it was really cool of the inhabitants to have adopted ways from the old Victorian era. Women actually went back to wearing long gowns! Let me just say that I've often fantasised about that happening like, now. And the gas lamp parasols. I WANT ONE. Oh, and digidiaries, anyone? Seriously, the added new technology and steampunk/futuristic elements have made me a fan of steampunk now (this is my first novel with steampunk in it).

The only problem I had with this book was its five POVs. It was a little hard getting used to the different characters and more often than not, I thought I was in Nora's head when I was in Bram's. However, I really grew to love Pamela's POV. She's a strong character on her own, with more spunk than I thought she would have. Personally, I think four POVs would be enough - you'll know which four are really necessary when you read the novel, and you seriously can't do without these four. Habel did a great job in writing the other supporting characters and made them really memorable for me. I especially love the humour the other zombies have.

Lia Habel has tackled the humanity part in her book extremely well and to me, that is the mark of a good author. It's one of the main themes in the story. You'll be surprised how much more humanity some zombies have than humans, and it does make you ponder deeply at some points. I've the sequel, Dearly, Beloved, on hand and I can't wait to read it. So go put Dearly, Departed on your to-read list like, now.

A solid four starfish. Loved this book.


Lia Habel was born in Western NY, and has lived there the majority of her life. Her first book, Dearly, Departed, is a sweeping tale of zombie-living romance set in a cyber-Victorian/steampunk future. Miss Habel enjoys attending anachronistic and steampunk events, watching zombie movies (she has watched over a hundred of them), commissioning ball gowns, and collecting Victorian and Edwardian books.

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  1. This looks super interesting! :)

    Question, though--because you know me, would this be worth a buy?

    1. Well, if you're an all-time zombie-lover and a fan of thriller (which I seriously don't know about you yet), this would definitely be something to grab from a bookstore. But if you're really unsure that zombies are your thing, then I'd suggest the library first (:

      Overall, this is not a bad read at all. And I'm not even a horror/thriller fan XD

  2. I know EXACTLY what you mean with the five POVs. It was just so strange to be in the head of a 50-year-old guy (I guess?) and each time you think you're comfortable with the character's way of thinking now you're pulled out of this POV again. SO CONFUSING! :D

    And I just love loved LOVED the world-building. I mean the author obviously put a lot of thoughts into creating the world. It just made so much sense why there'd be a New Victorian era!

    1. Yeah, this problem is really common in books that have multiple POVs. And there's usually like three POVs, but this one had five O_o I think the only book that really rocks different POVs is Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs!

      I totally agree! And their dating customs made it hard for Bram and Nora to hang out with each other XD I kinda loved how that stayed true to the original Victorian era :D


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