Sunday, 12 June 2011

Review: Dearly Departed by Lia Habel

What's a hypersomniac girl to do if she finds herself with a free weekend and is determined not to nap her way through it? She finds herself a good ol'-fashioned romance novel to wallow in and keep her heart-rate up for a good few hours. And earlier this week I received a hum-dinger of a YA novel: Dearly Departed by Lia Habel, which looked like it might just do the job.

Check out that cover. I mean, really check it out. Gone with the Wind meets True Blood meets all sort of wacko. You see a cover that bad, and you really need to read the first chapter at least, if only for the comedy value. Tall, Dark and.... most probably very badly written. Gotta be worth a giggle or two. 

I started it out on the tube home from work on Friday, where I ended up sitting next to some slightly pissed lads who wanted to strike up conversation. They asked me what I was reading, and I have never been so embarrassed in all my life. After much pleading on their part, I finally showed them the cover, and they almost fell over themselves laughing. I was mortified. I mean, at least the cover of Twilight looks classy. Being seen reading this book just made me feel like an absolute dimwit with a penchant for corsets. I did some research, and this is the cover the yanks came up with:

I mean come on! Mysterious girl with parasol wins out over Bill Compton/Rhett Butler swoon hero any day. I sincerely hoped that the tragedy that is the UK cover had something to do with it being a US acquisition, but it seriously hurts my soul that somebody in an office in London came up with it. Cover designers and editors, listen up: your readers are not stupid. And even if they are stupid, they don't want to look stupid. 

Right. Breathe Nicole, breathe. 

Rant over. Let's get into the text.

It's quite good. After the first chapter I was quite excited over how good it was, but after a few more chapters I decided that my initial reaction was probably down to my anticipating that it would be really really bad. It's honestly not that bad. It really is quite good. If you can get your heads around the following:
  • In the future society has reverted to a Victoriana-type existence.
  • But it's still futuristic.
  • Feminism has gone back a million miles.
  • There are zombies. Proper gory zombies. And they really want to eat you. 
Heads suitably accustomed? Good. Because this book really is a bit of a rip-roaring affair, stuffed with classic tropes and hot-blooded romance. There is a pleasing absence of adverbs. Habel clearly knows how to structure a story and has taken lots of (good) pointers from Hollywood. It's actually kinda scary in places, and I have to give points to anyone who manages to make a rotting corpse sexy. And the zombies make fun of fictional vampires. High five!

Don't get me wrong, there are issues with this book. I got a bit angry at all the chauvinism. Actually, I got a lot angry at the chauvinism. I was so massively desperate for Nora, our hot-blooded heroine, to rip off her crinoline and dive into battle guns blazing. Let's just say that she doesn't, but she does panic at the prospect of anyone possibly seeing her bloomers. Would the women of a post-apocalyptic future really be so ready to descend back to the world of good manners and marriages? It scares me that Habel possibly thinks so. 

Habel also rather likes her exposition. I understand that there is a lot to explain, but does she really have to be so heavy-handed in doing so? In fact, leave the mystery. Leave us wondering. Nora explains away her society within the first few chapters in some rather clunking paragraphs. I'd skip past these bits. I like my plausibility when it comes to dystopian fiction, but when it comes to fantasy I'd much rather be left a little bit in the dark for the sake of my brain cells. Don't give me back-story, give me action! Show me, don't tell me. 

So final verdict? Don't let anyone see you reading this. Hide it away and linger in dark corners or under covers. But do read it, and have fun with it. As you seclude yourself away and fiddle with the torch-light, remember that you're in for a pretty good ride. Unapologetic in it's silliness, ludicrously indulgent and stuffed with a surprising amount of wit. Who knew zombies would be so good with the one-liners? And did I mention the sexy corpses?!

I didn't nap once all weekend. 



  1. Your review was so entertaining! That cover makes me wince, this looks like it might be a kindle book-save on the embarrassment. I'm not really a fan of exposition so I'm totally with you on not enjoying that aspect of it. For me, this seems like too many genres all thrown together-not sure it's my thing. Really, really good review though!

    The Cait Files

  2. the UK cover definitely makes me cringe and take a step back. I would definitely think twice about giving it a read if I had not already seen the US cover and read a little bit about it. Your review is very entertaining and made me a laugh a bit while reading it. It seems like zombies are the new supernatural craze of the moment coming hot of the heels of vampires and werewolves. Can't wait for it to hit shelves in October

  3. I really want to read this and you are spot on about the covers!

  4. I forgot to mention that I am a new follower! :D

  5. No seriously, loved your review. Was quite entertaining. And i also agree with the cover one. I mean uk cover had something in it. Fights, romance, zombies. And this cover,sorry to say, but looks like a little girly type. Anyway, can someone tell me if the uk dearly departed is still available anywhere in the world? Coz i desperately need that.....

  6. Plz do tell me, coz im a big fan of that...