Bibliomantic Book Club: “Dearly, Beloved” by Lia Habel

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel (Galley)
Release Date
: September 25, 2012
Genre: Young adult, zombies, romance (ZOM ROM), dystopia, steampunk

Summary: Picking up where Dearly, Departed left off, this sequel deals with growing anti-zombie sentiments and the after effects of the attack on the Elysian Fields. Nora is having problems dealing with her newly resurrected father, her enemy Vespertine Mink is busy making alliances and Nora’s zombie boyfriend Bram is spending his time heading a zombie task force and being the most attractive member of the undead possible. Subterfuge, opposing factions and intermingling plots abound in this steampunk zombie romantic comedy. Who doesn’t love a good zom-rom-com?

The second book in the jokingly titled Gone With the Respiration series finds our heroes Bram and Nora in a world full of zombie haters and lovers alike. They are forced to deal with both groups, from the Changed, zombies who are into zombie philanthropy to an upper-class zombie murdering group called the Murder. With fun new characters, a complicated new plot and a fabulous combination of the old and modern this is the end all be all young adult zombie series. We just can’t get enough of it!

STEPHANIE’S THOUGHTS

As a huge fan of Dearly Departed, I had mixed feelings regarding a sequel. I thought the first book was a very complete and fantastic story on its own, but I totally fell in love with the characters and their world so was also excited to read more. As a whole, I did enjoy the first book more simply because the journey to the ultimate zom-rom pair Bram and Nora was so awesome and different. Dearly, Beloved felt much more focused on world building and the fight for zombie rights. We did also see some character building though, especially with Bram – struggling with being dead and feeling torn between whether he’s fighting for the living or the dead and with Vespertine – struggling with her disgust of the undead and trying to do the right thing.

What did annoy me were the strict rules that Nora and Bram followed with hardly any complaint. Sure, they snuck out in the mornings to be alone together in that field, but holy crap. If I was that in love and knew that my partner and I only had about three years together tops? Dude, I’d be making out with that person CONSTANTLY. Come on. Yes, yes, trying to emphasize the Victorian society rules and blah blah blah. But come on. Nora and Bram should be way past that after everything that happened in the first book. Their acquiescence to the rules was a bit silly to me. To them, they thought they were constantly breaking the rules – which sometimes they were – but I guess my liberal nature thought they were just being way too reserved in restraining themselves in ANY way at all given their experience and circumstances.

Loved that we got so much time with Vespertine in this episode. Learning more about her background, we can really see why she is the way she is. I was very glad to see more interaction with Renfield and do have hopes that her journey is just beginning and that eventually maybe she can overcome the prejudice she grew up with. She sees every day exactly how cruel and evil living humans can be so I think maybe she is also capable of seeing that while some zombies are cruel, it’s not just because they’re dead.

I am interested to see how the role of Michael’s family will play out in all of this. This science war that is happening behind the obvious up-front violence is fascinating and I can’t wait for more of that.

Finally, I was overall pleased with the book and am glad that at the end Nora proved to be a girl of her word. Screw rules!  I have to admit that it did feel very much like a “middle book” where things were a little slower because things had to be explained, the world and the characters had to be deepened and all that – so I definitely think the last book is going to blow our minds as much as the first – or maybe more!

KELLY’S THOUGHTS

The world is full of the living dead who are clamoring for rights (seeing as they are sentient beings and all), a new strain of zombie virus is going around that makes the original zombies look like fluffy bunnies, and the world is teeming with anger and confusion – BUT PEOPLE STILL HAVE TIME TO SLUT SHAME? Ahem. Sorry. That’s not anger directed at the author – far from it in fact. Lia Habel adds depth to the really fascinating world of New Victoria in this second installment. Sadly, assholes bitching about the choices of ladiezzz is something that makes a lot of sense. They even came up with a shiny new term – necroslut! New Victoria is still governed by laws of public decorum and strict “no touchie no feelie no weenie” ’til you’re married (SORRY I’M NOT SORRY). (Okay, I’m a little sorry I said weenie). Having a world so naturally fraught with tensions – cutting edge technology with stone age social norms, Steam Punks versus New Victorians, zombie rights advocates versus hysterical humans – makes it perfectly primed to explode.

Whereas the first book, Dearly, Departed, was more about the burgeoning romance of Bram and Nora, this book shifts to the interplay of groups. While I found Departed more compulsively readable – mainly because Bram and Nora are so goddamn adorable – Dearly, Beloved is just as good, but in a different way. Watching the dynamics of the world shift with the different character point of view was very cool. Hats (or bonnets?) off to Lia Habel – writing in so many voices must be a pain in the bustle, but she manages to do so with the ease of a natural storyteller. The different subplots all come together in the end in a way that is surprising but still seamless.

Also – Vespertine! What a revelation she was. I assumed she would just be the same spoiled rich brat from the first book, but she had far more nuance and motivators than I had expected. This speak to Habel’s writing – she’s constantly surprising and challenging the reader even as she delivers action-packed romance.

CASSIE-LA’S THOUGHTS

Before I delve further into my review of this novel, I really must talk about the amazingness of my favorite character Vespertine Mink. Go Team Vespertine! I love this mean-spirited little lady. She reminds me of a high class Snape with a prettier face and better fashion sense. She’s also a complicated character struggling with her own identity who is full of sass and has perhaps the best surprise ship of all time by the end of the book. If you’re not already, you will be a Vespertine convert by the end of Dearly, Beloved.

This time around, Lia Habel gives us plenty of new characters to take in. There’s Havelock Moncure (love!) an editor/reporter for Pheme, an Aethernet gossip magazine and the zombie philanthropist group the Changed, formerly the Grave House Gang comprised of the not so mentally stable Martira, Claudia, Laura and Bug. Laura is given the most focus, probably because she’s a zombie girl who is literally bursting with flowers that she plants inside her body. That’s certainly one way to hide that rotting odor.

One of the elements I continue to love about this steampunk series is the combination of the old and the modern that’s weaved throughout the narrative. Heroine Nora fits well into the more modern aspects of the world, being a “New Victorian, sometime-schoolgirl of middling social rank” as Habel tells us. In the opening of the narrative she reads Deportment and You: A Text For Young Ladies of Refinement on her digidiary, travels about in her horseless carriage and uses a red lighted gas lamp parasol to indicate she is a zombie sympathizer. Of course, Nora does not want to read this novel about proper decorum because, “You know, Apocalypse.”

Despite the more serious plot and move away from fluff and romance and toward zombie rights and exploration of social classes, Dearly, Beloved is still full of plenty of humor. From terms like “necroslut”, “heteromortal crew” and “drop-dead-again” to Chicago being referred to in this new world as a fantastical place akin to Atlantis, Habel never misses a beat. She even has zombie Moms telling zombie children scary stories about the anti-zombie gang the Murder to keep them in check. Be good or the Murder will take you away!

While I didn’t love the novel as much as I did its predecessor (the romantic build up was more interesting to me), I did enjoy the subterfuge of Nora and Bram, all things Vespertine, and the inclusion of the secret anti-zombie gang. I cannot even imagine where the final book in the trilogy will take us.

WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-Team Verspertine!
-Zombie rights!
-Science!
-Bram and Nora are still zomfg cute

WHAT WE LIKED LEAST:
-Didn’t move as quickly as the first book
-Slutshaming assholes (but we don’t like them in any world)

Join us next month when we review our November Bibliomantic Book Club Book: Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor.

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