ARC Review: Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Hardcover: 496 Pages

Series: Gone With the Respiration #2

Publisher: Del Rey

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Can the living coexist with the living dead? 

That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.

Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.

Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and The Murder, a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the virus—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

Dearly, Departed  is one of those books with very mixed reviews. Some liked it, some really, truly didn’t, mainly because of the zombie kisses thing I mentioned before. I loved it! Naturally, starting this book, I had very high hopes and am sad to say Dearly, Beloved was kinda, sorta a let down.

When  everything seems to be going fine, and Dr. Dearly is sure he’s found the vaccine that will protected the humans against the Laz virus, a new problem arises: a new type of zombie, with a new strain of the Lazarus. The virus has mutated and news of this creates panic, renewed fear of the zombies, riots and so on.  Especially since the new undead is stronger, more dangerous and violent.

He’s dubbed Patient One, taken into custody and poked and prodded in hopes of an answer to this new mutation.

Unlike the first book, which had 5 POV’s, this novel adds one more. There’s Bram and Nora, Pam, Michael, Vespertine and a new character, zombie Laura. She’s a young girl who treats her body as a garden pot, digging into her flesh to make holes in which she plants different seeds. I actually thought this was more disturbing than Nora and Bram kissing, but a  nice descriptive touch nevertheless.

Again, I wasn’t bothered by the many different narratives, what did bother me were the characters Habel chose. While I couldn’t think of any other way in which she could’ve presented us with a full picture of what was happening, both Vespertine and Michael’s characters and voices annoyed me. Vespertine is a selfish, snotty, little bitch and I didn’t care for her “redeeming” acts none whatsoever and Michael, oh, Michael. He’s an asshole and a deranged one too, obsessed with Nora and all around too stupid to live.  Even Pam, who turned out to be such a badass and survivor in the first book, came across as a judgy, fussy and hysteric woman. I found myself skipping whole sentences, trying to jump her drama and get to something important.

This is something else I didn’t like about the POVs, this time around they didn’t work so well, because they disrupted the pacing of the book when there really wasn’t a consistent one to begin with. The story was so slow; it really got going, along with a semblance of a plot, well after the first half of the book. I understand world-building and setting the proper atmosphere is important, and I’m the first one to say Habel is brilliant at doing just that – Dearly, Departed‘s world-building is masterfully done – but she dragged it out for far too long.

In consequence, the book was dull, duller than what I expected anyway. It didn’t keep me engaged, didn’t hold my attention for too long at a time and it took me more than two weeks to finish it! The gripping action, that page-turner quality that the first installment had, was totally lost here.

The whole book read like a means to an end for a third novel, some information here and there that didn’t fit in the first one, some hints at what’s to come and an afterthought of a plot, because it had to have one. That saddens me, I was so sure I would like it.

Actually, scratch that. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure what questions were answered, unless it was with other questions. We learn a bit more about the Lazarus virus and I think I glimpsed a problem-solver in Patient One, and by that I mean he might be the answer to something very important – no spoilers. There are also some interesting hints of what’s to come in terms of how this virus appeared and who had anything to do with it.

What stayed great were the writing and the romance. Although I think this book could have been muuuch shorter, the writing was just as good, detailed and beautiful. There was some smart, funny dialogue, especially between Bram and Nora. Which brings me to my second favorite thing about Dearly, Beloved and that’s their relationship.

Nope, still don’t have problems with the zombie hot smooching action. They’re sweet, mature, endearing, loveable and just so damn cute so bring it on!

And that ending. Ohhhhhh, unexpected.

Sure, this was a bit of a disappointment as well as a difficult read, but I’m not giving up on the series, I still think Miss Habel is a talented author. I just hope the next one will be better. Way better.

*I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged.

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