Sometimes, I just have to step out of my comfort zone and give something a try. Zombies are waaaaay out of my comfort zone, but I was intrigued by all the elements in this story other than zombies- namely the dystopian backdrop, the intrigue and yes, gentle readers, the romance- so I thought that I would really like to give this one a try. It has taken me some time to get around to moving this story from my wish list, but finally I gave it my due attention. Did this zombie dystopian romance squick me out? No, I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience and soundly recommend it for those like me who don’t have a high tolerance for horror.
The story begins just as Nora Dearly is headed home for break from her stylish ladies’ academy and the time coincides with being one year from the date of her father’s death. Nora has gone through the motions for so long with only her best friend, Pamela, for comfort.
Unfortunately, she is not given much time to enjoy her holiday because that is the moment when all sorts of things start to happen. Her father’s sister informs her that she’s of age to start courting and looking for an eligible match. She gets accosted on the street by a really strange stranger. Finally, her home is invaded by horrible monsters who seek to abduct her only to be rescued by another group of monsters who insist they’re the good guys.
This is the beginning and Nora learns that nothing in her world is what it seems as so many secrets are made known. The constant in her life becomes Bram Griswold who is one of the undead though certainly not the monster she pronounced him in the beginning. Unfortunately for Bram and Nora, there are secrets and intrigue going on around them that they are not privy too and it will change the world as they know it.
This is a YA and it has a YA feel to it, but thankfully many typical YA tropes that irritate me were not present in this one. We skiddered close to them a few times. I got concerned when Nora’s personality showed her to be feisty and sassy. Oh please don’t let her be one of those stupid stubborn types that in the ‘invincibility of youth’ thinks she can do anything and another big one concerned me with all the ‘anger’ because that can lead to the ‘world revolves around me and how could you hurt me?’ stuff. Fortunately, like I say, it just came close and didn’t quite cross the line.
The worldbuilding in this story was phenomenal. I loved the two post-apocalyptic cultures that were present with Nora being from one and Bram from the other. There was a steampunk feel to it all. I enjoyed that there was an explanation for how the world they lived in came into being and, I know this will sound odd, I loved the description about how the Lazarus disease worked and the new emerging zombie culture. I hate reading dystopian that keeps it vague about the backdrop of the story because not knowing the details is just as distracting as getting too many. Trust me, there were no huge info dumps. I didn’t expect to enjoy reading about zombies, but Bram and his friends at the base were such great personalities that like Nora, I was impressed with their noble courage.
The plot and pacing were good considering a lot had to be introduced in this story to get the reader up to speed. The story alternated between many different perspectives which was a two-edged sword for me. While I loved knowing what was going on with all the different people and in some cases it was necessary so that I’d have a right understanding of the plot, I also felt like I had to reconnect with the story after several of the hops. The intrigue part of the plot was like peeling back layers of an onion. Just when you think you have it figured out, nope, there’s another twist. Though, I do have to congratulate myself on working out one big part of the intrigue long before the answer came. The horror factor of having a story with zombies- good and bad ones- was not that intense and didn’t get to me any worse than if I was reading a thriller or suspense.
What about the relationship between a zombie and a human? Let’s just say Bram is more ‘human’ than many of the humans. Every time he’s in a scene, he just grows more and more appealing and endearing. The guy is one of the biggest self-sacrificing hero types ever. And Nora, not being slow, recognizes this pretty quickly even after she’s reeling from everything she learns. Accepting Bram and his friends says a lot about Nora’s character too. She’s always been one to stand firm for what she knows is right and to see through the shallow trappings of her society. Nora really shines under adversity.
Speaking of shining, that would be true of many other characters in the story too. Bram’s unit of zombie pals along with Nora’s friend Pamela are definitely the kind of friends to ride the river with. Pamela was the girl stuck between two worlds with her lower class roots and her upper class education, but she shows her mettle when things go pear-shaped. That girl is one awesome guerrilla fighter.
The story ends on an ominous ‘happy for now’ note though the original sources of conflict are dealt with nicely. I am definitely looking forward to the next segment in the story.
This is YA and might be a little intense for younger teens because of the violence, but it is devoid of bad language or sex.
I recommend this story to those who enjoy dystopian, futuristic steampunk, and zombies blended with their romance.