For What It's Worth

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: Dearly Departed by Lia Habel

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. (YA)

If your looking for a truly unique take on the zombie genre, love the Victorian era and steampunk then this is probably the book for you. Fans of Gail Carriger's Souless series will find its YA equivalent with Dearly Departed.

Dearly Departed is a combination of so many things that it's hard to describe. The blending of future technologies, history, politics, and Victorian mannerisms was just unlike anything I've read before. There is even a touch of dystopian. Add in a zombie plague called the Lazarus virus and you're in for one hell of a ride.

Mourning the loss of her father, Dr. Victor Dearly, Nora Dearly finds herself pulled into a world completely unknown to her after she is kidnapped by a group of soldiers who hope to use Nora to find a cure for the Lazarus virus due to the unique qualities of her blood. Her father had been working on a cure before his death.

Nora forms a bond with one of her "captors", Bram, and with his help will uncover painful secrets, fight for survival and find love…with a zombie.

Yes, Bram is a zombie. I absolutely LOVED Habel's take on zombies. Habel gave the Lazarus virus a scientific explanation that really set this story apart for me. Some of the infected can retain part of their humanity with treatments and maintenance from scientists who had worked with Dr. Dearly. It won't last forever, they will still slip away over time, but they are living in the moment now. Bram and his ragtag team of zombies are so well written. They are brave, sensitive and kind. It was so interesting to read how they are viewed by society as dead and cold with no emotions or feelings vs the reality. Don't worry, there are still creepy brain eating zombies too!

Nora and Bram's relationship did kind of disturb me at times….he's dead after all. And not swoony- YA book dead. He's healthier looking than most but he's still dead…pale, cold skin, and cold eyes. Some of Bram's friends having skin falling off, metal jaws and missing eyes as they decompose over time. I loved Bram though and he and Nora's relationship is just too sweet. He admires her intelligence and goes into battle with her by his side. Other than the itsy- bitsy problem of him being dead, he's pretty much perfect.

Dearly Departed has a touch of whimsy combined with a dose of horror and plenty of twist and turns.

Despite my love for the world Lia Habel created and for all of the characters, the shifting narrative kept pulling me out of the story time and time again. There were five different POV's that I counted. (Nora, Bram, Victor, Pamela, Wolfe) Although this is primarily Bram and Nora's book. I will say that every single one added to the overall story, these were not filler chapters. Each character has something that helps propel the story forward but some chapters flowed more seamlessly together than others.

The problem I had was that each one was so good and ended in something of a cliffhanger, so I felt continuously pulled in and out of what seemed like mini stories. By the time I finally got back to say…. Nora's perspective, I was now caught up in her best friend Pamela's dilemma. This might not bother most readers but I found myself frustrated.

My only other minor complaint would be the ending. A few things wrapped up a little too easily along with a tacked on epilogue that seemed to set up the next book in the series. The last chapter felt like an end to me so I was surprised to see the epilogue and I'm not sure how much it really added.

Rating: 3 out of 4 - I loved everything about how the story and world were written. It would have been a solid 4 except for the the shifting POV's. They almost did me in several times. If that sort of thing doesn't bother you I would definitely recommend Dearly Departed.

My friend Tori (The Book Faery) wrote a 5 star review for Dearly Departed over on Goodreads. Check it out if you're still undecided.

Find the author: Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads
Buy the book! Pre-order - Release date is Ocotber 18th
Publisher: Del Rey - October 18, 2011
Source: ARC provided by Amazon Vine for my honest review


  1. I might be in the wrong but yeah Zombie love creeps me out which is why I haven't added this to my TBR despite the gorgeous cover that keeps calling my name. I remember reading Twilight and being creeped out every time Edward was around because he was always described as statue white and cold...ick so I probably wouldn't enjoy this even if Bram is good guy :P.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. I'm so looking forward to this one. I'm happy you enjoyed it and the lore sounds fantastic. Great review!

    Xpresso Reads

  3. I'm so looking forward to this one, read warm bodies by isaac marrion loved it, maybe this to

  4. Oh, whoa. I know the multiple POVs are going to drive me nuts, but after reading your assessment of all the cool elements in this story, I'm actually very excited to give it a try. The whole "he's actually dead" premise is difficult to get past, but I can see that the author makes it mostly work.

  5. Shifting pov's may bother me too, and the romance with a zombie...I just can't picture it. However, everything else about this sounds good.

  6. *grins* Looks like you found some Steampunkery fun!

    I've yet to get my hands on this book but the parasol is just so lovely!

    Mad Scientist @ Steampunkery & Book Reviews

    Forbidden Steam  Adult- even the Mad Scientist gets naughty!

  7. this sounds really awesome! but i know what you mean about the cliffhanger.

  8. I have to write my review today. I did like it, but something was, I do not know what really

  9. I want to read this book so badly! I love shifting POV'S!

    thanks for the review!

    Krazyyme @ Young Readers

  10. It sounds so good ! I love the synopsis and your review makes me want to read it ! I'm glad it was different from others books. Awesome review

  11. This book sounds fantastic! Zombies, and a high tech society based on the Victorian era? You've caught my attention. I usually like the multiple pov's so this book sounds perfect for me. Awesome review!

  12. Victorian Era reinvented in the future! I can't wait to read this. Thanks for your great review.

  13. I think this sounds good, though I am as freaked out as you seem to be about the whole zombie/human romancing. Hints of necrophilia in the mildest sense, moreso than vampires. However, it does sound interesting and I think I'll have to check it.

    And multiple stories: the bane of reading sometimes. With Eldest, there were three stories and every time I read it now, I read Eragon's Story, then Nasuada's then Roran's because I detest being pulled away from the story I've allowed myself to invest in.

  14. I'm not really into zombies but this book does sound kinda interesting. I like the 'New Victoria' aspect of it. I think that puts an interesting twist on the average zombie story. Thanks for your review. I might have to check this out.

  15. The more reviews I read for this book the more convinced I am that this sounds like the perfect book for me. I haven't read the Soulless series yet but I really want to as well. Thanks for the review! I'm definitely making sure that this is on my wishlist.

  16. Victorians and zombies? You've got my attention. Especially since I enjoyed Gail Carriger's Soulless. I'll have to give this one a shot!

  17. Victorian, steampunk, zombies? That sounds wonderful. Adding this one too.