What do you get when you mix zombies, steampunk and a dystopian Victorian future? You get Lia Habel’s new novel Dearly, Departed of course! Other book reviewers and I were chatting last month about a new trend we’re seeing in zombie novels. At the same time, I kept seeing comments about Dearly, Departed that looked very interesting, so I was delighted when I snagged an advance reader’s copy from the publisher. I had no idea our conversations would be relevant to Dearly, Departed. You are in for a real treat with this YA novel, which will BTW thoroughly entertain anyone of any age!
Following her father’s death, 17-year-old Nora Dearly lives with her aunt in New London, New Victoria (the 3rd Victorian era) in 2195. The loss of her father a year ago still eats at Nora because she can’t bear the thought that he’s gone. It doesn’t help that she and her aunt barely tolerate each other.
Although this era is high tech all the way, its culture, fashion and etiquette are based on Victorian England circa the late 19th century. Nora lives in high society but is very down to earth. She attends a private high school, St. Cyprian’s, along with her best friend, Pamela Roe. Pam is a scholarship student since the Roe family, who are bakers, could never afford her tuition. Nora and Pam would walk through fire for each other and Nora stands up for Pam against some of the snobbier students at their boarding school.
“She [Pam] bit her inner cheek. ‘You shouldn’t hold onto your emotions, is all I’m saying. It isn’t healthy. I know that your period of mourning is over and that no one will make exceptions for you any longer. But just don’t let that make you go…cold.’ This from the girl who’d served as my human hankie countless times since my father’s death? Ha. I decided to let it slide,…”
One night as she’s walking home, Nora encounters a mysterious man in a hooded cape who tells her that not only is she in imminent danger but she must come with him to be safe. Well, Nora’s thoroughly creeped out. She knows she lives in Elysian Fields, an extremely well-guarded, safe area of New London. She manages to get away from him but his message plants seeds in her mind that she can’t get rid of.
“’Miss Dearly, please understand! You’re in danger! I’m here to help you…your father would want me to help you!’ This was such a ridiculous statement that I unthinkingly ceased my efforts to free myself, if only for a second. ‘My father is dead! Unless you’ve come from the hereafter, I’m pretty sure you’ve no idea what he wants!’ The man also stopped struggling, and with what sounded like grim amusement said, ‘Well, about that – ‘”
Although Nora doesn’t know it yet, that 18-year-old man or rather that good zombie is Captain Bram Griswold, who has been sent to New London to save her from the bad zombies, known as the Greys, who are the kind of zombies we’ve come to expect. Nora is the daughter of Dr. Victor Dearly, who all of the good zombies look up to as their savior because he invented a way for them to stay sane and remain fairly well preserved for their undead lifespan. For that reason alone, the good zombies would work diligently to save her but there’s another reason I can’t tell you without giving away a huge spoiler.
Of course, I’ve already given it away but the Greys do attack her home one evening shortly thereafter while Nora is watching holos of battles with Punk forces. Nora grabs weapons and climbs onto the roof in an attempt to escape and/or kill as many of the disgusting creatures as possible.
“I leapt to my feet and leveled the gun at him, leaning into the slant of the roof. The mob beneath us swelled with more corpses, a writhing mass of crawling things reaching for me, howling for me, almost at the hem of my nightgown again. The one who had tasted my blood was particularly manic, panting like a rabid dog.”
She’s rescued, hooded and kidnapped by Bram’s team only to later discover her rescuers are another pack of zombies – not as disgusting looking but zombies nonetheless. At first she is completely freaked out but slowly Bram wins her trust. And that’s when the novel gets extremely interesting and the real fast-paced adventure begins.
Lia Habel has done an amazing job. The other reviewers and I decided we would not be interested in (read: we’d be totally creeped out by) a zombie as a love interest in a novel. Well, now I have to go back and eat some zombie crow because I fell for Bram lock, stock & barrel. I found his developing relationship with Nora to be completely believable, shockingly enough. Zombies just might be the new vampire – who knew?!? Yes, that’s a spoiler but in the larger scope of this novel, not a major one.
Once the adventure begins, Dearly, Departed is a rollicking fun-filled adventure for readers that could compare to Pirates of the Caribbean. I’d love to have the members of the good zombie crew in my corner any day. I loved Chas and her closet full of attire for any occasion. Renfield is the ultimate high-class geek with a sweet albeit dead heart.
Dearly, Departed is my new favorite fantasy novel, seriously! I didn’t even notice that it was a YA novel. I was just hoping for a good book and I feel like I got an outstanding one instead. It’s got heart and soul, it’s got enough can’t-put-it-down adventure for anybody, it’s got characters you’ll root for, it’s got zombies, it’s got steampunk, it’s in a dystopian/post-apocalyptic world – what more could anyone want? And to make it even better, it’s the first book in a new series! WooHoo!
Dearly, Departed was released on October 18, 2011, so it’s available from your favorite bookseller below.
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