Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed

Dearly, Departed
By Lia Habel
Publication date: October 18, 2011

My review:

The novel takes place in the future (2195) in a time when war and devastation have led to the establishment of New Victoria, a civilization that combines modern technology and Victorian values. Not all members of this society are happy to be there. There are class distinctions and struggles. A group of dissidents called Punks have been waging war on the New Victorians. There is also a threat to both sides that is yet unknown to the majority of people-a strange infectious disease called The Laz that causes people to die and then reanimate as zombies. Nora Dearly, a New Victorian teen, has just returned home from her boarding school when she is kidnapped during a zombie attack. It is then that she crosses paths with the honorable Captain Abraham "Bram" Griswold, a young soldier who happens to be a "good" zombie along with the other members of his unit. With a possible epidemic on their hands and dangers from every side, Nora will have to put aside her anger and distrust to save those she loves.

Nora may come from a privileged class but she proves to be capable of handling difficult situations. At the same time she isn't strong to the point that she has no fears or doesn't need help sometimes. Nora is grieving the loss of her dad which left her an orphan. Then she uncovers some major secrets that turn her world upside down. It understandably takes some time for Nora to adjust to these changes but with the help of Bram and her other new friends both human and zombie, Nora is strong enough to deal with it.  

Bram is a fantastic character. His story is a sad one but he has a good sense of humor and a good heart. He is a great leader for the other members of Company Z. The romance between Bram and Nora develops slowly which is understandable but she quickly comes to trust him when she sees that he is honorable and kind. Though their romance may be doomed, Nora and Bram do not mope over it-they are too busy fighting the bad guys and rescuing friends. I also liked Pam, Nora's best friend and the one living person who seems to genuinely care about her. Pam at first is shy as someone from a lower class than Nora but she proves that she has courage and determination too. 

Describing Dearly, Departed as a story of star-crossed love or a zombie romance would not do   it justice. Lia Habel's debut features plenty of action, interesting characters, humor, and solid world building.  I thought the author did an excellent job in depicting life in New Victoria and the politics and history behind it as well as "The Laz". She also convincingly portrays the zombies in a way that makes them "human" and readers come to care about these characters just as much as the living ones. The story is told from multiple points of view which at first seemed odd but it does give the reader a better understanding of the major players. Overall I think this is one of the best YA debuts I've read this year and it is a unique take on zombie fiction. Dearly, Departed has been described as steampunk though technically I'm not sure it can be considered steampunk since it is set in the future. It does have that steampunk feel to it so steampunk readers might like it. I would suggest this to fans of The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, to those who enjoy the zombie fiction of Carrie Ryan, or to fans of YA paranormal romance in general. 

Readalikes: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, The Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (modern societies living by historic values)

Note: I read this ARC courtesy of the Amazon Vine program in exchange for my honest review


  1. I'm reading this now, and am really enjoying it so far! :) I really, really like Bram, he's such a different and interesting character. I can't wait to read more of the story!

  2. Hmm...not sure about this one. It sounds interesting but I'm not a zombie girl. I am curious though since you describe it as more than a zombie romance.

  3. I was really uncertain about the zombie aspect at first (didn't like Ryan's zombie novels) but I thought the plotting and characterization was so well-written that I really ended up liking it. Great review!

  4. This is the first review I've read for this book and I'm definitely intrigued! This sounds like the kind of book I would really like. I haven't read many steampunk novels, but I do love a good zombie story. :)

  5. Normally I am not really into zombie stories, but the way you explained it, definitely has me intrigued, especially because the setting sounds so unique! Great review, Christina!

  6. I skimmed your review just because I have it coming up soon but I did notice your comment, "one of the best YA debuts this year" so ... I'm excited!!


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