Dearly Departed by Lia Habel is a debut that has knocked me dead. Set in an interesting, steampunk world where inhabitants follow Victorian conventions but have modern day technology, characters Nora and Bram live in an age where people reanimate after death due to the Laz virus. Dearly Departed is a sprawling read with a fantastic cast of characters and a fast moving plot line.
Dearly Departed is a novel told from multiple first person perspectives. Each chapter follows a different point of view — from either the two main characters – Nora Dearly and Bram, who is one of the Dead or from one of the minor characters such as Nora’s best friend Pam Roe or Nora’s father Victor. I thought the switching of perspectives helped to keep the story fresh. Yet, there were certain perspectives I could not wait to return to — namely Pam, Nora and Bram’s.
Nora and Bram’s romance is compelling. It starts with a kidnapping and continues to develop with honesty and a slow build up of trust. There is not any sort of instant love between the two — but rather feelings that earned. The pay off is wonderful and certainly sends the swoon.
Dearly Departed’s plot explores themes of class and gender. The society of New London treats females as decoration. Women like Nora and Pamela long to be something more and each showcases talent in unladylike areas such as marksmanship and archery. With the zombie apocalypse, the two are able to rise beyond their gender expectations. Further, there are rigid class boundaries in Dearly Departed, much like in Victorian society. Plus, there are some of the Dead who are actually thinking beings and not frenzied to the point of eating humans -yet they must fight to be treated as people.
Dearly Departed is a meandering read, best suited to readers who are patient and interested in a zombie book that essentially goes beyond feeding frenzies and examines what it means to be alive, to be human. If this is your cuppa, I highly recommend Lia Habel’s debut story of star crossed lovers.
Disclosure: Received for review via Amazon Vine.
Other reviews of Dearly Departed by Lia Habel:
Paranormal Indulgence – “Subtly addictive, full of booming impact, and adventurous action”
Red House Books – “A zombie story unlike any other.”
The Grown Up YA – “Be warned: this book is probably not for everyone”