Sep 22 2012 11:00am

First Look: Lia Habel’s Dearly, Beloved (September 25, 2012)

Dearly, Beloved by Lia HabelLia Habel
Dearly, Beloved
Del Rey / September 25, 2012 / $11.55 print, $10.99 digital

Can the living coexist with the living dead?
That’s the question that has New Victorian society fiercely divided ever since the mysterious plague known as “The Laz” hit the city of New London and turned thousands into walking corpses. But while some of these zombies are mindless monsters, hungry for human flesh, others can still think, speak, reason, and control their ravenous new appetites.
Just ask Nora Dearly, the young lady of means who was nearly kidnapped by a band of sinister zombies but valiantly rescued by a dashing young man . . . of the dead variety.
Nora and her savior, the young zombie soldier Bram Griswold, fell hopelessly in love. But others feel only fear and loathing for the reanimated dead. Now, as tensions grow between pro- and anti-zombie factions, battle lines are being drawn in the streets. And though Bram is no longer in the New Victorian army, he and his ex-commando zombie comrades are determined to help keep the peace. That means taking a dangerous stand between The Changed, a radical group of sentient zombies fighting for survival, and a masked squad of urban guerrillas hellbent on destroying the living dead. But zombies aren’t the only ones in danger: Their living allies are also in The Murder’s crosshairs, and for one vengeful zealot, Nora Dearly is the number one target.

As paranoia, prejudice, and terrorist attacks threaten to plunge the city into full-scale war, Nora’s scientist father and his team continue their desperate race to unlock the secrets of “The Laz” and find a cure. But their efforts may be doomed when a mysterious zombie appears bearing an entirely new strain of the illness—and the nation of New Victoria braces for a new wave of the apocalypse.

In her debut book, Dearly, Departed, Lia Habel posed the question: Can the living learn to co-exist with the dead? Dearly, Departed's setting is that of a world surviving after a second ice age forces people to locate closer to the equator, a world which has reinvented their society in the image of the old Victorian era, and which mixes old world values with modern technologies. More importantly,the world now has the Lazarus virus, which raises the dead. A single bite from the infected zombie will kill, but not permanently.

As the next chapter in this saga begins, can those on both sides return to their lives when the dust starts to settle? In the zombie-filled City of New Victoria, you would think that the life would be wonderful, now that the fighting is over and the living are trying find a way to exist side-by-side with the dead. Although Dr. Dearly has agreed to allow Capt. Abraham Griswold, our zombie hero, to court his daughter, Nora is now finding it quite hard to return to the life of strict rules affecting young women in society—rules as tight as her corset—after this period of war which granted her more freedoms.

For hours I remained in a state of infuriating helplessness, practically a prisoner in my own home. I knew the others weren’t trying to be cruel, that they only meant to protect me. But in moments like this, I understood what Bram and I were up against. The riot two weeks ago had been the turning point for me, when I finally got that the real enemies we were going to have to face weren’t Wolfe and Averne, but Time and Fear. How little time I would have with him, and how fear could cut that even shorter. More than just being with him—I wanted to stand beside him on the front lines. I’d gotten a taste of freedom last winter, and it almost physically hurt to have to return to my old life of manners and rules.

While Nora fights for her freedom from her father, Bram is still trying to help keep peace between the living and the dead. Now that Company Z has been disbanded and the army has set aside the zombie soldiers, Bram is now fighting himself. His loyalties are divided as things start to heat up again after a new strain of the Lazarus is discovered. He wants to protect the living from further infection, but as the living once again pick up arms against the zombie threat, Bram can’t sit back and allow innocent zombies to suffer for the actions of just one. So how can he protect the zombies without hurting the living?

Shaking my head, I said, “There’s nothing wrong with being the voice of reason, Bram. You’re always there when we need you.”

“I just get so confused sometimes. About what to do, who to side with.” He kissed my forehead. “You’re the only thing I’m never confused about.”

And not everyone has walked away from the skirmish unscathed. As opposed to Nora’s new found desire for freedom, Nora's best friend Pamela Roe is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and is having her own hard time acclimating to this new post-Laz life. She has a hard time understanding Nora’s relationship with Bram, but she is having an even harder time trying to move on with her own life.

Suddenly I rocketed awake, gasping for air. My heart was racing, aching, my senses overwhelmingly sharp—the weight of my clammy nightgown like a thousand pinpricks, the air so heavy I felt like an artifact buried in clay.

“I’m safe,” I chanted. It came out like a puppy’s midnight cry for its mother. “I’m safe. I’m home. I’m safe.” I tried to ignore the sound of my own heart, the sting in my chest, the tingling numbness running up and down my left arm. I knew it would go away eventually. I had to keep telling myself that.

There is no question that the young people of New Victoria are no longer content to sit around and drink afternoon tea, but as tensions again start to rise between the living and the dead, they are running out of time to decide for themselves: Who are the real monsters?


Lucy Dosch writes book reviews for her blog Her e-reader has turned her love of reading into an obsession. When she is not reading, she likes to spend time with her husband and two daughters.

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1 comment
rachel sternberg
1. rae70
Sounds like an interesting take on the Zombie genre.. I will definately look this one up!
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