Author: Susan Dennard
Published: July 24, 2012
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal, Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
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“I'd heard of corpses awakening - hungry and dangerous though still quite dead.”
― Susan Dennard, Something Strange and Deadly
It's 1876 and something strange and deadly is in Philadelphia.
Eleanor Fitt has a lot going on. Her brother Elijah is missing, her mother is pressuring her to marry quickly, and her family is suffering from lack of funds. She reads in the news that thousands of the dead are rising by the power of an unknown necromancer. Then, she receives a letter from her brother - delivered from a zombie! She fears that the Dead army has taken her brother. And it doesn't help that she keeps encountering a dark spirit they rose during a seance. She turns to the Spirit Hunters, a three man team who are the only ones standing between the city and an attack from the Dead. But her association with the Spirit Hunters risks her reputation and her life. (Goodreads)
Something Strange and Deadly jumped right into the action from the beginning, and the book was fast paced and entertaining. Dennard offered a different spin on zombies.She twisted the usual apocalyptic, infectious zombie storyline and had a necromancer pulling the strings. I think the zombies provided an exciting contrast to the lace parasols and the need to fit into high society. Having Eleanor playing croquet one moment and battling zombies with a parasol the next was a wild idea, and I loved it. The mystery unfolded wonderfully and I found my eyes riveted to the pages as Eleanor and the Spirit Hunters had to research and uncover new secrets. The steampunk elements were a exciting addition to this historical fiction! The machinery and the Centennial Exhibition, with its numerous displays, gave a magical feel to the story.
Something Strange and Deadly had a light touch of romance that I hope will continue in the rest of the series. While the romance wasn't a substantial part, it slowly developed and was convincing. The Spirit Hunters were also wonderfully developed. I loved each one of them, especially Daniel. His quick temper and cussing amused me. But he could also be compassionate and dedicated to his inventions. Eleanor was a strong heroine for the most part, and I loved the scenes where she beat up zombies. She was very outspoken, and I grew to respect and admire her. Her mother was abrasive and meddling. She had few redeeming qualities, and I didn't blame Eleanor for wanting to escape her mother's scrutiny. The maid Mary was also annoying with her nosy ways and need for bribery in order to keep a secret. But I felt each character offered something to the story, even if they were despicable. I even came to pity Clarence. But only a little.
I do have some small complaints about Something Strange and Deadly. Maybe they're just my pet peeves. First off, I have never heard of people galloping. Technically, it could mean run fast, like a horse. But I just imagined Eleanor and Daniel running on all fours, neighing. And they galloped a lot. Secondly, as an English major, I cannot stand the word "ain't," and Daniel was saying "ain't" every other word. It ain't working for me. When the characters said "what in the dickens" or "humbug" or "shut pan," I had to resist rolling my eyes. I know it's a different time period, but I couldn't imagine these characters saying this. It didn't feel natural to me. Then, the book title was worked in a couple of times. And I wanted Daniel to stop addressing Eleanor as "Empress." I also found Jei's constant "yeah" at the end of a question to be obnoxious.
Besides these issues, also found the protagonist of Something Strange and Deadly a tadbit melodramatic. Eleanor had her strong moments, and there were times when she was a formidable opponet. She fought zombies and risked her life several times trying to help. That is when she wasn't fainting or clinging to a man's arm. There were several times when Eleanor latched onto Daniel's arm, near to hysterics because of a revelation, and Daniel had to pry her fingers off of his arm. She seemed a little clingy and desperate for attention, as she grabbed anybody who was near. She could barely stand by herself. Once again, different time period, but I found her dramatics exhausting. Also, while the beginning started off at a fast pace and lured the reader in, I felt there was a lot that needed to be explained. Mainly, why are zombies so commonplace? Why are seances held regularly in drawing rooms without question? I needed more of a historical background, and I can only hope I'll have all these questions answered in the next book. And while I enjoyed the plot, I found it to be somewhat predictable. At least, I guessed most of the plot less than halfway through.
Maybe I was the only one bothered by the above concerns. I can be picky at times. But I would still recommend Something Strange and Deadly to any young adult paranormal or historical fiction fans. It was a refreshing read and very entertaining.