Something Strange and Deadly
by Susan Dennard
Original Publication Date: July 24, 2012
Length: 388 pages
Obtained Via: Gifted
Format Read In: Paperback
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The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…
Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—
The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.
And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.
Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
Something Strange and Deadly had been on my radar for awhile, so I was quite happy to receive it as a gift over the holidays. Zombies aren’t normally my thing, but the historical setting and the inclusion of the spirit-hunters made me more inclined to give this one a chance. For a “zombie” book, there’s scarcely any zombie action. If you, like me, don’t actually like zombies that much, that might be a good thing. If you’re a zombie aficionado, though, Something Strange and Deadly might not be the book for you.
I loved the historical setting and the spirit hunters. I liked that the spirit hunter aspect brought the book more to the supernatural, with the addition of a necromancer and spirits and such. It felt like a nice break to have a zombie outburst linked to an artificial, supernatural means rather than a straight zombie apocalypse. I’m a little confused on the designation of Something Strange and Deadly being classified as steampunk–there might be a few elements, but really, the setting is pretty standard Philadelphia 1876 with the addition of a Necromancer and some paranormal elements. The historical details were rich and detailed, but I found myself fuzzy on the finer points of the spirits involved and the Spirit-hunters. Certain things affect the spirits in certain ways, which is fair enough, but I wish there had been more development of this aspect in Something Strange and Deadly.
I did think on the whole Something Strange and Deadly was a fun read, plot-wise. Eleanor is searching for her missing brother, which doesn’t exactly sound fun, and the premise is serious, but somehow Dennard managed to weave these elements together in a way that conveyed the emotions but still kept the book seeming like a fast-paced adventure story. While I saw the plot twist at the end(and all the small twists, really) about a mile away, the way things wrapped up made sense for the book and was highly satisfying, despite the lacking of excitement at the big showdown.
Up until this point, most of what I’ve said about Something Strange and Deadly has been wholly positive. And I enjoyed this book just fine, but I would have enjoyed it much more if I had a better grasp of Eleanor’s character. Wishy-washy is a good term for her. Her actions and thoughts seemed to contradict each other so often–she wanted to do certain things, but just kept messing up in really illogical ways. It wasn’t until about 75% in to the book I decided she was a decent main character, which is saying something. I love when characters grow and develop over the course of the book, but Eleanor’s development in Something Strange and Deadly seemed. . . glacially slow. I just wanted more from her, this awesome main character I heard people talk about. Luckily, what Eleanor lacked in development, the side characters more than made up for it.
Something Strange and Deadly was mostly fun! I enjoyed it, but I’m not racing to the next book(though I do plan to read it, especially the setting–Paris!–appeals to me a lot more than this one did, and Eleanor’s grown a lot). I had some issues with the predictability of the big reveal and Eleanor’s character, but it was still a pleasant read. 3/5 cupcakes.