Aug 25, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

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.

necromancy  \ne-krə-ˌman(t)-sē\ :

conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events

What I liked:

  • Zombies + the 19th century = what's not to like?
  • Eleanor Fitt
  • The slow growing feelings between Daniel and Eleanor
    • No insta-love!
  • Realistic, if slightly expected, ending
  • Lots, lots, lots of mystery
  • Ghosts
  • A glimpse into 1800s

What I didn't like so much:

  • Not enough zombie action
  • Writing style ~ occasionally

Something Strange and Deadly wasn't exactly what I expected. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but I kinda felt misled as the opening chapter immerses us into zombiness and then *POOF* ~ hardly a zombie in sight. In all fairness, the author doesn't use the word "zombie," she used the word "Dead," so I guess my high hopes are my own fault. These walking corpses aren't the result of a disease, and you can't get contaminated with a bite ~ is not typical "zombie" mojo. Instead, there's more hocus pocus involved including grimoires, sacrificial power, and necromancy. Pretty cool take, but, again, not what I expected.

Eleanor is an admirable heroine ~ stubborn, brave, determined, curious, and smart. She's a little down on herself, especially when it comes to her place in society. As any woman with her own mind in that time period, Eleanor was too loud and too unladylike for society's taste. As a result of her inability to "fit in," her relationship with her brother is very important, and when he refuses to show, she'll do whatever it takes to find him. She runs into more than she bargained for in her search and discovers herself and more people like her along the way.

Eleanor's relationship with Daniel felt pretty darn real. Like I said, no "insta-love." In fact, they didn't even seem to like each other at first, each assuming the worst of the other. It's not until they actually get to know each other (like normal people in the real world) that they begin to admire and feel something for each other. It's awesome because we didn't get the whole heart-throbbing shebang in one book ~ there's lots of room for their relationship to grow ~ if it does, that is ;).

The story line was pretty imaginative ~ I mean murder, mystery, action, romance, betrayal... enough said. I can't say that it felt slow, because everything happens pretty suddenly throughout every portion of this book, but I think it was the writing style that I felt held it back. Eleanor would always think about what she was going to do before she took action, and it felt redundant. She'd also repeat everything someone told her as a question or exclamation, and I kept wanting to shake her and ask, "You really didn't understand that the first time around???" It was as if the author didn't trust the readers to understand what was going on, so it had to be reiterated just to make sure. Towards the end this habit changed drastically, giving the reader a decent flow and the feeling of growing potential for the rest of the series.

The world building was great, I felt connected to the characters, and it was pretty sweet how Dennard incorporated not only grimoires and witchery (or sorcery, whatever), but zombies, ghosts, and the appropriately dubbed Spirit-Hunters. All kinds of paranormal with a little steampunk thrown in :).

I'd give this book 3 out of 5, if you're counting. I liked it, enjoyed reading it, but it didn't have that WOW factor that would merit a higher rating from me. I didn't get hooked until the very end, so maybe that's why I feel kinda "meh" about it. Okay, maybe "meh" is a little harsh so I'll say "not super excited." Good story though, with a fabulous ending that left me o so curious, so I'll definitely be reading the next. :)

Happy Reading Everyone :)

~ Keely ~


  1. What I disliked was the lack of Steampunk-ishness. The gadgets felt ordinary and the zombies was more than a nuisance than a threat. It also reminded me a bit of Clockwork Prince as far as the sibling dynamics is concerned. It was OK but I wish there was MORE.

  2. @Braine TSI agree ~ It was steampunkish, I guess, but nothing like Clockwork Prince .. MORE is exactly what it needed :)

  3. Yup, I definitely agree with you on the 'no insta-romance.' Sometimes I feel that in YA books especially, authors rush into romances too easily.

    I get where you're coming from with the lack of zombie action and the previous commenter's point about the lack of the steampunk factor, but I guess since I haven't read a lot of those kind of books, I didn't really know what to expect and what I read was good enough for me.

    The plot was really different and interesting, though!
    Nice insights and review! :D
    Thanks for commenting on my review and dropping by the blog!
    ~Tiffany@Read, Breathe, Read

  4. Hi Keely! I can see what you mean when you said that it wasn't what you expected. I haven't read the book but I have seen reviews here and there. I've read the description and was surprised when you mentioned that there wasn't that much zombie action. But still, and I agree with you, that the book is really likable (even though I haven't read it yet) - with all of these (murder, mystery, action, romance, betrayal) included. Sounds really interesting.

    I will check this one out and most probably add it to my crazy TBR pile.

    Ara of My Book and My Coffee

  5. @readbreatheread Well, definitely, if you don't usually read books like this, it's a nice, subtle way of incorporating zombies and steampunkishness :) Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for stoppin' by!

  6. @My Book and My Coffee It's absolutely a fun, fast read and shouldn't be passed up.. :) Glad you're adding it to your list! (Mine is crazy too..)


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