Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Release date: July 24th, 2012
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Source: Finished copy from BEA
Rating: A heroine to root for; an interesting, if easy to solve, mystery; awesome setting; awesome love interest; awesome zombies. BUT NEEDS MORE ZOMBIES.
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.
The cover: The hardcover I got at BEA is shiny and gorgeous. There are gears behind the girl, and creepy twisted branches, and I love her stark pose and exaggerated silhouette. BUT. Eleanor is not wee and bony. I no likey the fact that these covers slenderize their awesome and curvy heroine.
The story: AHHHH, I enjoyed this book so much. I could not put it down, and while I have some nits to pick (SHOCKING), and I can safely assure you that Something Strange and Deadly is an awesome read. Plus, zombies. Historical zombies. Just in time for Halloween.
Eleanor Fitt is a sixteen-year-old girl living in genteel poverty with her mother in Philadelphia in the 1870's. The Dead have risen and are terrorizing the city. Dennard's twists on zombies is that these corpses have been reanimated by an evil Necromancer, and he uses them to accomplish his nefarious deeds--like deliver a letter to Eleanor (via Zombie Express--CREEPY!) from her long-absent brother implying he's being held captive by the Necromancer. Meanwhile, her mother, who is a bit unstable with grief after losing her husband and consequently all her money, is determined to see everything as hunky-dory and even more determined to get Eleanor married off to a wealthy man.
I think the reason I loved this book so much was Eleanor. Girl! I think you are me! You are curvy and you like buttered toast and you're very curious and sometimes have exceedingly poor judgment, but you are still a smart cookie, and you have a way with a parasol (you'll see). Eleanor is funny and dry and is just trying to keep her head above water, socially. The Fitts are in real dire straights, her mother is clueless and keeps spending, and Eleanor misses her brother terribly. Clearly the last thing she needs is a zombie infestation.
Which is when we get to meet the Spirit Hunters and my future husband. DANIEL SHERIDAN. Daniel Sheridan. Daniel Sheridan. Flawed, cantankerous, handsome rogue, you.
My main nits would be to include MOAR ZOMBIES, because zombies are cool, and that the central mystery was pretty easy to see coming. This didn't lessen my enjoyment of it, though. I just kind of predicted the final outcome after reading the first chapter. But I am the one true book clairvoyant, after all. Extra bonus points for an utterly frightening seance and extra EXTRA points for diversity. It could have been so easy to say, "Oh, it's historical, and there were ONLY WHITE PEOPLE HISTORICALLY YES?" But obviously, that is false, and Dennard includes a vast array of interesting, relatable, diverse characters.
Okay, let's talk important stuff. Daniel. Daniel. No insta-love here, folks. They banter with the best of them. I once watched an interview with Dennard where she said that Daniel/Eleanor were partially inspired by Dmitri/Anastasia, which YES. OMG YES.
I mean, Paris holds the key to their heart. And the next book is set in Paris. So make sure you pick Something Strange and Deadly up this Halloween, and then the sequel, because it's even better.