Friday, October 4, 2013

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Release date: July 24th, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
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.

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)

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.

The Spirit Hunters are a group of people who battle the zombies with their mystical powers and occult inventions. Eleanor teams up (well, she forces her way in, really--girl's resilient) with them to save her brother and defeat the undead scourge. But obviously BIGGER THINGS ARE AT PLAY and it all comes together in a big and satisfying finale.

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.



    Daniel is inspired by Dimitri? That's...that's interesting. Is it warm in here? It feels warm. What was I saying? Oh, right, I feel sort of silly for not seeing the Daniel/Eleanor - Dimitri/Anastasia thing before, but they totally have that vibe. My opinion of this book just rose even higher. Also, I need to watch that movie again.

  2. Hmm, see I'm not the biggest fan of zombies but this book seems okay because the zombies seem appropriately nefarious. :p I'm super curious about this one. I'm glad you liked Eleanor, and I agree with you on the cover. It's nice, but it doesn't seem to differentiate itself imo.

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  3. I DID NOT KNOW ELEANOR AND DANIEL WERE INSPIRED BY ANASTASIA AND DIMITRI. Ugh. Just when I thought I couldn't love this book anymore you throw this news at me.

  4. I had no idea this book was about zombies! After reading your review I'm going to go get this. I love reading super enthusiastic reviews about books!

  5. FINALLYYYYYY. I'm so so so glad you enjoyed this one. Also, thank you for the refresher because I read this book forever ago and I completely forgot what happened. BUT YES DANIEL LOVE.

  6. I loveee zombies and bought this awhile back! Totally looking forward to reading this around Halloween time! Plus Anastasia and Dimitri are my favorites!!!! *goes to listen to the soundtrack*

  7. YAY! So glad you loved this book :D I own hardcovers of both books, and I really hope to read them soon. <3 So glad you loved Eleanor so much. She sounds AWESOME :D And Daniel. Sigh. Cannot wait to meet them both :) Thank you for sharing your awesome and honest review. <3

  8. I downloaded this one when it was on sale awhile ago! Good to know that it's so wonderful and such! And who doesn't love a romance stemmed from Anastasia! The best movie ever!

  9. This review is hilarious! I never expected zombie time period books to begin popping up, but here one is! I will definitely be adding this to my 'to-read' list on Goodreads :)

  10. I so loved this book and our dear Eleanor!! She's just amazing!!

  11. The fat-washing on these covers is annoying. Not that she's fat, but she's definitely not a skinny girl by any stretch of the imagination. She probably has a figure that would have been fairly appealing during that era, frankly. Or at least during the Regency, she would have been popular. Not so sure about the Victorian age. Hmmm.

    OMG. THAT STAR. I CANNOT. I had thoughts, but they are gone. Also, yes, I would tap that.

    Historically, there were only white people. Lol. Riiiiiiiight. Particularly in America. Known for being historically white.

    They totally are Dimitri and Anastasia. No wonder I ship them so hard.


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