Something Strange and Deadly
by Susan Dennard
Published by HarperTeen
on July 24, 2012
Source: won the ARC in an Epic Reads contest.
My summary: It's 1876 in Philadelphia and Eleanor Fitt has a lot on her mind. Eleanor's father's death has plunged the Fitts into dire financial straits and Eleanor's mother is shoving her daughter onto the marriage market. Eleanor's brother, a scholar of rare artifacts, has gone missing. Oh, and one more little thing. Corpses are rising from their graves all over town. When a zombie shows up with a cryptic message from Eleanor's brother, she seeks the help of the Spirit Hunters, an unconventional trio hired to protect the city from the undead.
My take: Overall, I really enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly. My regular blog readers know that I'm not very fond of zombies. And while I love books set in the Victorian era and like the idea of steampunk, I must confess that extensive descriptions of gadgets and how they work can make my eyes glaze over.
But neither the zombie action nor the steampunk gadgetry overpower this story. In fact, I'd say that the first three-quarters of Something Strange and Deadly reads more like historical fiction: marriageable daughter, meddling mother, confining corsets, etc. In fact, in my reviewing notes, I wrote that I sort of wished this book could be a little more dark and suspenseful. Yes, you read that correctly: I, Jen, wished that this book had more zombie action. We'll get back to that later...
I loved the setting of the book, loved the idea of steampunk set in the United States rather than Victorian London, loved the way the 1876 Centennial Exposition was cleverly woven into the plot. Joseph and Jie, two of the Spirit Hunters, were really interesting characters, and I'd like to see more of them.
There's a rather half-hearted love triangle as Eleanor divides her attention between Clarence, the man her mother wants her to marry, and Daniel, one of the Spirit Hunters. But I liked the fact that Eleanor was more preoccupied with walking corpses than stolen kisses. Eleanor is determined to find out what happened to her brother Elijah. The answer was, for me, fairly predictable. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for figuring everything out. Then something completely unexpected happened.
The last quarter of Something Strange and Deadly became very dark in tone. All of a sudden, there was this whoa, did that really happen kind of stuff. I mean, I remember a scene like that in a David Fincher movie on cable, but I was not expecting it here. (I realize some of you are probably thinking, "Well, Jen, you got what you wished for." Yep. I did!)
I have to love an author who can surprise me like that, so I do think I'll read book two in this series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely. Will it be too dark for me? I'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, YA readers who love history, alternate history, American history, and unconventional characters should definitely try this book!