Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Book Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly Book #1
Published: July 24th, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
388 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Young adult historic fiction/horror/steampunk/paranormal
Acquired this book: From the library
Warning: May contain spoilers
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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 was an exciting thrill ride with a bit of something for everyone. I haven’t jumped on the zombie-craze bandwagon yet, but from the moment I heard about this book - and saw its unbelievably beautiful cover - I was intrigued and knew I had to read it.

I loved Eleanor. She was a misfit in her own life - she was unlike the other girls her age, she was stifled under her mother’s harsh and watchful eye, and she didn’t care about fashion and appearances and all the other things girls of her station were supposed to care about. She was innocent and protected in a lot of ways, but she was also spirited and more forward-thinking than a lot of the people around her. It made for a really interesting balance within her character, and I enjoyed watching her develop and learn.

The secondary characters added life and intrigue to the story. Eleanor’s mother, while I do believe she loved her daughter in her own strange way, was selfish and obsessed with appearances, and she used Eleanor in ways that made my blood boil. Then there was Clarence, the brother of one of Eleanor’s ‘friends’ and the young man Mrs. Fitt hoped Eleanor would marry because he came from a good family and could be their salvation from financial ruin. I have to admit, there was something about Clarence that drew me in - he was mysterious and sometimes irritating, and the tense interactions between him and Eleanor were often amusing. My favourite characters other than Eleanor were the trio of Spirit-Hunters (a group tracking a powerful necromancer who was controlling the Dead) - Daniel, Joseph, and Jie. They were each special in their own way, and they each had scenes with Eleanor that made me love them. They added such diversity to the story with their own talents and distinct personalities, and I especially enjoyed the interactions between Eleanor and Daniel. They hated each other at first, but it slowly developed into something more - grudging respect and admiration, a desire to protect each other, and maybe a little something more.

Something Strange and Deadly was thrilling, gruesome, and exciting. The plot itself was tightly woven with moments of humour and romance, but always an underlying sense of tension and danger. I was both terrified and fascinated at the notion of Dead, along with the malevolent spirit and the necromancer. The writing was absolutely beautiful, and Eleanor’s voice, along with the setting, felt very authentic. When I read an historic novel, I like to be transported to that time and place, and that was definitely the case with this book. The dialogue, Eleanor’s inner commentary, and the descriptions of everything felt bang on, and I have to give Ms Dennard major kudos for that.

Overall, Something Strange and Deadly was a beautifully written story with diverse characters, a plot that thrills and chills, a mystery that will keep you guessing, a hint of romance and humour, and enough action to make your heart race. With a bittersweet ending that left me heartbroken because of innocence lost and painful lessons learned, this must-read book has me yearning for its sequel to find out what will happen to Eleanor next. 

Have you read Something Strange and Deadly? What did you think?
How do you feel about zombie books? What about books with an historic setting? I'd love to hear what you think!


  1. Ahh I haven't read this one yet, so I haven't fully read your review..but I hear great things about this one. Did you see the new cover for the sequel? IT"S SO PRETTY!
    Giselle @ Book Nerd Canada

  2. I haven't read this one either, but I enjoyed your review. I will be reading this book soon. I love historical novels and just finished a wonderful book called, "Up From Corinth: Book 2 of Journey Into Darkness" by author J. Arthur Moore.
    Duane Kinkade enters the Civil War at Shiloh in search of his father, but finds the mind-numbing chaos of battle, fear, the loss of a friend, and his own wounding; leading to an unexpected new and deep friendship in the other army as he is cared for after the battle.

  3. So glad you liked this Marie. I loved Eleanor too and have you seen the cover for book two *faints*


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