by Susan Dennard
Series: 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.
Something Strange and Deadly is the first novel in Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly series. The tale takes place in Philadelphia, PA in the year 1876. I loved this steampunk zombie novel, featuring the feisty, sleuth protagonist Eleanor Fitt. I easily finished this novel in two evenings and look forward to reading more.
We are immediately immersed in the tale as Eleanor waits at the train station for her beloved brother, Elijah to arrive. When he doesn’t arrive she heads to the telegram counter for news. The dead alarms begin to ring. This signals that zombies are in the station. Chaos breaks loose as people scramble to escape. Eleanor dives into the telegram booth and hides. When the window shatters and a zombie appears she just about faints. Instead of attacking her, it drops a telegram on her lap. Too frightened to read it she rushes home. Here she reads the message and discovers he won’t be returning. Eleanor begins to believe that the zombies have him. When she sees an article about Spirit Hunters, she sets off to get answers and hopefully some help. The tale that unfolds has moments of suspense, mystery, humor and a smidgeon of romance. The dead are rising from Laurel Hill Cemetery and a necromancer is controlling them. I became completely immersed in the tale as Eleanor tries to stop the dead and save her brother.
Eleanor Fitt is sixteen and lives with her overbearing mother and maid. Her brother Elijah has been away for over two years. The families finances are crumbling and her mother is constantly spending money trying to impress others. I liked Eleanor; she is witty, inquisitive and brave. Her need for answers causes her to be reckless and her free spirit creates tension with her mother. Daniel is an inventor and member of the Spirit Hunters. He is cute, stubborn and quick to temper. He is also protective when it comes to Eleanor. I enjoyed their witty banter and Eleanor’s attraction to him caused me to giggle. While there is a tiny bit of romance, their story is just beginning. Other characters added suspense and mystery.
The world-building while at times predictable kept me entertained. Dennard beautifully captures the era and some of its ridiculous society rules. She does this without overwhelming the reader in details and instead focuses on the characters and plot. The flow of this novel was wonderful. I would have liked more gadgetry but enjoyed the tools the Spirit Hunters used. The characters themselves and mystery kept me turning the pages. Discovering the necromancer and searching for clues was entertaining. The zombies are in the background of this tale, but when they do make appearances the scenes are delightful. While the tale felt complete, Dennard’s ending has hinted at what is to come. While I easily pieced together the clues regarding the necromancer it was fun to discover the reasons.
I recommend Something Strange and Deadly to fans of steampunk, zombies, and character-driven tales. I loved the mystery and suspense of this novel and the sweet budding romance. I look forward to A Darkness Strange and Lovely the second novel in this series due to publish in 2013.
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