Title: Something Strange and Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly (#1)
Publication Date: 7-24-12
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Steampunk
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.
While I absolutely loved the setting, characters, and writing of this book, I couldn’t help but notice how similar it was to some other books I’ve read recently, which made me not love it as much as I wish I could’ve.
Something Strange and Deadly is a late 1800s-era steampunk novel about zombies. While I enjoyed some aspects of this book, I was disappointed by how similar it felt to some other novels I’ve read recently — namely, Born of Illusion and Clockwork Angel. This novel shares the same sort of strained relationship between Eleanor and her crazy mother as in Born of Illusion and is almost exactly the same (in almost every way) as Clockwork Angel.
I found Something Strange and Deadly to be better than Clockwork Angel, though. I just wish that I’d read this one first, because it was hard to appreciate its originality and brilliance when my mind was constantly comparing it to something else. But it really was original and brilliant. The writing was superb, and I loved the main character. I also really liked the setting of the novel — Philadelphia in 1876 — and the steampunk aspects. And the author did a good job with the romance in this novel, although again it was very similar to Born of Illusion.
The most disappointing part of the novel is that there is a HUGE twist at the end…but I had literally figured it out on page 79. I clearly remember the moment that I realized what the twist was going to be and telling myself that I should remember how early on I had figured it out, just in case I was right. And then immediately convincing myself that there was no way I could be right, because it so obviously just a red herring……..but it wasn’t.
I really, really like it when authors are so good at their jobs that they can leave tiny hints throughout the book and then still totally surprise you at the end with a major twist. The problem is that I tend to be pretty good at guessing what the end game is, so I’m used to being disappointed, and I try not to let it ruin my enjoyment/review of the book too much in the end. But, in this case, it was so obvious and cliché that I couldn’t even believe that that’s where the author went with it. Honestly, this book would’ve been a huge home run if it wasn’t for that one aspect that brought my rating of it down two half-stars.
But, again, I still did really like this book. I loved the atmosphere of Philadelphia during the 1800s, I thought that Eleanor’s relationship with her mother was really well-done and very realistic of that time period, and I liked the combination of necromancy, zombies, and steampunk. It was also a really quick and engaging read — I managed to finish it in only two sittings.
Ultimately, I would definitely recommend this book for anybody who hasn’t read the two books I mentioned it being similar to. Those of you who have should just be cautious going into it and not get your hopes up too high. Luckily, the other aspects of the novel were so good that I was able to (mostly) overlook the similarity and obvious twist parts of this book and ended up really enjoying it otherwise.