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 is 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 whole 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.
This is the first novella that I’ve read that was part of a series, and is also actually the first novella that I’ve ever read for pleasure. I’ve never been a big fan of them in general, having read a few for school, but I’m not really sure why. But now that this novella-in-between-books-in-a-series thing is starting to become really popular, I thought that I should probably try one out again.
I really liked the idea of being able to go back and get this prolonged flashback into Daniel’s past and see more of who he is as a character and where he’s come from. I do want to point out, though, that you must wait until after you’ve read Something Strange and Deadly, the first book in the series, to read this novella, even though it’s technically listed as “Something Strange and Deadly #0.5.” There are a few (moderate) spoilers in this novella for things that happen in the first book, even though it does take place before it, because the novella starts and ends during the final scene of Something Strange and Deadly.
But I had a lot of fun reading this story about Daniel’s life before he met Eleanor, and absolutely loved that it was set on a steamship. It was the perfect atmosphere for late 1800s-era steampunk, and really made the story come alive. It was almost like the ship was a character itself, as it contributed to the story quite a lot.
Unlike the first novel in this series, I wasn’t able to figure out who the “bad guy” was until the twist was revealed…so that was a big relief. I loved the suspenseful tone of this novella, and enjoyed getting to learn more about the zombie-ghosts. We get to find out more about how they work and what they are, which was exciting, because they aren’t really explained in-depth in Something Strange and Deadly. And I always like my fantasy/science fiction-ish literature to make a lot of sense, so I really liked that aspect of A Dawn Most Wicked.
I didn’t think that I was going to enjoy reading about Daniel’s prior love affair, as I really liked the romance between him and Eleanor in Something Strange and Deadly and was worried that reading about him and somebody else was going to ruin it for me. But his relationship with Cass was a lot different than his relationship with Eleanor, and they were both had different personalities…although they are both strong female individuals, which just goes to show that Daniel kind of has a “type.” And I liked that, because I really enjoy reading about girls who are independent and smart, but also feminine in their own way.
The ending of Daniel and Cass’ love story was quite heartbreaking, and I was really sad that it ended the way that it did. At the end, Daniel explains how his feelings for Cass are different from those for Eleanor, but I honestly didn’t totally get what he was saying. For some reason, I was able to feel a much deeper connection to the love story between him and Cass than the one between him and Eleanor, so in that sense, it did kind of ruin for my slightly. But I’m hoping that my opinion will change as the rest of the series continues.
Ultimately, I would strongly recommend that you read this novella if you’ve read Something Strange and Deadly, and I’m really excited to start reading more novellas from some of my other favorite series as well!
This book was a good follow-up to Something Strange and Deadly, but I have to admit that this series isn’t my favorite. It’s weird, because I want to like it so much…it seems like something I’d absolutely adore. I mean, historical fiction combined with zombies and romance? I’m totally into that. But I had problems with the first book because of it’s strong similarities to Clockwork Angel (although I actually think it’s better written), and I had problems with A Darkness Strange and Lovely as well.
Mostly, my biggest issue was how confused I was about the whole demon and necromancy thing. I had to read the explanations of certain phenomenon over and over again and still only felt like I half-grasped what Dennard was trying to create here. So it was difficult to go through the whole book only sort of understanding the paranormal aspects. The same kind of issue was happening in the intense battle scene(s) at the end, too. It was all such a jumble that I had trouble getting a good picture in my mind of what was happening. I kept having to re-read passages to understand exactly what was going down, which made it really hard to get completely immersed in the book and achieve that kind of reading where you’re wildly flipping pages because the action is so exciting.
I was also disappointed with how little Daniel, Joseph, and Jie were in this book. I feel like that happens a lot with second books…the authors take a lot of time introducing new characters so that they can all come together in the third book as one group. But it was really hard to transition from the first book, in which I really liked the interactions with everybody in the Spirit Hunters group, and the second book in which most of the interactions are between Eleanor and a new character, Oliver. I actually grew really attached to Oliver — I thought he was a good addition to the story — but I missed the other characters a lot.
The last thing that I didn’t like about this novel was how predictable the storyline was. The whole thing is based around a mystery and, just like in Something Strange and Deadly, I was able to guess from a mile away who was going to end up being the “bad guy.” It’s just kind of sad when that happens, because I really do love twists, turns, and surprises in my books.
But once I was able to get past all of that, I really enjoyed a few things about this book — mainly the setting and the characters. Dennard writes such awesome steampunk historical fiction. I just loved every second of all of the parasols and dresses and parties and food. And I really enjoyed the new setting of Belle Époque Paris vs. Philadelphia. I also love Eleanor’s character — she is definitely somebody that I can relate to and root for. The perfect amount of feminine girly-girl and kick-ass heroine.
Ultimately, though, I just wasn’t that impressed with this novel. This series has so much potential, and I’m definitely going to still read the third book, but it’s just not quite as good as I think it could be. There’s lots of problems in this book that I wish I could overlook but unfortunately were too glaring for me to ignore.
I wasn’t blown away by the first two books in this series…but, still, I was excited to read the third and final book, Strange and Ever After. Eleanor has been a favorite YA heroine of mine since I started the series, and I was very curious to find out how it would all end.
My favorite parts of this series are the characters and the settings. I love Eleanor’s combination of being both a very female heroine, but also somebody who’s willing to fight for what’s right and is more than a little badass. She’s exactly the kind of person I would want to be if I was a character in a book.
And the background characters are equally to be adored! Daniel, Joseph, Oliver, and Jie are some of my favorite background characters in YA. They’re so multi-faceted and likable, with unique personalities and depth. In particular, Jie’s character is one that I really like, because of her diversity. I just wish that she’d been in this book a little more! She’s barely around because of events that occur at the end of the second book, so it was disappointing that she didn’t shine as much in this installation. But I really liked the inclusion of Oliver’s character in A Darkness Strange and Lovely, and he was just as good in Strange and Ever After! He brings a certain sarcastic humor to the group that I really love, and I’m also a fan of the fact that he doesn’t compete for Eleanor’s heart. Although Daniel does have some jealousy issues, this isn’t a love triangle — Eleanor and Oliver are truly just very good friends, which is a refreshing and different relationship to find in a YA series.
My other favorite aspect of this series is the settings and Dennard did not skimp on that in Strange and Ever After! In this book, half of the time is spent in France, while the other half is in Egypt. And I loved it! Although there wasn’t quite as much mention of dresses and fancy jewelry and stuff, I still really enjoyed reading all of Dennard’s descriptive writing about the architecture, landscapes, and just the atmosphere of all of these different places. I would definitely recommend this series if you’re looking for settings that really come alive on the page. That is definitely my number one favorite thing about these books.
But, unfortunately, there were some things I didn’t like about this one. One problem I had transferred over from the second book…and that was that, once again, I had trouble understanding some of the action-y scenes and even the overall plot of this book. Even after reading this entire series, I’m still a little bit confused about what the heck the Pullet thing was and why they were so intent on destroying Marcus for having it. And Eleanor’s powers? And the weird place she goes to that I think is called “the curtain?” I’m just really confused by it all. I never felt like it was explained really well and the lack of world-building with the paranormal aspects in particular really bothered me at times. I constantly felt like I didn’t quite understand the entirety of the plot, so it was hard to feel very emotionally connected to the story.
I also had some issues with the ending of the book. There’s a big spoiler-y thing that happens at the end that I really didn’t like all that much. Something happened that I don’t feel was really necessary, and I got the feeling that it was only there to create an emotional response in the reader, which never makes me happy. I can’t go into more detail without giving stuff away, but let’s just say I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t think that the ending was well executed and it left me wanting more.
So, overall, I didn’t love this one…but there are some really good parts to this series that make me look back on this series with happy memories. I’m glad that I read it, but personally it’s not my favorite YA paranormal series. But it’s probably the best example of YA steampunk that I have read (although, I’ll admit that I haven’t read too much of it), so if you’re looking for that specifically, I’d definitely recommend this one.
And now it’s time for the giveaway!! I received Strange and Ever After as an ARC that I won from Alexa Loves Books. So I decided that I’m going to spread the love along and give my copy away to somebody else to read! (So please keep in mind that, while it’s still if fairly decent condition, it has been read twice, so it’s not a brand-new copy! 🙂 )
Rules & Details:
- US only (sorry!)
- Must be 18 or older
- Giveaway ends July 14th, 2014 at 11:59pm EST
- Tempest Books is not responsible for lost mail
- I will contact you by email on July 15th, 2014. If the winner does not respond by July 17th, 2014, I will pick a new winner.