Review: “Something Strange and Deadly” by Susan Dennard

Title: “Something Strange and Deadly”

Author: Susan Dennard

Genre: YA, paranormal, steampunk, alternate universe/history, zombies

Release Date: July 24, 2012 (expected)

Summary: 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.

☆: 4/5 – a fun alternate look at 1876 Philly!

Review: This one was great – but unfortunately, I was a little let down. From the blurb, I was expecting something totally over the top amazing, and didn’t quite get that with my reading experience. I guess my expectations were too high. Oh well. Nevertheless, I found “Something Strange and Deadly” to be a fun read, and I’ll definitely be reading the second book. “Something Strange and Deadly” dives into an alternate history of the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, where there are alarms to alert the public of the walking Dead, necromancers running around with evil spirits, and a far more sinister plan to control the middle and lower-classes by the local government all in one explosive story.

I will give it to Dennard – she definitely knows how to interweave all of her sub-arcs into the main arc into something I didn’t expect at all in the end (in terms of the arc becoming the total of its sum parts). With the middle class rising at the time and the wealthy starting to struggle, it was very interesting how Dennard interwove all of that into the main plot of Eleanor trying to find her brother Elijah. While I saw his part of the character arc coming pretty far away from when it actually happens, the conspiracy theorist in me was overjoyed in how Dennard brought together the death of Mr. Fitt, the Necromancer, the Gas Ring, the city council elections into one delicious and yet utterly believable alternate history steampunk soup that would make Fox Mulder and The Lone Gunmen drool. The end was awesome, explosive, and definitely my favorite part of the book.

There were a few parts that dragged – namely, the kind-of romance between Daniel and Eleanor and the having to keep up the pretense of still appearing to be wealthy on Mrs. Fitt’s part by entertaining. Until the end of the first third of the book I was interested, but things weren’t quite popping along like they should have been (even with an awesome in media res opening). It’s only until we meet the Spirit-Hunters (who felt like a bit of a pale imitation of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters, except without the angelic origins) that things get really exciting as the threat of the Dead increases. It did hook me lightly in the beginning, but the real hook didn’t sink in until the start of the second third of the book. But when that first third ends, the book really takes off – and unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed it, it shouldn’t take an entire third of a book to really hook me.

Let’s move onto characters – I LOVED Jie, and I can’t wait to see her again (hopefully?) in book 2. It was ballsy to bring in a genderqueer character like her (or at least, that’s how I felt like she was represented) to such a story. There aren’t too many genderqueer characters in YA, period – and if they are, they’re usually couched in contemporary stories where it’s all about discovering (and then despairing over) one’s self-identity. There was none of that here, I’m happy to say, and while Jie knows she’s physically a girl, she was raised as (and continues to act as) a boy. She definitely made the book more awesome for me and made up for some of its more flatter parts. I LOVED how she knew who and what she was, and where her loyalties lay. I also love how she gave Eleanor more strength to crossdress when she needed to when joining up with the Spirit-Hunters. I really hope we get more of Jie in book 2, as well as more of her backstory. Jie as a genderqueer character made the book for me in quite a few ways, so I have to say, well done, Dennard!

In terms of the characters, I wish that we’d had more development of the other Spirit-Hunters than what we did get, but I suppose that’s coming in the next two books. Otherwise, I was satisfied with how the characters were constructed, though Elijah’s Big Reveal did feel a little rushed at the end. I did want to see more of the world and was hoping for something a little stronger in the worldbuilding department but again, I’m hoping that will be coming in the next books. In the end and overall, I’m quite satisfied with what I got.

Final verdict? I enjoyed this one, and I hope you do too. Definitely give it a read. “Something Strange and Deadly” is out from HarperTeen on July 24th, 2012 in North America, so be sure to check it out then.


2 thoughts on “Review: “Something Strange and Deadly” by Susan Dennard

  1. Pingback: usagi’s challenges for 2012! | birth of a new witch.

  2. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves: Week 08 | birth of a new witch.

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