I have been waiting for A Darkness Strange and Lovely since the moment I finished Something Strange and Deadly Susan Dennard captured my heart and my imagination in her debut, so I was eager to see what she would do with the next book. Happily, there is no second book syndrome here and ADSaL has all the elements that made SSaD such a delight.
Without a doubt, it's the narrative voice that makes Dennard's series stand out from the pack of paranormal offerings. Eleanor is so many things: clever, silly, practical, powerful, self-conscious, and infuriating. Her voice rings so clearly through this first person narrative, and she really doesn't sound like anyone but herself. Even when she's at her most irritating, when she digs herself a whole of lies so deep she can't see out because she's afraid no one will accept her, she's still her kooky, charming self. Also, the girl can eat, and I suspect she's a bit chunkier than the usual YA heroine, which is just another reason to love her.
Dennard really steps out of the box with Eleanor. She's no stereotype. She speaks her mind, eats anything she can get her hands on, and has far more power than her companions. In fact, her power scares everyone but herself. Actually, scratch that; it scares Eleanor a bit too. In the face of the most extraordinary circumstances, Eleanor is the kind of person who never stops trying, even when she only has one hand or everyone has turned their backs on her. Though she makes some really stupid choices, I still have so much respect and friendship in my heart for Eleanor.
The plot this time comes with a bit less zombie mayhem, and a bit more mystery. Eleanor sets off to join the Spirit Hunters in Paris, where a Marquis is hosting them. Paris is beset by les Morts, and the Spirit Hunters have yet to figure out who has been sacrificing people and raising their corpses. Dennard does a good job throwing out a red herring, and making things a little bit twisty without it being overwhelming.
Props, too, on romance remaining on the back burner, slowly simmering, but not to the boil stage yet. Though it's a good one, I think the time to unfold is necessary and will only make the moment when Daniel and Eleanor officially get together that much sweeter. Both of them still have some growing to do, and I like that Dennard gives them that time, rather than rushing them into some super intense forever love.
Dennard adds a couple of new cast members, most notably Laure and Oliver. Eleanor meets both on her passage to France, and I think I like them. They're definitely both interesting figures, and I want to know more about them. Clearly, Laure's going to be important in the third book, but, for now, there was a lot of time spent on her that doesn't seem to have accomplished much. Oliver's pretty awesome, and I like the dynamic he adds to the group, the tension. I am also thrilled that Oliver is not another love interest for Eleanor.
What Left Me Wanting More:
This is a very personal thing, but I just didn't get as sucked into this as I expected to.
The Final Verdict:
Readers who enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly will likely be pleased with Susan Dennard's sequel. Also, the moment ADSaL concludes, you're going to want book three something fierce, because it is going to be epic.