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 DeadlyFeatured
I loved the plot. It was enticing and really intriguing. I loved the whole science aspect of it with The Spirit Hunters - all the different inventions were SO COOL. Susan Dennard's zombies are really cool. They are different from your typical zombies, which I enjoyed as I'm not super crazy about the whole zombie thing.
The one thing that kept me from absolutely loving this one was the predictability in terms of the villain. I thought I guessed it early on, but thought, no, that is WAY too obvious. Then it turns out I did.
The characters were marvelous. I am very excited to see how their relationships develop in book 2, A Darkness Strange and Lovely. I really enjoyed Eleanor or rather "Miss Fit". She was such a strong and quirky character. I also loved the play on Eleanore's formal name of "Miss Fit" which shows how she isn't the ideal women in the Victorian era. I loved it! Daniel and Jie are two more awesome characters. I love how diverse they were. They both had such interesting stories to tell.
Fans of Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy and Marissa Doyle's books will devour this one. It was such a joy to read. I am very excited for more from Susan Dennard in the future!
Theme: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Theme: If you have knowledge, use it to help others.
Theme: Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.
The characters in this book—especially Eleanor—were top-notch. Of course they have their flaws, but aside from that they were strong, extremely likable and (yes I am throwing this word out there) amazing. I realised right of the bat that I would like Eleanor. She’s strong, witty, extremely stubborn and she grows so much through the course of the story! She’s not afraid to go for what she wants -as is proved by her drive to save her brother.
Then we have Daniel -Eleanors love-interest- and he’s, there just are no words to describe that guy, but I can tell you that I developed a serious crush that’s considered serious competition to my crush on Mr. Darcy! That’s says a lot! I loved how they didn’t fall in love right of the bat. It takes time and slowly it develops into something. In the book club, we discussed their relationship in Week 3, if you wish to read it, just click on the link above!
The ending of the book is perfection! That scene also perfectly describes why I love Daniel so much! From ‘the’ nickname to the unique relationship Daniel and Eleanor share.
Aside from all of this, I think what I loved most was the tons of themes that appeared while reading Something Strange and Deadly. This book takes place during the Victorian Era, which makes all those themes so much more meaningful. Zombies, romance, having choices, ignorance, duties and so much more!
This book is a must read! If you haven’t read it yet, I highly encourage you to do so. In a short time, it became on of my favourite reads!
-Oh! and don’t forget to aim for the knees!
All of the characters are extremely complex and thought out. They all have complicated (in a good way) backgrounds that leave you wanting to know more. And although the situation is a little less than real, unless you've seen the Dead walking around, the characters feel so tangible and real. You actively cheer them on, you cry with them, you feel their frustrations, and you maybe even hate them.
The plot is also riveting and exciting. While there are some slower parts, that's only to be expected, and it gives you a slight break from all the movement. Even if you're not a fan of historical fiction or of zombie books or whatever, this book is so much more than just that. It's also about relationships and society and how we're led to make decisions we would never want to.
Another aspect that I loved was that I found the book to be less descriptive and more character and plot driven. I'm the type of reader that hates to be bogged down by description unless it's really important. Susan Dennard does a fantastic job of describing the important things so that you get a sense of the setting without it being overwhelming. I found that many parts also had more telling than showing. Perhaps you don't view this as a good thing (although there's plenty of showing as well, don't worry), but as someone that struggles with the concept of "show not tell," I really enjoyed the bluntness of some of the statements and facts. It didn't take away from the story, and it didn't leave you hung over on what it means so that it would slow you down.
The reason I let this sit unread on my shelf is I'm not a huge fan of zombies. I'm also not a huge historical fiction fan, so you can see where my doubt lied. I honestly just bought it because I thought the cover was intriguing. After reading this I wanted to hit myself. Both of those things (along with a fast moving plot) made this an amazing debut from Dennard.
It honestly was refreshing not to read about things that are so common in the fantasy genre. Well I say that because I don't read that many zombie books OR that many fantasy for that matter lol I loved seeing the imagination that Dennard put into the zombies to make them so frightening. That's what I love abut fantasy. There's no limits. The authors have free reign to make the world and its characters how ever they want. The more descriptive the better.
As for the historical fiction part, I got it, but it wasn't totally understood. For example, I KNOW what year it was and why they were treating Eleanor that way, but what about some mentions of how the building looked? Or things that were happening around them? Even things that were happening around the city.
I really enjoyed the characters the most though. Eleanor was feisty and reminded me of me a little. I could definitely understand doing anything to help someone I love. Especially family! Even if it meant putting myself in danger. Then there was Daniel. I LOVED him. He was so smart but also had some "bad boy" qualities in him. Totally my style. Then there is Jie. One of my fave secondary characters ever. Smart, strong, and a fighter? What more can you ask for?!
Unfortunately, the romance in this one isn't really prevalent, but there is a big reason for it. The entire novel Eleanor and her mother are arguing about who will ask for her hand and why its such a big deal that someone with stature asks her to be his wife. Eleanor on the other hand doesn't care to fall for whom her mother wants her to be with and she is falling for someone else... Someone who says they aren't in love with her. Hopefully they can get that together in book two, because I really want that to happen. Like I'm already shipping them lol
In short, I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did. A huge thanks to HarperTeen (Epic Reads) for giving me the "epic" push that I needed into this frightening world of the "walking dead."
When Eleanor Fitt's brother, Elijah, doesn't come home at the scheduled time and instead sends a mysterious letter... Eleanor fears that he has been taken by the undead.
And she has a good reason to think that.
With men showing up Dead and headless and The Dead becoming bolder and bolder, the town has brought in the Spirit-Hunters who are supposed to get rid of The Dead.
So what does Eleanor do?
She asks the Spirit-Hunters for help, and ends up getting caught up with more than she ever imagined.
I have a confession to make...
I may have a minor obsession with zombies. So when I saw this online I HAD TO HAVE IT!!! But of course it took awhile since it wasn't out yet (and I never get ARCs) but anyway...
Yes, this book didn't have enough zombie-ness as I hoped but it did feed my zombie craving! It was an AMAZING book!!
I am definitely looking forward to the next book!!!!
ARC received by Harper Collins via Edelweiss
Release Date: 7-24-2012
Reviewed by: Middle Sis Jenn
The Sisters Say: Macabre, Menacing, and Menacing
I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this book because I had never read any other zombie book. Truthfully, I am still wavering on my final judgment.
I really enjoyed most of the book--it was refreshing and dramatic. Susan's world leapt off the page, and her stunning prose made me feel like I was right there with Eleanor as she worried for her brother, fought her incorrigible mother, and distressed over her feelings for Daniel and Clarence. Eleanor is snarky (even though its 1896) and she doesn't back down from a fight. She struggles to find her place in society and amongst her friends, and I really felt for her as she dug herself deeper and deeper into the macabre world of the spirit hunters. Eleanor was a great heroine--strong and capable, but not stupid. There were times when you could feel her terror, and I respected her because she tried to overcomes her fears. I really admired how Susan presented Eleanor's strengths and weaknesses--all of which built a great heroine.
Now...the 2 guys: Daniel and Clarence. They are complete opposites. Clarence is the smart, handsome, and rich family friend that is exactly the kind of man Eleanor should want to marry--only Clarence has a few secrets that Eleanor is determined to unmask before she believes any of his affections. Clarence is veiled in a mask of secrecy and learning his past is one of the most interesting parts of the book. And then there's Daniel, the ruggedly handsome lower class spirit hunter that is considered to be "filthy" by Eleanor's mother--only Eleanor finds herself dismissing her mother's concerns and developing some sort of feelings for the rugged man. However, just like Clarence, he is harboring secrets of his own. Who can Eleanor trust? Can she trust either of these two handsome devils?
Susan creates dynamic and irresitible characters that you just can help but feel tied to.
So why am I wavering?
I hate to say this, but I did not like the ending. I'm not going to say any more because it would be way too spoilery. I think many people will enjoy the ending, and maybe this is just the way zombie books are--but I just found myself saying, "What? Why???"
Now with that...let me answer a few questions:
Am I glad I read it? Yes. I needed to be introduced to the zombie sub-genre, and I really did enjoy the book right up until the end.
Will I read the sequel? Yes, although it won't be one that I rush to the store at midnight to purchase.
Would I recommend it to anyone? Yes because I think quite a few people will enjoy that Susan Dennard has no hesitations in smacking your expectations in the face.
What would I change? Even though it's 1896 and there are reasons for it--I wanted more romance!!!!! Eleanor thrusts her fist as society in every other way--why not add a little more steam?
So...I will leave you with this. Read it and see for yourself--if anything, you will see a world that's new and different. And I'm hoping the sequel will end with me saying, "Yeah!" instead of "What?"
Eleanor Fitt has got to be one of my favorite female protagonists in YA. Her subtle (yet blatant) rebellion against societal expectations had me laughing and scheming right along with her. What I loved most about her was that she genuinely cared about each person she interacted with, no matter how nasty they might have been toward her. But she never wavered from her own convictions. Though she was often pushed into situations by others, she still found a way to seize each moment as hers. Full of energy, wit, concern, and gumption, Miss Fitt was especially charming.
Many of the other characters came to life in a lovely, subtle way. Each of the Spirit-Hunters has a unique charm that I quickly came to adore. Even the zombies had such character that I was able to envision them clearly while reading. I don’t know if it was the author’s intention, but yes, the Dead even came across as amusing and not exactly scary!
The story was a lot of fun to read, but I spent about 200 pages being utterly annoyed (while simultaneously enjoying the story). Very early into the book, I saw the plot twists so obviously that I was outraged when Eleanor — or at the very least, Joseph — didn’t see them, too! So I read, and fumed each time one of the plot twists became more and more clear. Honestly, I’m a bit disappointed in the Spirit-Hunters for not realizing one of the twists, because it was their job to do so. (That is, unless they DID realize it, but were just keeping it secret from Eleanor?) HOWEVER… by the time these plot twists came into the open, I was enjoying just watching how they unfolded. My annoyance had dissipated and I was as enchanted with the story as ever.
And the ending, you guys? THE ENDING. So… so good. So perfect. I absolutely love Susan Dennard for ending it the way she did. I love Eleanor and Daniel. They are so effing adorable. I cannot wait for book two. Something Strange and Deadly is the most charming book I’ve read this year. Go read it, as soon as you get the chance!
[NOTE: I read this book as an ARC, borrowed from my sister, who receives many, many awesome things in her mailbox.]
I can see, however, why some might be bored in the opening, so taking that warning to heart certainly can't hurt you. What made this book a perfect fit (pun!) for me from beginning to end was Eleanor Fitt. I just loved her and thought she made an utterly enchanting heroine. She's one of those heroines that I totally get and that I do not see often enough. She's snarky and doesn't feel at home in the uppercrust society to which she and her mother are just barely clinging. Unlike so many heroines, she doesn't turn all heads. She's not astoundingly gorgeous, she's well-padded, and she's outspoken. When people try to keep secrets from her, she pesters them until she learns what she wants to know. Tenacious, stubborn, nosy heroines just rock my socks.
Cementing Eleanor Fitt as one of the fictional characters I am sure I would be total besties with is the fact that, despite being a corset-wearing lady, she is no wilting flower. Early on, she gets attacked by zombies and doesn't run or faint: she attempts to defend herself with her corset. She's not very good at it, but she learns by watching the Chinese member of the Spirit Hunters how best to incapacitate the walking dead. She watches, learns, and fights herself. Throughout the book, she continues to use those skills, and becomes increasingly more hardcore. Seriously, at the end, I defy you to not think she is incredibly kick-butt.
Now, the zombies. They may not be the central point of the book, but they are definitely woven throughout. They are not the big bads; they are merely tools wielded by an evil necromancer attacking Philadelphia for some unknown reason. Despite being essentially attack dogs, there were plenty enough horrifying zombie moments to satisfy zombie enthusiasts. It was also cool seeing the zombies used in some different ways, like as messengers.
Eleanor gets involved in all of this necromancy and walking dead business for two reasons: she suspects her brother has been captured by the necromancer for nefarious purposes AND her mother summoned an evil spirit at an otherwise routine high society seance. For help, Eleanor turns to the Spirit Hunters (Who ya gonna call?), here to help the city with their walking dead problem. Despite the prickly reception from the Spirit Hunter's inventor, Daniel, Eleanor will not be rebuffed.
I loved the Spirit Hunters, and am so completely looking forward to getting to know more about them in the subsequent books. Joseph, for example, I don't feel like I really got to know much of anything about. I could totally know more about Jie and Daniel as well. They're great characters (diverse too!) and have such a great group dynamic.
The ending, guys! I am seriously in pain at not having the next book in my hands right now and totally want to discuss it with someone. I saw the twists coming, but that did not detract from the my pleasure in the book, because I still didn't know what would happen AFTER that. Eleanor has a fun, witty way of thinking and her perspective keeps things from feeling all that dark even when they are. This juxtaposition totally shook me at the end, in the very best of ways.
If you like steampunkery, zombie mayhem, spunky heroines, good writing or, well, awesome things, I highly recommend this fantastic debut. This was pretty much everything I hoped it would be and more.
I also really enjoyed all of the Spirit-Hunters. They were an interesting and assorted group of personalities, each with their own intriguing backstory that wound up being crucial to the plot. It was nice to have such a varied group of characters in a setting as restrictive as 19th century Philadelphia.
As a bonus, none of the villains (save one) were actually all bad. Each had some redeeming qualities that allowed me to understand them, and even sympathize to a degree, even if I totally disagreed with their actions. I liked that none of the zombie shenanigans was as simple as evil for evil’s sake.
And as far as zombie shenanigans goes, there was plenty. It was exciting and fast-paced, with the requisite amount of grossness that any book dealing with zombies has. It was almost reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in that it blended the nasty violence of zombies together with the refined etiquette and culture of earlier times.
So those were all the things I liked. Unfortunately, they were counterbalanced by a lot of things I wasn’t so fond of.
The main problem I had in this book was the predictability. By the first chapter, I had figured out the identity of the main villain, and by the fourth, I had also figured out most of the villain’s motivations. It took the entire book to confirm my suspicions, and when it finally did, there weren’t any surprises thrown into the mix. I could pretty much have stopped reading at chapter 4 and still been able to give an accurate synopsis of the entire book. And that was disappointing.
Also, in spite of the fact that I was able to figure everything out really early on, I thought that the characters in the book — especially Eleanor — made some decisions based on giant leaps of conjecture that had huge holes in their logic. Eleanor would suddenly remember something from her childhood, apply it loosely to something that happened recently, and firmly decide that not only were the events related, but that they suddenly explained everything. The fact that she was prone to wild conjecture wasn’t the problem. The problem was that her assumptions almost always proved to be correct, whereas in real life, “logic” like hers normally proves faulty. And meanwhile, while she was Sherlock Holmes-ing her way through a convoluted backstory, she was missing tons of painfully obvious clues right in front of her face. Either the girl is remarkably perceptive and intuitive or she’s not. It seemed really odd for her to be both.
So while I enjoyed the premise of the story, the characters, and the feel of the storytelling, the execution came off a bit clunky to me. It just didn’t gel as cohesively as I wanted it to, especially since this was, underneath all the zombies and supernatural elements, a mystery. I like mysteries to be tight and smart, and this one felt weak.
I still think that fans of zombie stories, especially zombie-historical mashups, will enjoy this book. It’s fun and fast and chock-full of zombie craziness. It just fell flat as the intelligent mystery I wanted it to be.