Review of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published on July 24, 2012 (Harper Teen)
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.
When I first discovered Something Strange and Deadly through Susan Dennard’s twitter, I was unsure of reading the book. The cover was beautiful, there was no doubt about that, but when I found out that it was a steampunk/zombie novel, I was instantly wary.
First of all, I had never read a steampunk book (not including The Infernal Devices, because, well, it’s the prequel of The Mortal Instruments, and I couldn’t turn that down!) with a zombie twist thrown into the mix!
But then, I happened to read a scene from SS&D in Susan’s SS&D website a few days short of its release and what can I say? It completely blew me away. The descriptive and magical writing itself already convinced me to read the book, but when I discovered a whole new different world just by reading that scene–well, I was almost sure that I would like, if not love, the book.
Gorgeous cover. Even if it IS the cliched girl-posing-with-a-dress cover, it is much, much more than that. I just recently discovered (and by recently, I mean after finishing the book) that when you tilt the book a little bit, there are gears and machinery stuff on the cover. Talk about cool! It definitely introduced the steampunk side of the book just through the cover. Also, the title font is beautiful as well. Call me weird, but I pay special attention to title and chapter fonts, just because they’re pretty. (Delirium by Lauren Oliver has one of the best chapter header fonts, just saying)
Eleanor, obviously, is the protagonist in SS&D. I find it very hard to hate the protagonist of any novel, so you’ll rarely see me writing a review which includes something along the lines of “The character was so snobby and stuck-up, way annoying especially since it was written in first person. I wanted to scream at her and slap her hard across the face.”
Nope, so not me. I don’t pay much attention to the ‘realness’ of a character, to be honest. But I’ll say straight up whether or not the protagonist stuck with me and whether I sympathized with him/her.
So for Eleanor, I did sympathize with her character. I appreciated the great lengths she would go to for her brother and her overall tough attitude. Sure, she may seem like a delicate person-complete with her dresses and her lacy parasol, but she has a hard interior underneath. She’s stubborn, persistent, and extremely hard-headed, but endearing at the same time, which I feel is important in a character. You can’t just be the rebel of a story-you need a backstory, the whole reason why you rebel in the first place. And I found that in Eleanor.
Daniel starts off hating Eleanor-which I did not expect at all. He goes out of his way to annoy her at all costs and remind her that she isn’t one of the Spirit-Hunters, that she is just one of those ‘snobby little princesses,’ people who think that they’re better than others. After every page though, I could feel his icy exterior melting little by little as he spent more time with Eleanor and got to know her as a person.
I loved finding more about Daniel along with Eleanor, since it was written in the first person POV, and I loved that he wasn’t simply ‘the character who the protagonist falls in love with,’ which is something I sometimes see in other YA stories. He was his own character, someone who experienced a lot of things before he met Eleanor.
The story started out with a zombie attack. I found this to be a good strategy, especially because the readers are immediately exposed to the whole world of mystery that the author has written–without knowing the whole story and all the answers yet, of course. I liked how almost every page had something happening, and how the zombies in this story were different from the usual ones you read in other books.
They weren’t the usual ‘infected’ zombies, rather, they were people who rose from the dead, people who literally left their graves. In this case, a necromancer controlled them so they didn’t exactly have a mind of their own. This little twist interested me, especially because I dove into the story thinking they were the stereotypical zombies of YA fiction. I loved learning more and more about this different kind of zombie as I breezed through the book, and all the other ‘new’ things like the inventions of the Spirit-Hunters.
One little comment, though. I found myself skipping over some paragraphs when Daniel or the other Spirit-Hunters were explaining things to Eleanor. I mean, I did want to know more about what was going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to concentrate on the facts they were saying because I guess it was too wordy for me. But still, I doubled back and read those paragraphs because they were, in fact, relevant to the plot, though I sometimes didn’t get how things worked. Like the goggles, for example. I read the explanation carefully, but I guess the practical side in me couldn’t accept it. I was always trying to pull out scientific facts to try to explain it.
But that wasn’t such a big problem, especially because it was necessary for the author to explain the history behind the things happening, I mean, how are the readers supposed to know?
The writing, though, was exquisite. The description made me feel almost like I was standing in 1876 Philadelphia myself, with a swarm of zombies right at my heels. The ending too, had closure, which was something I wanted, though I have a feeling that a cliffhanger is going to come out in the second book.
Something Strange and Deadly was absolutely magical, unearthing a whole new world of fantasy and steampunk that I never could have imagined. The writing pulls you in the book itself, making you feel as if you are Eleanor Fitt, the unforgettable protagonist of the story.
And don’t forget…
AIM FOR THE KNEES! :)
“Miss Fitt, you know curiosity gets men killed.”
I grinned. “Then I daresay it’s good I’m a woman.”
This quote made me crack up! =))