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.
Probably one of the first things I felt after discovering Something Strange and Deadly was charmed. There was a scavenger hunt to promote the book, and as I went through it and learned about the story, I found myself becoming more and more excited. A steampunk Victorian story about a group of folks who hunt zombies? A heroine whose weapon is a parasol? “Aim for the knees” as a slogan? So much fun! So when I realized my sister had an ARC of the book, I quickly confiscated it and dove in. While I had a couple of issues with the book for a while, I came away — once again — completely charmed.
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.]
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars