My attention usually perks up when someone mentions zombies. Throw 1876, the post-Civil War era into the mix and you have me as a reader hook line and sinker. Something Strange And Deadly by Susan Dennard adds a unique spin to the paranormal zombie genre via setting. Further, it is an example of strong characterization. Something Strange And Deadly does not take a turn for gimmicky, but instead is a genuinely good book and unique story.
The walking Dead are plaguing Philadelphia. As if Eleanor Fitt didn’t have enough to worry about, what with being her formerly wealthy family’s last hope in achieving prestige again, she now has to worry about if the Dead have her brother Elijah. Eleanor must turn to the Spirit Hunters for help — speaking of which she’s totally attracted to one of the Spirit Hunters, Daniel, the problem is he is below her class. Meanwhile, her mother is trying to foist her off on Clarence Wilcox, one of Philadelphia’s most wealthy bachelors. As you can see, Eleanor has a lot deal with. Luckily, she’s quite the plucky heroine.
Eleanor is headstrong and brave for her time period. She does not simper or wait for others to take action. Instead, Eleanor is the sort of female who takes the bull right by the horns. She’s very loyal to her brother and also does her familial duty despite not exactly loving it. PLUS! When the walking Dead show up she doesn’t cower in fear or faint, but instead thinks with a clear and logical head. She is a pleasure to read about.
Something Strange And Deadly does an excellent job providing readers with a sense of place and time. In the book, Philadelphia is holding an international exhibition and so many tourists are in the city taking in the new sights and technology. The exhibition also brings the spirit hunters to Philadelphia. Dennard does fabulous work in making the technology of 1876 seem new and wondrous. Beyond the machinery of the age, Dennard also incorporates the constructs of social structure. Class divisions are illustrated in the dialogue — for example Clarence Wilcox, who is one of Eleanor’s rich and wealthy suitors, speaks using formal speech patterns. In contrast with Clarence is Daniel, one of the spirit hunters, Daniel is working class and thus employs a lot of slang and contractions in his speech. I thought this was an interesting way to show that people of various classes spoke differently.
For a long book, clocking in at 388 pages, Something Strange And Deadly by Susan Dennard is rather engaging. There are not very dull moments. Instead, the book has an interesting plot, plus there is an air of mystery as to the identity of the necromancer raising the dead. The dialogue is not clunky or weird or out of place — even with the class divisions. I also found the characters to be quite likeable.
The romance within Something Strange And Deadly is subtle. It’s not quite in your face. Eleanor doesn’t spend the entire book pining or fantacizing about a certain character. She does entertain notions of kissing the character, but it’s not something that happens on the first page. Instead she gets to know her love interest and through working with him and assisting him, she then decides that she’s into him. It’s quite the slow burn and very swoonworthy when she realizes she has feelings for him and he for her. I will say, this book is light on physical interaction between the two characters. It’s not a kissing fest by any means.
Susan Dennard’s Something Strange And Deadly was an unexpectedly good read. It has a unique concept. It’s got such a cool setting. There’s a romance that is neither instant nor overwhelming. The main character is someone to cheer for. The stakes feel real. If you’re looking for a young adult paranormal book where the girl doesn’t fall in love with the zombie, check out Something Strange And Deadly, it is well worth your time.
Disclosure: Received for review via a few sources — Amazon Vine and also from publisher, holla!
Other reviews of Something Strange And Deadly by Susan Dennard:
365 Days Of Reading – “a fun romp through an alternate history (with zombies)”
Cuddlebuggery – “mixes aspects of Steampunk with good ol’ zombie fun.”
Hobbitsies – “I just wasn’t grabbed by it”