Something Strange & Deadly
Author: Susan Dennard
Release: July 24th 2012
Genre: Steampunk, Zombies, YA
Sequels: A Darkness Strange & Lovely (#2), Strange & Ever After (#3)
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.
A lot of reviewers and people I trust have given this book high ratings, up to 4 stars and more, and I thought, "Why not?" I am seriously disappointed in all of you who recommended this book. It was off to an extremely rough start, introducing a gullible, weak heroine in a badly written Victorian setting and despite me willing it to get better, it didn't.
Now, I'll give Dennard some things. She's got character development down okay, even though it didn't blow me away much, and she didn't create wimps out of her zombies like Lia Habel did. However, those are really the only things I can give her.
Don't get me wrong, it's not exactly a bad book, but I simply did not enjoy it that much, and let me tell you why:
First, the characters. I have great distaste for our protagonist, Eleanor Fitt. Or Miss Fitt, misfit. Why, you might ask? Well, I think she suffers from schizophrenia. She's hot and cold at times, crying, swooning and whatnot at every other turn and then donning her big girl panties in between and trying to be brave and strong. Emphasis on trying here. Not only was her bipolarity getting on my nerves big time, but she was also a complete brat. Damn, how she treated Clarence, her servant, and even her own mother, I was shocked. Truly shocked. Needless to say, Eleanor completely fell through for me. Any other characters didn't make up for her, either, the love interest, Daniel, is uninteresting and flat. We learn that he has a "dark past" but then it's all covered up nicely because, oh, it was an accident and he feels sooo guilty. It would have been better if he'd had at least some motives or something adding to his character. Something! I couldn't tell you who he is, outside of a stereotypical "cocky and gruff." The only character that came close to being interesting was Clarence, because he fell out of the clichéd rich dude cutout that was left for him, and I liked that.
But then, why would she introduce a character such as Clarence, who at first posed as a possible 2nd love interest for a love triangle, when she made it awfully clear it would be Daniel playing the hero? Now we all already know Clarence doesn't stand a single chance, woopdidoo. But that's just another thing about this novel that had me groaning: its predictability. I could tell you on page 40 who the necromancer was, so when Dennard pulled this off on page 300 like the huge GASP reveal, I was not amused. Everything was awfully foreshadowed, all the time, there was not a single plot twist that I did not see coming, yes, even the thing that leaves this on a kind of cliffhanger-y ending.
And lastly, here we have Dennard's uncomfortable writing. It was not appropriate for a Victorian society setting, not at all. A lot of authors struggle to find the right words to create a believable Steampunk atmosphere, and Dennard can't manage it, either. Damn it, if you can't do it, then don't! This could have been set in modern times just as well! I mean, even Cassandra Clare could pull a convincing Steampunk series with nice writing, but Dennard thinks if you cleverly place the words "petticoat" and "corset" into your sentences 123910390 times, it would suffice. It doesn't.
Conclusion: Pretty cover, not so pretty story. If it sounds interesting to you, you might give it a try, though. Could be just me, after all, it did get a lot of good ratings. I, however, did not like it. I think I am going to give the sequel a try, in the hopes that maybe this could get better. It did have some potential, I saw wisps of it, so perhaps if I'm lucky...