posted at Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 2:00 AM | Reviews, Young Adult
Series: Something Strange and Deadly #1
Published by HarperTeen on July 24, 2012
Genres: Horror, Paranormal, Romance, Steampunk
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.
First Sentence: “‘Dead!’ a woman screamed.”
Much as I try to avoid reading reviews, I do generally take a quick glance at friends’ reviews. From these, I went into Something Strange and Deadly warned that it might be a bit slow to start, perhaps even taking roughly half the book to get good, and that there wasn’t really much zombie mayhem. I’m not sure if it was because I was forearmed or what, but I didn’t have a problem with either issue at all. Something Strange and Deadly charmed me immediately, and I thought there was plenty of zombie goodness.
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, nosey 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 badass. Seriously, at the end, I defy you to not think she is really fucking badass.
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 brandished my parasol at him like a rapier. ‘You, sir, are an abominable scalawag of a man, and I’ll be damned if I let you threaten me.'”