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Early ARC Review: Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard

my thoughts in a few sentences: I’ve got a thing for zombies and the Victorian era. Put the two together and I possess the inexplicable urge to magically produce rainbows or Lucky Charms. Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel was my last indulgence in this area, and though it was satisfying in many areas it missed that crucial opening hook and didn’t suck me in until a hundred pages or so. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard is almost a hundred pages shorter and it managed to do what DD could not: hook me INSTANTLY. By the first line alone, I was sitting back with a happy grin on my face, eager for the next thing lying in wait. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, thankfully, has a gorgeous cover to match the story it wraps.

hooking first lines: ""Dead!" a woman screamed. "It's the Dead!""

Harper Teen • Edelweiss • Paranormal Historical Romance • 7/24/12 • $13.49

Something Strange & Deadly
by Susan Dennard
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.
So beautifully historical fiction

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard is deeply entrenched in it’s Victorian Philadelphia setting so that my heart is all aflutter with wonder and anticipation. Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard is well-established in its historical backdrop, however it’s quite accessible with none of those stuffy, crusty words that do nothing but induce headaches. There’s no question as to WHEN this is, but WHO the story’s for is also in mind, and I appreciated and enjoyed the story all the more for that consideration.

Frankly, Victorian anywhere isn’t much a sight on the eyes—it’s crazy air polluted and dirty and smelly, but it’s the fashion, etiquette, and dialogue that has me running back to these period books. And there’s nothing mundane or boring about what Dennard includes in the story. The details are subtly interwoven, and they play a telling, and genuine, part in each of the characters’ personality. Eleanor felt real and suited to the time period despite her radical-at-the-time thoughts and behavior. She’s still stifled by society and her mother’s expectations, yet her words and actions are true to her personality simultaneously.

Speaking of Eleanor

Strong, impulsive, stubborn, and intelligent. Eleanor Fitt is not your typical paranormal heroine, and not just because of the setting, but because she’s not wild and brazen and snarky. She’s innocent but not necessarily naïve, intelligent and observant, quick on her feet but not so that it’s unbelievable. Eleanor reads like a normal teenage girl in that relatable sense and she acts like it while still being freaking awesome! She may freak out and panic and swoon but she’s not a bubblehead nitwit or an unrealistic action heroine. She’s just Eleanor—a girl who finds herself in some catastrophic, terrifying supernatural situations and learns to adjust. She’s strong and carries much weight for her age, and although she buckles from time to time, she’s never whiny or lazy. She does what’s necessary and tackles things as straightforward as possible in keeping with propriety. She’s a tangle of emotions and memories and traits and I found myself completely fascinated!

After encountering the Spirit-Hunters, parts of her let loose—like when she hones her sarcasm on one unfriendly, reluctantly admiring inventor—and it’s amazing to see this girl once brought down so low flourish into a young woman ultimately unrepentant of her choices. The last lines of Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard really speak for Eleanor’s evolved character and I am a stream of fangirly admiration. You know what I mean—a fic GIRL CRUSH.

You know I am a character girl, right?

I love thick, tension-filled plot that either sparks and blows or cooks on slow fire, and I love fabulous setting and world-building. Not to mention, PACING. These are all vital elements in a book, BUT it’s the characters that can make or break or save a book. Whatever I felt when I started Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard DOUBLED when I met the amazeballs Spirit-Hunters staying to weed out Philadelphia’s zombie epidemic. When you meet them, you will love them for their skills, their voices, and their personalities as a whole.

Jie, Chinese cross-dressing super fighter, Joseph, dashing, charismatic Creole leader from New Orleans originally, and Daniel, from regular ol’ Chicago with a VERY mysterious past. These three make up the formidable Spirit-Hunters who are none too happy with their current state of affairs. Before Eleanor came along, Daniel would possibly argue, at least at first, that things were getting along fine and smooth, but these three never got it better until she appeared. After all, Daniel would have nowhere to practice his charms—they’re missing at present, but it’s a work in progress, Jie would have no one to bully and share her ideals, and Joseph would be short one more to boss around. Eleanor and Daniel’s sharp banter layered with witty comebacks and romantic tension, Jie’s head-on attitude, and Joseph’s burning desire to save people just blends together really well. And, surprise to them, their collective bond is addictive.

Zombies and necromancers, WHO WHAT?

I plowed through Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard in less than a handful of hours and part of the reason, besides the characters, is the paranormal aspect of the plot. Zombies coming up out of graves are enough to scare the petticoats off of these Victorian damsels but give them wicked speed and a yen for flesh and blood? Yeah, well, you can expect lots of running around in sheer bloody panic. Necromancers are capable of their resurrection, so who is the necromancer responsible for THESE zombie attacks? Decapitations of young men? Kidnappings and just general murder? And what about that super secret society doing evil deeds?

The situation is dire and all the danger rushed me to tear through all that was left of the story. Suspense is murderous, and since the suspects have piled up so high, it’s impossible to be certain of the truth until it’s revealed. Fighting impatience is easy, though, when the telling of it is so wonderful. Dennard’s writing may be simple and straightforward rather than eagerly over embellished, but it’s exactly what I wanted. It’s what she’s showing us that really counts.

Is it over?

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard is just the beginning. A thorough, wrenching, exciting beginning to what I know is going to be an awesome series. Dennard makes me want to keep going not because of some overdone plot device in which a scene abruptly ends halfway through and we’re forced to wait for the sequel so we can finish said scene and read into the next book but because it’s what I WANT. I desperately want to know what’s going to happen next and I’m so thrilled by the possibilities.

I can’t wait to have more of these characters!!!

What kinds of zombie problems await the Spirit-Hunters next? Will the romance develop into what I want it to be SOON PLEASE? What mess is Eleanor going to get herself into next? CAN’T. WAIT.

Rating: Perfect Bed Partner
Daniel's jaw fell. "Why didn't you say so before?"
"What?" I recoiled. "How was I supposed to know you needed it?"
"We could've gone ages ago!"
My enthusiasm transformed into outrage. "In that case, why didn't you say you needed it?"
"Because I didn't know you had a subscription!"
"Aha!" I cried, thrusting a finger at him. "Your argument's a circle!" (40%)

BEEN THERE, READ THAT is a young feature I created to spotlight up-and-coming pre-releases that might not have made it onto your radar yet.

Make sure to check out this week's edition for more on Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard!

Looking for books with a similar feel, try checking out

Got something specific in mind? Dare I believe I might NOT have covered something you wish to know? If so, let me know down in the comments section. Don't be shy!


sarah@catchingbooks said...

Great review!! I'm not a huge fan of zombies but this book does sound interesting.

Christy@LoveOfBook said...

GREAT review! I have this one and CAN'T wait to finally get to it. I have a feeling I'm going to looove it.

Molli @ Once Upon a Prologue said...

EEEEEEP. I JUST KNEW your review of this would make my jaw drop, and it did. You absolutely captured everything I adored about SS&D. And like you, I NEED the sequel....NOW! Thanks for the AWESOMESAUCE review, Asher!

Preet @ AWR said...

I'm reading this fairly soon as well and can't wait! Great review.

Andrea Modolo said...

I have been so excited for this one! I loved Dearly Departed, and this does sound a lot like that. Your review is making me 10 times more anxious for this book to come out now! I love the period that Dennard sets this story in. Definitely one of the best things of the book! Great review :)

Asher Knight said...

Oh, but if you love historical steampunk fiction then you will won't mind the zombieness, trust me. The characters are just too FLY to pass up!

Asher Knight said...

I'm hoping to host a giveaway next month so maybe everyone'll get the chance. Here's hoping. BUT I DON'T SEE HOW ANYONE CANNOT LIKE IT. The characters are just THE BEST.

Asher Knight said...

YAY. *dances with Molli* It's so awesome that we BOTH ended up adoring this one! And yes, I WOULD DO ABOUT EVERYTHING FOR THAT SEQUEL. <3

Asher Knight said...

YAY. Definitely tweet me or email me once you finish it because I'd LOVE to know what you think.

Asher Knight said...

RIIIGHT? That's what I thought, initially, but it's quite different in the sense that a) Dearly, Departed is post-apocalyptic paranormal sci-fi steampunk whereas SSAD is paranormal historical steampunk fiction and b) the opener for this one is WAY more engrossing. I think you'll love it even more! I think so too (about period books). Thanks for stopping by :-D

Lynn ♪(´ε ` ) said...

Steampunk. Historical. <-- those 2 words alone make me want to read it!
The characters sound wonderful and the way you descried Jie reminds me of Nuriko from Fushigi Yuugi/Mysterious Play. I hope I get to read this soon. >.<

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