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I Belong

Early Review: Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Title: Something Strange and Deadly

Author: Susan Dennard

Genre: YA Paranormal

Series: Something Strange and Deadly (Book 1)

Publication Date: July 24, 2012

FormatHardcover, 400 Pages

ISBN-10: 0062083260 (Harper Teen)

ISBN-13: 978-0062083265 (Harper Teen)

Reviewed by: Emmy


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.

Quick & Dirty: This debut is heavy in tension — if zombies attacked my home I’d be tense too — and action — our heroine is a fighter with a touch of steampunk and voodoo mixed into this Victorian world.

Opening Sentence: “Dead!” A woman screamed. “It’s the Dead!”

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

Elijah was supposed to be home by now. He was supposed to be saving the family from poverty, and instead all Eleanor has is a telegram that says her brother is in danger, that he has to stay in New York. Someone’s hunting for his research. What research, Eleanor doesn’t know, and frankly, she has more immediate problems. There’s a necromancer in Philadelphia. The Spirit-Hunters, the only group who knows how to fight the Dead, is in town too. They followed the necromancer from New York, hoping to protect the city from the rising the dead of Laurel Hill cemetery.

This necromancer may be powerful, but when the Dead slip away from his grasp they turn rabid. Hungry. And this necromancer is more than just raising Dead. Something evil has crossed over from beyond, something Eleanor thinks is targeting her. Young men from Elijah’s old school are turning up dead, their bodies used by the necromancer to gain more power. While grateful Elijah stayed in New York, is it possible the necromancer was following him home? Quickly, Eleanor finds her very life in the balance as she fights with the Spirit-Hunters to un-animate the dead.

Eleanor’s character in this debut is a strong, independent heroine who enjoys being left on the fringes of Philadelphia’s high society. Her father may have been a Fitt, of the Philadelphia Fitts, and all things rich and wonderful, but with the demise of his business and the collapse of his sanity, the family has spiraled. Not only monetarily, but socially. Her mother is desperate for her to marry — nevermind she’s just sixteen — for fear of losing the house. And with her brother nowhere to be found and clearly not riding in to rescue her, Clarence Wilcox’s courtship is looking increasingly dire. And then there’s Daniel, the rude, handsome inventor. To say they don’t hit it off is an understatement. Daniel is rude and argumentative, clearly not wanting one of society’s princesses traipsing through the Spirit-Hunter’s lab. But Eleanor isn’t a princess. When zombies attack the Exhibition, she’s right there ready to fight. She’s scared, of course, but if the necromancer is hunting for her brother, she’s not going to let him get away.

There’s more going on than the Spirit-Hunters know and it’s all tied in with Eleanor’s father’s death. Why is the necromancer going after the eligible young men of Philadelphian’s high society? What are the Dead doing targeting the Exhibition? And how can Eleanor keep her mother’s imagination from turning to Clarence’s proposal if Elijah is hiding in another state?

Tension will keep you locked to this book, turning pages. Dennard’s description of the Dead and a society where walking hordes are almost commonplace will transport you into this world. It’s a steampunk-meets-necromancy Victorian era America (that’s a mouthful) with characters I can’t wait to learn more about. Dennard works hard to fully develop her characters and their world, but in a few cases is forced to fall back on exposition to get the job done. While it wasn’t enough to pull me out of the story, it was still too much information at one time.

In the cases she does hold back information, she does it skillfully, adding both mystery and suspense to the novel. One of my favorite aspects was the slow building romance to Daniel and Eleanor. It felt real and helped ground their characters. But romance isn’t even a secondary plot to this novel, Eleanor’s family drama is. Maybe a tertiary (3rd level) plot. Definitely enough to leave you wanting more in book two. After the way Dennard ended this novel, I think the series is going to take a much different direction than I’d originally thought — and I am really looking forward to it.

Notable Scene:

I pushed to my feet. “Mama, please, this isn’t Father. We must not let it enter!”

“It is Henry,” Mama shouted over me.

“Make sure!” I leaned over the table, my hands reaching for her. “Ask him a question.”

Clarence sprang up, and his chair toppled behind him. “Mrs. Fitt, you must listen to your daughter.”

“No!” Mama rose and lifted her head high. “I know when my husband is near. I was his wife for fifteen years, and this is my house and my séance. I will invite him in if I wish.”

Whack, whack!

The Something Strange and Deadly Series:

1. Something Strange and Deadly

2. A Darkness Strange and Lovely

FTC Advisory: Harper Teen provided me with a copy of Something Strange and Deadly.  No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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