Author: Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange and Deadly
Publication Date: July 24th, 2012
Rating: 3.5 Stars
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…It's one thing to fear death, but it's another to fear the Dead.
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.
There's no denying that this book is kind of awesome. I liked the promise behind the setting. 1800s Philadelphia... Not Victorian England, but Philadelphia. AMERICA. I am proud.
Anyway, there's been hype around this book even before it was published, and I was excited to get to it. Especially since I don't read zombie books often, so this would've been new for me.
However, despite the fast-moving plot and somewhat-likable characters, this story still leaves quite a bit to be desired. There are many questions that are left unanswered, and I always got the feeling that the entire thing was a bit... anachronistic. It's not just the zombies in industrial-era Philadelphia thing, which would have been spectacular if it'd made more sense, but I guess the fact that the plot's motive is never really explained is what muddies up the whole story and makes the things that happen seem out of place. One part I couldn't reconcile was the connection between zombies and spirits and black magic. While creative, this mixture brings in a bunch of completely different subjects and attempts to meld them together, and though Dennard does a decent job, I wasn't ever fully convinced.
There's lots of action, but some of it is a bit choppy and hard to read, as well as overuse of the word, trot. In the midst of it is Eleanor Fitt, who plunges into this medley of ghost killers and slow and hungry zombies and necromancers with realizations that usually strike her quickly and illogically. She does have some moments where she kicks some faces in, and there is a surprise at the finale that really shocked me, but her character development wasn't all that believable to me.
Like Eleanor, the other characters are never fully developed, and I was never that invested in their lives. You know a story hasn't made much of an impact on you when a key character dies and you're just sitting there going "huh" instead of bawling your eyes out. I don't understand why Jie kept saying "yeah?" at the end of her sentences. If it's because she's Chinese, I have never in my life met someone Chinese who asks a question at the end of everything he/she says. Daniel's dialogue was also a bit stilted, but I've never liked the whole cut off end of word thing (saying runnin' instead of running, etc).
I do admit that I liked the romance, and it was one of the more interesting parts of the novel. The characters do suck face, but nothing between them settles down, even at the end. I liked that Daniel was all grumpy and sweet, and I found the love story likable, especially since it's not too central to the story but manages to develop nicely regardless. That doesn't detract from Eleanor's capacity for irritating me, but it was still cute.
That said, I want to know if Eleanor meets Daniel again. I also want to know if the little twist at the ending will change her at all. Dennard did leave the book on a bit of a bittersweet cliffhanger, so I'll definitely read the next one and hope it's better than the first.
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