Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard
"The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…"
Okay I have a confession to make. I am not a fan of books written in this time period (unless they were literally written in this time period). No that isn't even accurate, I would almost go as far as to say I hate them, almost. I really dislike the "helpless damsel" main character, but even more so I hate characters that are too strong, outspoken and unrealistic to the time period. So when I read the above line at the start of this book's blurb I held about as much hope of enjoying it as I do for Orlando Bloom to come knocking on my door so we can run away together.
Since my last review was pretty much all negatives I think I'll start this review off with some positives. First and my absolute favorite positive for this book, it is not based almost entirely on a love story. More importantly there is no ridiculously over done love triangle to be seen. Don't get me wrong, I love a good love triangle as much as the next girl but there is only so many times you can read the same old thing before you can just about quote it. It was refreshing to find a story that had enough going on to keep me reading without having to rely on the love triangle cliche. Their was two boys in Eleanor's life but it is established fairly quickly that she is not at all interested in one, and it wasn't until the very end she finally figures out that she might have more than just friendship in mind for the other. Even then, there is none of the ridiculous falling madly and completely in love with the boy you've just met, it is much more believable.
I also really enjoyed how Eleanor's character was written and how she grows throughout her journey in the story. In the beginning she is exactly how you would imagine a girl in the 1870's to be but with her own flair. Right from the beginning you can tell how much she longs to be free of her role in the world, even before she realises herself. By the end of the story she has well and truly broken the mold of the "proper young lady" and is well on her way to becoming a head strong, independent young woman. I am very much looking forward to seeing how her character grows in the rest of the series.
In general I really liked the storyline. It was a nice break from the over done girl doesn't realise she is really a vampire/werewolf/hybrid/some other super awesome superstar and then she miraculously is perfect at everything. I like that for the majority of the story Eleanor is simply a normal girl trying to figure out her place in the world and struggling to keep her family afloat while she does whatever is in her power to find and save her brother. It isn't until right near the end it occurs to her that she might have a bigger part to play than she first imagined.
I actually only have one big negative for this story and the rest are little nit picky things that aren't really that important, but enough for me to be hesitant in giving Something Strange and Deadly a 5 heart review. My one big negative is that the world building was a little lacking and at some points really confusing. I really love stories that paint the environment so well that you feel like you are really there. Unfortunately Something Strange and Deadly falls short and on more than one occasion I found myself re reading a passage 3 or 4 times and still not understanding what I was meant to be "looking at".
The same went for the character descriptions, I found that even towards the end of the book I still had no clue what some of the characters looked like and was forced to come up with my own ideas. While I'm not totally against leaving something to the reader's imagination I think there needs to be at least something to work with.
Okay the nit picky things I mentioned earlier are hard to get in to without a few spoilers but I'll try my best to keep them not too detailed.
Firstly, there were a couple of parts to the story line that were very predictable. I think it was about page 3 or 4 and I already knew that Elijah was the necromancer. The moment one of the zombies (controlled by the necromancer) handed Eleanor the note from her brother it was obvious. And the fact that no one, not even the Spirit - Hunters could figure that out sort of annoyed me.
Similarly I didn't like that when in one scene a couple of boys mention knowing Elijah from school and she automatically questions if they were the bullies that made his life hell only to figure out that the boys were in the next year below her brother not above like his bullies. Yet only a few chapters later when Clarence lets slip that he lied about knowing Elijah and is acting guilty and fumbling over the fact that he was a year ahead of Elijah, Eleanor simply brushes it off without a second thought. Not surprisingly you find out later that Clarence was one of the bullies.
The last little nit picky negative was during the scene where zombies first attack Eleanor, Daniel, Joseph and Jie. Not only does Eleanor not faint at the sight of a zombie attack (which less face it, any woman wearing a corset who was just running should have, regardless of how bad ass they are about zombies) but she manages to bust out some zombie killing moves right away despite not having any experience. I found that a little bit too convenient.
Okay this last one isn't a negative but since it contained spoilers I had to put it here. I absolutely love, love, LOVED the last chapter. When I read that they amputated her hand I thought it was a fantastic twist and all I could think of was all the interesting ways it will come up in the next book. I loved that Eleanor chooses to stay at home and "face the music" so to speak instead of running away and leaving her mother alone. I can't wait to see what the repercussions of her actions will be in the next book. I'm really curious also to see how Eleanor's relationship grows with Mary in the next book now that she is breaking away from her role as a lady, I predict Mary joining Eleanor and the two becoming close friends. And the way things were left between Eleanor and Daniel was perfect! No admissions of undying love, even a denial of love, but you just know it's not the end to their story. I loved it!
All in all I think Something Strange and Deadly is definitely worth reading, and although there were a few negatives the positives greatly out weigh them so I'd say it's very deserving of the 4.5 hearts I've given it. Book two in the series is on my list of books to look out for and I can't wait to see where the story will go to next.
Have you read Something Strange and Deadly? If you have I'd love to hear what you thought of it!
Also, since I've officially decided that maybe not all books set in this time period are all bad it got me to thinking what other books similar to this are out there that I might enjoy? If you have a suggestion let me know!