Reviewed by Carrie Ardoin

Eleanor Fitt is so very tired of living up to her demanding mother’s expectations. Only 16, Eleanor is expected to marry soon and reclaim her once prestigious family’s reputation. A reputation that has been in decline since the death of Eleanor’s father, the loss of the family’s wealth, and now, the recent disappearance of her brother, Elijah. On top of all this, the Dead have started rising in Philadelphia…and no one knows why. But Eleanor is sure her brother is tied up in the events somehow, and soon finds herself in league with the mysterious group called Spirit-Hunters.

Once Eleanor starts digging into the truth, she finds herself in deeper than she imagined–and engaging in behavior most unbecoming for a lady of her breeding. Can she save her brother without destroying her family–and the city–completely?

So, Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard was my first Victorian/steampunk horror novel. It was definitely an interesting genre for me, as I’m used to reading books with fierce, warrior-like heroines who would never dream of fighting the supernatural while also having to wear a corset and layers of frilly skirts. But, I did come to at least partially like Eleanor. I just had a hard time seeing her worry about her reputation and pleasing her mother so much. She is only 16, and I have to remember that 1876 was a very different time from 2012. During the course of the book, she changes a great deal and I found her stronger by the end.

While I went into this novel thinking it would be more of a zombie attack book, it was not like that at all. The zombies are an important part of the novel, but they are not really the zombies most of us love in literature. These walking dead are more like controlled drones than flesh eating beasts. But that’s OK with me…as the story progressed I came to enjoy the necromancer plot and how it all tied together in the end.

There was a very delicate thread of romance woven into the story. Eleanor nearly finds herself in two romances, actually. One she doesn’t want because her mother is trying to push her into it, and one she never expected but still wants even though she knows she shouldn’t. That was another aspect of the book I liked–times were different in the way relationships progressed as well. There is none of the dreaded insta-love in this book, and that is a breath of fresh air.

I did have some problems with the pacing, though. The first 100 or so pages were very slow for me. Then some action would happen, then lots of exposition in between important plot points. But all in all the action interspersed was enough to keep me reading steadily.

This was a very different and intriguing novel for me, and I LOVED that there was not a perfect fairy tale ending. The end was sort of left open for a sequel, although I feel this could almost be a stand alone book. I could see myself reading more from this genre, and from Susan Dennard.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.