Series: Something Strange and Deadly, Book 1
Genres: Young Adult, Steampunk, Zombies, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Romance, Horror, Supernatural
Eleanor Fitt, of the Philadelphia Fitts, is heartbroken to discover her brother is missing. She’s terrified to know that his disappearance is tied together with the walking Dead in the streets, to know that the Necromancer has kidnapped him.
Doing what she can to rescue her brother, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit Hunters. This motley crew, hired to help protect the city from the Dead, is after the very necromancer that has Eleanor’s brother. As Eleanor spends more time with the crew, and their handsome inventor, the more dire the situation gets. Not only is her reputation at stake, but also her life.
“Don’t think I’ll look after you, though – the world would be better off with one less princess.”
“I’m not a princess,” I huffed, beating my brain for some worthy retort.
“A queen then?”
“No! That’s not what I meant – “
“Oh, an empress. I see. Pardon me, Your Majesty.” He swooped into a crouched bow, and when his torso sprang back up, a smile floated at the edge of his lips.
“N-no, not an empress either. I-I’m just…” The more I stuttered, the more pompous his smile became.
“You’re exasperating,” I finally groaned.Susan Dennard, Something Strange and Deadly
When Truthwitch came out, Susan Dennard hit my radar. I’d like to say that I read this book and loved it, but I have yet to actually give the series a read. The books in this series are certainly on my ridiculously long TBR, I just haven’t picked them up yet. The reason I bring this up is to show that Dennard’s books prior to Truthwitch were not on my radar. Something Strange and Deadly was even further removed from my “books to check out” radar since I hadn’t discovered my love for Steampunk yet. What brought the book to my radar – and Dennard’s amazing writing as a whole – was her amazingly perfect twitter thread about The Luminaries. As soon as I read this thread, I knew I had to get my hands on everything that Dennard had written.
I fell head over heels in love with her writing as I tuned in daily to see where The Luminaries was going to go. (Side note, I can’t wait until it’s possible to get my hands on a physical book that takes place in this amazing world. A book where the LumiNerd can’t mess with Winnie yet can still quench their thirst.) Her words while writing these twitter posts kept me engaged and waiting for more.
That’s why it came as absolutely no shock to me that I fell in love with Something Strange and Deadly from the very first line.
Since I got my car, I’ve loved listening to AudioBooks on my way to and from work on the days I need to go into the office. It took my a while to get through Something Strange and Deadly simply because I didn’t want the story to end. I found myself throwing other AudioBooks and Podcasts into the middle of my listen through because I didn’t want my time with Eleanor to end.
That is, until I remembered that I could easily grab the next book in the series and devour it just as soon as I finished Something Strange and Deadly. Suffice it to say, I listened to the second half of this story in one “sitting”. As I write this, I have A Darkness Strange and Lovely waiting for me on Audible. As soon as I’m done rambling on I’m going to jump right back into the world and see what Eleanor can get herself up to this time.
For someone who didn’t take such a roundabout route to find this book, here’s a quick breakdown as to why Something Strange and Deadly called to me:
In 2020 I discovered a love for the Steampunk genre in general. There’s something about the mixture of technology and historical fiction that calls to me. Dennard has done an amazing job at creating this Steampunk world. I found myself excited to see what the next invention was going to be, how it was going to help Eleanor find her brother, how it was going to help stop the Dead.
The world building itself – Steampunk elements aside – was done amazingly. I almost felt as if I was running around the streets with Eleanor, pretending to be a perfect High Society lady while frolicking in the darker parts of the city on a mission. I could imagine the places she went to, the opulence of her home and how it hid the truth of her family’s wealth. I could imagine in my mind’s eye the divide between the classes that was so glaringly obvious at this point in history.
But best of all, the characters Dennard was able to create were tangible personalities. I could guess how Eleanor and Daniel were going to react to something before it happened. I could see the way Eleanor’s face would contort in fury at just the right moment. I could feel the emotion coming from the story and sense the way it would impact what came next.
I’m not a huge fan of zombies in media – which could be the reason that this book wasn’t on my radar in the first place – but Dennard wrote this story in a way that it was even able to draw me into the mystery of the Dead. Necromancers have always fascinated me, but an army of the dead isn’t really my thing. And that being said, I enjoyed every second I spent in this world.
While this story continues to have less praise than her Witchlands books, Dennard has created a wonderful world that I can’t wait to jump back into. If you’re looking for a fun YA paranormal read, or even an interesting zombie story, I’d highly recommend giving this story a try. This isn’t your typical “walking dead” zombies are after you sort of story, so if this is what you’re looking for you probably won’t be please. However, I truly did enjoy the take on “zombies” that Dennard had here.
There’s not much I want to say in this section, because if you haven’t read this book yet I really hope you do. And I want you to be able to go into the story blind like I did. It truly is a fantastic read.
That being said, I do want to quickly gush over the way Eleanor and Daniel slowly get to know each other. I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle in this story – it felt a little forced to me – but I otherwise enjoyed the romantic elements throughout. Eleanor and Daniel certainly started off on rocky footing. Yet by getting thrown together again and again by circumstances they slowly got to know each other. The real them behind the facade that they put on for society.
It was clear from the beginning that these two would end up liking each other, but what really drew me to the romance was the way Dennard wrote about them. They both fought against societal expectations and norms, yet still remained trapped by their constraints. Their difference in social standing played a bigger role in their budding romance than either of them seemed to realized and I can only imagine what that pressure must have been like. Finding out that Daniel had been blamed for her father’s decline in business and thus his supposed decline in mental health until the end wasn’t an easy pill for Eleanor to swallow. She certainly let him take the blame when she first found out, until he told his side of the story.
I’m glad that their devotion to each other is so clear. It’ll in no way be an easy romance, but I certainly hope they make it work in the rest of the series.
I’d also like to briefly touch on the walking dead/zombie aspect of the story. I’ve seen a lot of people make the comparison between The Walking Dead TV show and Something Strange and Deadly and would like to touch on the topic. The stories are in no way similar, and it’s clear that people have been disappointed by this. However, I think it’s better if you refrain from going into a story expecting it to be like another story you’ve seen/read.
Something Strange and Deadly never pretended to be the same kind of story as The Walking Dead. If they were the same kind of story, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time in this world at all. The only real difference between these stories is that the dead move.
Dennard doesn’t try to mask the Dead in this story as your average zombie. Yes, the Dead become ravenous and want to devour humans once they’re out from under the Necromancer’s control, but that’s not the focus of this story. Instead the focus is quite clearly on the Necromancer and the havoc he’s wreaking.
This focus on the necromancer and his powers over the dead is why the story was such a compelling one to me. I’m much more interested in the power to control the Dead and make them do your bidding than I am in the dead devouring humans like it’s the only thing they want from their undead life. Dennard’s focus on the way necromancy works in this world and the way other powers interact with them was the interesting plot line for me.
Now that a second, more powerful necromancer has arrived – well, reanimated a corpse – I can’t wait to see where things go. Thankfully, I don’t have to wait long as I already have A Darkness Strange and Lonely waiting for me.