Thursday, September 6, 2012
Something Strange and Deadly
In Victorian era Philadephia, Eleanor Fitt is part of a historically important and successful family, but her father went crazy after his business failed. Her mother insists on keeping their previous standard of living to keep up appearances that they are rich, but they are close to being destitute. Their only real hope is for Eleanor's brother, Elijah, to come home and support them, but he has been mysteriously detained. This also happens to coincide with the arrival of zombies in Philadelphia controlled by a mysterious and dangerous necromancer. Eleanor thinks her brother is somehow mixed up in this whole mess and goes to the Spirit Hunters, who are helping to fight off the animated corpses, for help. Can they save Philadelphia from the undead menace and figure out how this is all tied to Eleanor's brother?
Based on the synopsis, I was expecting something like Lia Habel's Nora Dearly series. The two works have commonalities, including time period, fashions, zombies, and kickass heroines, but Something Strange and Deadly stands by itself as a compelling and exciting novel. I loved this book and its magical version of Victorian Philadelphia that includes zombies and ghosts. These zombies aren't contagious or diseased in any way like those in most zombie books. They are simply dead people raised from a graveyard and controlled by a necromancer. They will attack any threat in order to protect their master to the bitter end, even if they are in pieces, but will stay still if they aren't needed. It's kind of like having undead bodyguards. The extra danger for everyone comes in if the necromancer somehow loses control of these zombies. Then the zombies become wild, hungry for any flesh available. Don't be put off by the Victorian setting; there is plenty of zombie action to enjoy. The ghost is just as fearsome and dangerous as the zombies at times. Its motives and identity are very murky up until the end and kept me guessing, unlike the identity of the necromancer. The mixture of the two supernatural beings is an interesting dynamic not seen in recent fantasy novels.
The characters are flawed and realistic and the outcomes of the situations aren't sanitized and neat. Eleanor is a kickass girl, but she isn't the strongest or the fastest. She accomplishes things with a steely resolve and the knowledge that if she won't do it, no one will. I liked seeing Victorian society through her eyes. Her future is basically planned out for her: marry very well, be a good wife, and have children. Even Victorian fashions are extremely restrictive and uncomfortable, which reflects the restrictive nature of the society. Her romance blooms naturally, no instalove needed, and her love interest is just as dynamic and compelling. The Spirit Hunters are a rag tag group of outcasts that work to protect people from the zombie menace despite the misleading and slanderous press surrounding them. I really liked that characters get injured and the ending isn't all tied up in a nice bow. It's messy and gives a sense of realism in a fantastical world of zombies, ghosts, and steampunk gadgets.
Something Strange and Deadly is one of my favorite reads of the summer. It combines so many things I like so very well. I am only sad that I read it so early because I will probably have to wait a year or more for the next book to come out. Highly recommended for fans of steampunk, zombies, or fantasy.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins