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Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly - Originally Reviewed at BOOK BRATS!Reading SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY was something of a whim for me. I had requested it one day on Edelweiss and then came home a few days later to find a paper ARC sitting on my porch. And then after that, it took me several more weeks to decide, “Hmm, I think I’ll read this one.” I had a few initial impressions of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY based on the synopsis and cover – zombies, steampunk, girls in pretty dresses, and boys. And sadly, I was let down on two counts. The zombies in this story are more of necromancer-controlled bodies than anything, and the steampunk was never really fleshed out. Yes, there are girls in pretty dresses, though. And yes, there is something of a love triangle. Maybe I went into this one with my expectations set too high, or maybe I didn’t read the synopsis closely enough, but SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY let me down. The story felt uneven, the characters uneven, the world building uneven. The book was just a rollercoaster between good and poor, leaving me thrown through a loop how the characters could range from highly intelligent to making silly choices over and over again.The main character of our tale is Eleanor Fitt, a once-wealthy girl living near the turn of the 20th century in Philadelphia. After going to pick up her brother Elijah from the train station, she witnesses the rise of the dead, who attack and pillage anyone and anything they see. Through her desire to find her brother, who she believes is being held by the necromancer (or else already dead), she finds the Spirit-Hunters – traveling experts on the paranormal – and ends up entwined in a battle of good versus evil.There were parts of SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY I loved. For example, when Eleanor and her Spirit-Hunter love interest Daniel were investigating a factory, I loved the action – up until the point it got silly and the character decisions became ill-planned. Eleanor as a character seemed uneven, ranging from wimp one moment to a kick butt heroine the next to a whiny, spoiled brat the next. And her inability to rationalize the clues made me facepalm often.And even when certain reveals were made, such as revealing true identities, Eleanor still refused to believe them, even when such identity was made explicitly clear from early on. This entire set up – such as the antagonist, the resolution to the love interests, etc – was made clear from about page five and heavy handed. And the reporter Peger just felt poorly used, referenced only in mention besides one scene when he could have really been a true villain. Dennard, in her debut, was very ruthless about deaths and amputations and delicious evil. She pulled punches where she needed them where many authors weasel their ways out.The ending did make me want to read book two. Even though the book felt until about five pages left like a great standalone, the ending suddenly ramped up and paved the way for an entirely new tale. And it’s a tale I’d like to read, in hopes that the unevenness is ironed out. A heavier hand with editing and more consistency would definitely have brought this story up a few notches, but as it stands, it felt like attention was paid to certain chapters and others forgotten, abandoned. And to wrap up, the world building. I have seen various comments on this – amazing and complete versus non-existent. I’ll have to put myself into the “needs work” camp. The Philadelphia portrayed felt like any usual city with Philadelphia landmarks applied in name, and the world of magic and necromancy was never clearly explained. How do necromancers get their gifts? Born with them. Where does power come from? Egypt. How does this machine work? It does. It felt incomplete and poorly explained. And the “steampunk” aspect of this was ill-defined.VERDICT: Suffering from a strong case of the unevens, SOMETHING STRONG AND DEADLY ranges from being a taut mystery to a silly mess from chapter to chapter. But if you can stick through it, Eleanor’s resolution as a character is enough to make anyone cheer.