03 December 2012

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Oh, the bitter sting of a disappointing book.  I had received many reassurances that Something Strange and Deadly would be well worth it.  However, I was put off by the melodramatic and spastic main character, the lack of detail, and the cookie cutter plot.  The idea has enormous potential, but the story fell flat for me.

Eleanor grated on my nerves.  She was always fluttering, sputtering, stuttering, tripping or otherwise on the verge of passing out.  She had no substance to her.  She certainly wasn't strong, and the opposite of queenly.  Though she could throw a royal temper tantrum.  I think Daniel put it perfectly when he said:
"You have the curiosity of a cat and the common sense of a goldfish."
When she grew passionate about something, I was left rolling my eyes because for the most part, everything seemed to leave her unable to say anything!  For all her tragic circumstances, I just couldn't take her reactions seriously.

I had a hard time taking the plot seriously, too.  Predictable and cookie cutter, I didn't see how events connected together -- either they seemed strung together randomly, or the turn of events were far too convenient.  I didn't feel the stakes were high enough.  The only thing Eleanor seemed to be at risk of losing was her brother, and since I didn't feel any compassion for her, I couldn't really bring myself to care about her circumstances.  So as the action progressed, I was left wondering why I was supposed to care.

I think it was mostly because the characters lacked passion.  What drove each of them forward?  What about their contradictions, paradoxes, and idiosyncrasies?  These unanswered questions left me feeling like the entire cast were merely paper puppets just hobbling along.

This lack of attention to detail resonated throughout the entire story.  Nothing was very well described.  I was forced to create most of the scenery in my head, taking my attention away from the plot.  Also, in the action scenes, I completely lost track of what was happening.  I had to backtrack several times, but there simply were not enough descriptors for me to keep everything straight in my mind.  The choppy storytelling seriously diminished the shock value of the plot twists.  So what could've been a fantastic adventure story fell flat for me.

The idea was simply underdeveloped.  However, there was a lot of potential for an intoxicating setting and a story interwoven with suspense, romance and action.  Instead, I was just left frustrated and disappointed.  Regardless, I do feel a compulsion to continue, and Susan Dennard is one of those authors that I will return to after their talents have matured a bit.

"Miss Fitt, you know curiosity gets men killed."

I grinned. "Then I daresay it's good I'm a woman."
I brandished my parasol at him like a rapier. "You, sir, are an abominable scalawag of a man, and I'll be damned if I let you threaten me."

Book Info

  • pages - hardcover, 388
  • published - July 2012
  • publisher - HarperTeen
  • genre - steampunk
  • received via - library ;)
  • rating - 3/5
  • series - Something Strange and Deadly
    • Something Strange and Deadly
    • A Darkness Strange and Lovely