Friday, January 4, 2013

Badass Books: Something Strange and Deadly

So, this review is a long time coming. As in, I read the book in September. I was finishing up final edits on the manuscript I'm currently querying, and I got to thinking about what I'd write while submitting. Somehow, I got this idea to write a fantasy set in the Civil War. And I thought, how in the heck do I do a historical with a young adult voice?

Enter: Something Strange and Deadly (maybe it's technically steam punk, but the historical aspects are so well done that it was a perfect choice)

Summary (from Susan Dennard's website):

The year is 1876 and 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.

(Spoilers in white)

Why I read it: As explained above, I wanted to see how someone put a 19th century novel into a young adult voice, and let me say, Dennard does it expertly. We rarely see any part of this span of one hundred years from a teenager's perspective. Dennard weaves the history of this time (at least what I remember of it from school) with the voice and societal role of a teenage girl.

ZOMG Yes! The Dead. If you've read the book, then that's probably enough said right there. I love where Dennard pulls them from and how she ties them to New Orleans voodoo. It's brilliant really. When I first saw this, I thought ZOMBIE NOVEL YES PLEASE (please do read that in a yelling voice). This is unlike any zombie story I've ever read. It's really not zombies at all. It's magics! And I love magics.

The relationships Eleanor forges in this story are also so very rich. They take into account the gender roles of the time, which makes them all the more interesting. And each character in those relationships seems to have a very thought out underlying depth to them.

Also--the end! When that whole thing happens with the necromancer and the spirit, oh my oh my.

Meh First, I want to say that I'm thinking about getting rid of this portion of my review. Not every book has something that's "meh"-worthy, and I don't like that I've set it up to suggest they do. I didn't have any real meh's to this book at all. I'd like to have gotten to know Allison a little better, see some more depth. But that's not really a meh. It's more of a hmmm.

I heard a few people who just couldn't get into this story, but I say it's super bad ass! Go read it. :)


  1. I liked SSaD for the same reasons, Liz. It's just so original and rich. Hard to put down! And by the way, the more I hear about your Civil War WiP, the more I want to read it!

  2. There needs to be more cool historical fiction in YA. Have you read Grave Mercy? It deserves some sort of badass award too. Great review!

  3. I read SSaD and thought it was good, but didn't love it to bits. It could be a case of reading it at the wrong time. (The book I'm currently reading had a tough act to follow, so it's kind of suffering from wrong book, wrong time too.) I still haven't decided if I'll be reading Book 2 or not. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. It's always nice to find books that we totally click with. :)

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful review, Liz! I have been wanting to read SS&D for a long time, and now I definitely have to move it up on my TBR list. I'm also with Katy on this one. A fantasy set in the civil war sounds incredible!