I’ve been absent from this blog for a month again, sorry about that! To make it up to you, I’ve taken time off from writing about a pretty epic lady pirate to put this post together. I hope this sacrifice on my part is good enough to earn your forgiveness!
About two years ago I picked up a copy of Susan Dennard’s debut novel, Something Strange and Deadly, but it sat on my shelf for the longest time — as with a lot of books, it fell victim to the Venn diagram of “Books I Want to Read” and “Books I Sadly Have No Time to Read”. Then, last year, hype started to build for Truthwitch, making me even more eager to read the book with the girl in the dress on the cover. All I knew about it, really, was that it had zombies. Still, I couldn’t find the time to read it. Between University and other books in my massive TBR pile, SS&D kept falling to the side. It wasn’t until after I devoured and adored Truthwitch at the start of this year that I finally decided that I wasn’t putting it off any longer. It didn’t matter that I had no time (I actually had less time than before thanks to having to spend seven months working daily on a dissertation!) because I was going to make time for this book. I had to; Eleanor was staring at me from the cover of the book ever time I looked at it and making my shame for not reading her story rise.
To say that it’s the best decision I’ve made all year is somewhat of an understatement. I was completely entranced by all three books in the series, reading them in quick succession (and reading book three, Strange and Ever After, over the course of about 30 hours. I won’t lie, I’m fairly mad at myself for not reading these books years ago when I bought the first one.
So now that we’re on the road to Windwitch and I know that so many of you will be needing something to hold you over until that is released, I’ve decided that it’s finally time for me to tell you Why You Should Read: The Something Strange and Deadly Series!
There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…
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.
One of the most instantly striking aspects of Something Strange and Deadly is the setting. We’re transported to 1876 Philadelphia, with just a little difference being that there are re-animated corpses wandering around. We get a glimpse of how intense the world we’re entering will be right from the first chapter. It’s such a unique combination of historical fiction, steampunk, and straight-up zombie horror that I can’t think of many settings which are as fascinating and gripping! (The book is also set during the Centennial Exhibition, which I didn’t know much about before reading this book but was encouraged to actually research while I was reading!)
The sequels both feature incredible settings, too; with A Darkness Strange and Lovely seeing the gang travel to Paris, and Strange and Ever After taking them all the way to Egypt. I’m not sure if I can think of a series which changes setting so drastically and so perfectly from one book to the next, and can honestly say that Susan Dennard brings each location to life (was that a zombie reference? Maybe.) absolutely beautifully.
I feel like every Why You Should Read that I write always includes a ‘The Characters’ section, but to be honest, what makes a book really great for me — and, in turn, makes me want to recommend it to the world — is more often than not a stellar cast of characters. The Something Strange and Deadly series has just that. The main character, Eleanor Fitt, is really just a great all-round character. She’s strong where she needs to be, and faced by challenges where she is believably weak. Through those weaknesses, we get to watch her grow as a character and by the end of the series her transformation from the beginning of book one to the climax of book three feels very natural. Plus she’s the most lovable, sassy lady you’ll likely ever read!
Behind her, there’s a delightfully diverse group of supporting characters who all bring their own unique and truly fascinating personalities to the story. I could write entire blog posts for the Spirit Hunters — Joseph Boyer, the leader; Jie, the feisty kick-butt best friend; and Daniel, who’s just the best — or about the Wilcox’s, or about Oliver. If you’ve read Truthwitch, then you know that Susan Dennard knows how to craft a character, and you won’t be surprised to know that she’s got a whole cast of them in these books who are every bit as good!
*Side note; There’s also a prequel novella, A Dawn Most Wicked, focussing on Daniel Sheridan. It’s also great, and made me love his character and his character development 1000% more!
Think about it. Zombies. 1876 Philadelphia. People fighting evil spirits. Intrigue. Everything Paranormal. Mystery. Dark themes. Necromancy. A little bit of romance and fashion tossed in there for good measure!
It all comes together in this crazy-wonderful blend that I can’t really explain! I can’t say too much about the plot because I’m covering an entire series with this post, but the first book sees Eleanor enlist the help of the Spirit-Hunters to try to save her brother, Elijah, from an evil necromancer. I mean, come on.
(Be real. I sold you on this book a long time ago and you’re only reading this far to see if I make any jokes, aren’t you? )
I’m mad at myself for not getting to this series sooner, but in a strange way it seems like I got to it just in time. Next year these books will be returning to bookstores with some brand new covers, the first of which was revealed last week! (While I love the old covers, this new cover captures the tone of the story perfectly!)
If you’re wanting something to hold you over before Windwitch, I’m sure you could find copies of the old editions and read them right away. However, I’m also sure that we’ll all be left desperate for more after we read Windwitch, so maybe you might want to hold off until the new editions come out! Either way, you’ll be getting one hell of a story and entering into one of the most unique worlds I’ve ever experienced.
Alongside this point, if you’re not already, go follow Susan on twitter, @stdennard, where she’ll be revealing the new cover for A Darkness Strange and Lovely as part of next week’s #WindwitchWednesday!
WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT IT
“Thrilling, charming, and dark, Something Strange & Deadly is a delicious sandwich of harmonious flavors. I fell for Daniel, I soaked in the zombie mayhem with glee, I delighted in the steampunk fashion and gadgetry. If you enjoyed Clockwork Angel, you’ll love this. Fantastical fun.”
– Marie Lu, New York Times Best Selling Author of The Young Elites
“An emotionally honest, well-earned denouement [Strange & Ever After] brings this lively historical zombie trilogy to an honorable end.”
– Kirkus Reviews
“There were plenty of corsets and parasols, but oh my goodness is this book packed with action! And when I say action I mean zombies, and escapes, and chases, and spirits, and scandals! … Dennard brings a historic Philadelphia to life effortlessly, and this alternate history, walking Dead thriller, is a total romp.”
– Erin Bowman, author of the Taken series and Vengeance Road
“This series glues together a string of factors in such a devilishly clever way that every page brings something new to smile, laugh, and cry about. Dennard brings you along on a journey across the world, fighting zombies, and spirits, and mummies, as all the while you find yourself caring more and more deeply for the series’ incredible cast of characters.”
– Me, MichaelReads