Genre: YA Historical Steampunk Gothic Paranormal
Series: Something Strange & Deadly #1
There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…
Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family as fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walkers 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 the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. An now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.
I loved this book so much more than I thought I would. I mean, it sounded great, and I was hoping I’d enjoy it, but WOW. I LOVE this book! It’s the first thing I’ve read that has even put a dent in my Gemma Doyle withdrawal, even though the stories are quite different, despite both taking place in Victorian times and involving a heroine who can do magic and is attracted to a man below her station. I think that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Aside from the fact that both series are epic, of course. I’ve read a fair amount of books set in Victorian England, but this was my first set in Victorian America. It was great fun noting the differences. Eleanor’s family, for instance, is wealthy because her father ran a successful company; something that in Victorian England would have been looked down upon, since most wealthy English Victorians were born into their wealth and made money simply because they already possessed it. Young Victorian women in America also seemed to enjoy a great deal more freedom than their English counterparts, though both countries were of course restrictive.
The setting of 1876 Philadelphia was refreshingly unique. And I suppose it helps that I lived in Pennsylvania, so I actually know how to pronounce the world “Schuylkill”. I’ve never been all that into zombies, but I do find necromancy fascinating, so I loved that this book came at zombies from a necromancy angle – there was no infectious disease, the tedious “turning” of characters – there were just corpses animated by dark magic. I thought this was a really unique, interesting concept. The author also clearly did her research about necromancy, and about the 1876 International Centennial Exhibit. I think at one point she even referenced what page something was on in the pamphlet. It was this level of detail that made this “alternate history” world feel completely authentic. And I’d rather live in a world where magic is accepted as a normal part of the world, anyway, so these aspects greatly appealed to me. We also get to see a Victorian seance!
I loved the relationship between Eleanor and her brother, even if we didn’t see much of it. They were so clearly devoted to each other. I felt bad for Eleanor that her mother was so hard on her, though it explained her personality in many ways. Eleanor is a likeable heroine, but she has many flaws, and never apologizes for being who she is. I found this refreshing. I appreciated her curiosty as well, since I too have an insatiable curiosity. I also liked that every character had such depth, so many facets to their personality. Clarence Wilcox, Eleanor’s wealthy suitor, wasn’t a bad guy but wasn’t terribly likeable either. Daniel Sheridan, the young Spirit-Hunter with a troubled past whom Eleanor falls for is fiery and stubborn, yet also quite intelligent and emotional. Even Jie, the quintessential tomboy still retains some femininity.
Joseph Boyer, leader of the Spirit-Hunters, is a powerful magic-user, but possesses a quite gentle nature. I loved experiencing Eleanor’s adventures with the Spirit-Hunters as she searched for her brother, and watching the way the four of them worked together was highly entertaining. I definitely recommend this book. It’s a perfect summer read. Not that it can’t be read in another season, but the summer in Philadelphia setting, combined with the general mischief of the plot do seem well-suited to summer.