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The City Where All The Brothers Love Each Other

Jenny decides she likes zombies set in historical fiction even more than a good old zombie apocalypse with Susan Dennard's Something Strange and Deadly.

The City Where All The Brothers Love Each Other

BOOK REPORT for Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

Cover Story: Fancy Dress
BFF Charm:  Yay
Swoonworthy Scale: 7
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: History, Zombies, Feminism
Relationship Status: I'll fight through a zombie horde for you

Cover Story: Fancy Dress

Where did this cover go wrong? Oops, I mean, where did it go RIGHT?!!! And where are her HANDS!!!! And is that dress even period appropriate for the 1870's? The eyeliner certainly isn't. I DO have to give the designer props for the machinery pieces in the background. They tie in to the story nicely.

The Deal:

During the Centennial Exposition of 1876, (also known as the very first official World's Fair in the U.S.) millions of visitors streamed into the city of Philadelphia, PA, to learn about arts and manufacturers, and to see the wonders of Exhibition Hall. What they don't expect is HORDES OF THE DEAD!!!! That's right, a mysterious necromancer is performing ritual killings in the city, and the dead of Laurel Hill Cemetery are rising.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Fitt has problems of her own: her brother is missing, she and her mother are out of money, and her mother's solution to the problem is to marry her off ASAP. Convinced that her brother's disappearance is somehow connected to the macabre goings on in the city, Eleanor enlists the help of the Spirit Hunters the city has hired to solve the problem, but soon realizes that they may be the ones in need of help...

BFF Charm: Yay

Yay Eleanor!!! I would be proud to share my charm with this super smart young lady, who is so ahead of her time -- before she even realizes it! Eleanor is the kind of progressive young heroine you want to read about in historical fiction, because without women like her in the past, we ladies never would have gotten the vote, or the right to own property, or *almost* equal-paying jobs. She doesn't back down in the face of crazy adversity, is a fiercely loyal friend, and also the kind of girl I'd just like to hang out and have a cup of tea (or whiskey) with. Or tea with whiskey in it. That'd be fine, too.

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

In the great tradition of Princess Leia Organa and Han Solo, sparks fly between Eleanor and one of the Spirit Hunters, with the resulting tension and chemistry enough to build a fire in your pants. This book is no ordinary bosom-heaver, and the author surprised me with her love story, leaving me v. v. glad there will be a sequel.

Talky Talk: Straight Up

There are so many aspects about this book that I could have put into Bonus Factors, but I thought it might be better to discuss them here. First of all, Dennard nailed the voice of her protag within the time period without making it feel too formal or stilted. Then, she brought in characters like Joseph, (a brown-skinned Creole) and Jie Chen, (a young Chinese person whose life decisions open Eleanor's horizons) to address issues of the racism and sexism of the time -- all without ever making this feel like an ISSUE book. Instead, it's an easy to read story full of suspense, action,  romance, AND deeper stuff.

Bonus Factor: History

By now, you all know how much we love historical fiction here at FYA -- I mean, it's on our Milk Carton, after all. So I was thrilled with the amount of history that was packed between these pages. It was an extra bonus for me that it takes place in a time and place with which I wasn't already terribly familiar.  I mean, what do I know about Philadelphia?  Benjamin Franklin, Liberty Bell, and how the city didn't live up to the above title quote in the venerable, multi-cultural classic The Frisco Kid. Thanks to this book, (and the subsequent research it inspired) that is no longer the case.

Bonus Factor: Zombies

You guys, I can't help it, I STILL love zombies!!! Maybe part of that is due to the fact that I haven't actually read all that many zombie books, but STILL!!! And honestly, the fact that these zombies were part of mystical shenanigans in an historical setting, and not a part of a futuristic apocalypse made me love them all the more.

Bonus Factor: Feminism

This book could have been SO different without the strong threads of feminism that were weaved throughout it. Eleanor had long been taking care of her mother -- and the household -- but within the context of her adventures, she becomes a woman with true grit, who's unafraid to buck convention, which in turn makes her a young woman whose life I'd like to know more about.  What does she go on to do?  I think whatever it is, it will be good.

Casting Call:

Candice Accola as Eleanor

She'd have to gain just a few pounds to be a little more normal, justify Eleanor's fondness for buttered toast, and her mother's complaints about her figure, but I can't picture anyone else for Eleanor.

Relationship Status: I'll fight through a zombie horde for you

Oh book, you had me hooked from the first few exciting pages, and you never disappointed. As I got to know you, I discovered that not only were you smart and exciting, but we share the same world view and goals! So I don't care how many rotting corpses stand between us, I've got me a parasol and some trousers -- I'm coming!

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my review copy from Harper Collins. I received neither money nor cocktails for writing this review (dammit!).Something Strange and Deadly is available now.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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