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on January 20, 2013
This book has been very hyped so I knew I had to eventually read it.

Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard stars Eleanor, a once higher class girl, who has fallen in society's ranks because of the ravings of her now dead father. Not only that her brother Eli has gone missing and the Dead are rising from a nearby graveyard. Eleanor meets some unexpected friends who have spent their time trying to put the Dead back to rest and saving others from being attacked. There may be a love interest or two. But who can Eleanor trust?

There's actually a lot to like about this book, especially in the last third of the book. There are some great reveals and plot twists that keep things going.

My biggest issue is how the world building starts. In the first few pages of the book, we are in Eleanor's head as she tries to get in the mail room to see if there was a telegraph from her missing brother. We get kind of a sense that it's older times, but we don't get a year reference until later on. I also got the sense that we were in the South, but instead we were in Philadelphia. Again, not mentioned until halfway through the book. I found myself floundering to get oriented. Also, I couldn't get myself to like the main character. She whines and acts all prissy, and it takes her over half the book to get over herself. Lastly, I thought the "Dead" were zombies, but they didn't act like zombies and I guess aren't really zombies, so that also took some time to get worked out.

Overall, the last half is much stronger than the first half, but I haven't decided if I'm going to pick up the next entry. Dennard definitely has some good ideas though, so I just may.
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on July 24, 2012
Holy crap this was awesome. I don't even want to write a review; I just want to bask in the awesomeness that is Something Strange and Deadly. (But you know, I kind of have to write a review, since I received an ARC from the publisher, so here goes it.)

Eleanor Fitt is a sixteen-year-old living with her mother in Philadelphia, in the dawn of attacks from the walking Dead brought upon Philadelphia by a mysterious and unknown necromancer. To make matters worse, Eleanor receives letters from her long-lost brother, Elijah, and the content of the letters leads Eleanor to believe the necromancer has held Elijah hostage. Desperate to save her brother from the hands of the evil necromancer, Eleanor teams up with a group known as the Spirit-Hunters, all the while having to keep her strive to save her brother a secret from her overprotective mother, and everyone else.

Something Strange and Deadly was such an incredibly fun read, and I just loved it. There. That's my review. What? I need to write more? Well, crap.

The plot for Something Strange and Deadly is very creative, and just a whole new take on the zombie genre. Instead of the zombies most people are typically used to, these zombies aren't really even zombies. They're animated corpses that do whatever their animator, the Necromancer, orders them to do. The Necromancer is an unknown person who is just wreaking havoc on all of Philadelphia by unleashing an army of the undead. I use the term "unknown" semi-lightly, because I had guessed who the Necromancer was a little too early in the book, but it didn't really take away from my enjoyment, and I still ended up loving it.

The characters--especially Eleanor--were top-notch and were flawed in their own little ways, but they were still strong, amazing and extremely likable. Right off the bat I knew that I would like Eleanor; she's stubborn, self-reliant, witty and strong. She knows what she wants, when she wants it, and won't take no for an answer. As well as that, she is determined, and once she sets her mind on something, she goes through with it (these are the types of heroines we all need in YA). Aaaand, the relationship between Eleanor and her love interest (can I say who it is? Is that a spoiler?) is not insta-love, and their relationship actually takes time to develop and to form into something. (Yay!) Their romance also isn't heavily relied upon in the book, and is more of just something that rides alongside the plot.

If you're reading this book expecting a massive zombiefest, you may be a bit disappointed in it. Yes, zombies are a big part of Something Strange and Deadly, but it's not the main part. Throughout most of the book, there's tons of character development, relationship development, lots of scenes in which Eleanor discovers secrets she never knew existed, and other scenes of the like. All of those scenes take a much larger part in Something Strange and Deadly than the zombies (in my opinion).

And I know I'm jumping around a bit, but in my review I just need to mention that ending. That ending was just perfection! Everything about it I loved, and although I did see the Necromancer twist coming, there were other things I hadn't seen coming, and I thought it was an extremely clever ending (but then again, the whole book is clever). And that last chapter, *sigh*, that was just an amazing last chapter, and I want the next book now. (pleeease?)

And now I have a few more survival tips for the impending zombie apocalypse (because it's bound to happen, people):

Tip One: It's not dead unless it's completely and totally mangled.

Tip Two: Umbrellas can also be used as weapons.

Tip Three: Always aim for the knees.
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I liked it enough to give it 3 stars, otherwise it might be 2.5 stars.

I would call the Something Strange and Deadly series a hyped series. I've heard enough about it--and seen enough people talking about it--to know it's a series I should definitely read. So when I finally pulled my copy off my shelf and sat down to read it, I was expecting a spectacular book filled with zombies and a swoony romance. It's obviously been some time since I last read the synopsis, because that's not what I got (or I was just totally wrong about what Something Strange and Deadly was about). And really, I don't understand what all the fuss is about this series that's supposed to be so good.

Something Strange and Deadly may seem like it's a book about zombies in Philadelphia in 1876, but it's not. It's about Eleanor Fitt, a slightly disgraced, just-above-middle-class teenage girl who's desperately searching for her missing brother amidst the rising Dead. During her search she finds herself associated with shady situations and a few Spirit-Hunters, a trio of misfits who use fighting and--Er, magic? Necromancy? I'll get to that later.--machines to take down the Dead. I thought there would be a waaay bigger focus on zombies (which is why I didn't read this a couple years ago, because I was TERRIFIED of zombies), but really, they just kind of randomly pop up and people are all like, "Oh, hey. One of the Dead. Cool." I mean, nowadays, people get cracked up on bath salts and the world starts to freak, but I guess back then it wasn't such a big deal if a living dead person was trying to eat you?

And then there are the Spirit-Hunters: Joe, Jie, and Daniel. The only one we really get much from is Daniel, and I liked him, but I needed more--from all of them, actually. Like, if one of them died--if any character died, really--I wouldn't care that much. But back to the whole Spirit-Hunting thing. I don't get it. It's 1876. How does this all work? Oh, hey, let's just grab this machine, stand in water, and have my mind take down all the Dead in this area. How does that work? Why isn't Eleanor ooing and awing over this magic-like stuff? I don't understand how the Spirit-Hunters work, and I needed more explanation.

But of course, let's not forget about our protagonist, Miss Eleanor Fitt (who eventually points out that "Miss Fitt" sounds like "misfit"). She's kind of annoying. I get that she doesn't want to be all prim and proper and tea and crumpets, but she can be too pushy and intruding and not understanding of a concept called Personal Space. Part of the problem with Eleanor--and the other characters and the story and the book as a whole--is the writing. It's...okay. It's certainly not my favorite, and the internal dialogue can be blah and repetitive, and--shocker--Eleanor lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding, but Something Strange and Deadly does something I cannot stand: exclamation points! Lots of them! I mean, a few is fine. But when I start to notice them and they're used unnecessarily, I get annoyed. It drives me crazy!

Despite all of the above, I didn't hate Something Strange and Deadly. It certainly has something likeable and engaging about it when reading, but it has issues. I'd probably give it three stars, because I liked it more than I disliked it, I did finish it, and I've already started the sequel. (I will be finishing it, and I have copies of all the books, novella included, available.) I'm hoping that this will be one of those series where the sequels get better. (Like Throne of Glass. I didn't love it when I read it, but then I read Crown of Midnight and dubbed it bae.) But, since I've already gotten pretty far into A Darkness Strange and Lovely (and maybe read ahead two hundred pages), I'll be honest: that's not likely. Yes, it's likeable, but it doesn't go much farther than that. Unfortunately, this is something strange and disappointing.
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on July 25, 2012
I finished this book yesterday and am still trying to decide if it's a four-star book or a five-star book. There were a couple of minor problems for me, but overall, I felt like it was a spectacularly entertaining read, and since that's the reason I read, I am in a bit of a conundrum. Perhaps I will make up my mind by the time I finish my review...

I guess I'll start with something that I both loved AND hated about this book- the cover. The cover is stunning! Once again, I have to hand it to HarperTeen for a gorgeous, eye-catching cover, but here's the thing... The stunning girl on the cover does not reflect the description of Eleanor Fitt, our kick-ass protagonist, AT ALL! Eleanor is supposed to be somewhat plain and a bit on the chubby side; a girl who can be made to look moderately pretty, with a lot of help. The girl on the cover is a knockout, and I'm assuming that she is supposed to be Eleanor, given the fact that Eleanor is really the only young female character of consequence in the entire book.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get down to the story... I had read a few early reviews of Something Strange and Deadly, so I knew not expect the standard zombie novel. Because I had that heads-up, I was able to go into this novel with different expectations, and I wasn't disappointed like I would have been. In fact, I found this book to be really good, and exceptionally different. When I say "different", I mean that I can't really classify it into a single genre- I would call it a "Historical Paranormal Mystery Romance", because it really pulls off every one of those elements well.

It takes place in post-Civil War era Philadelphia, during the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876 (which was the 1st official World's Fair to take place in the United States). I felt like Susan Dennard really did a nice job with her descriptions of the exhibition and the city itself, as well as the mannerisms, speech, and dress of the people of the era. I also really enjoyed the characters, and while I wish the author had spent more time developing some of them (Joseph and Jie, in particular), I think she did a great job with the ones she chose to focus on. Everyone had good and bad qualities, and each character's personality was revealed gradually, as you got to know him/her better. I find that type of character development very real, and honest. Eleanor was frustrating at times because she rarely gave much thought before she acted, but she was dedicated and courageous, and I really enjoyed watching her grow as the story progressed. Clarence was one of my favorite characters, which surprised me as her gradually grew on me. I found myself rooting for him to end up with Eleanor, even at the times that I wasn't sure I could really trust him. I think my favorite character was Daniel, though. He was secretive, brash, and rather rude at times, but all for good reasons, which come out before the book ends. As for the plot itself? Very good. It was well paced to the point where it never felt like a 400 page novel, and when the end came, I was wanting more. Because the zombies were such because of a necromancer, and because zombie-ism wasn't infectious like most of the recent zombie-related books I've read, there was an originality to it that was refreshing. Add to that the fact that there were several other elements of mystery, including that of Elijah, Eleanor's brother, and his disappearance, the fall of the Fitt family business, and the Wilcox family's sudden interest in the Fitt family, and you have a complex and riveting story. My only problem with the story was that I knew who the villain was before the fact that there WAS a villain had even been established. Much of the plot was spent of this big reveal at the end, and that kind of fell flat because I knew all along who it was. Fortunately, the other elements were there to make this book amazing anyway!

Overall, I think this was a more-than-solid first book for Susan Dennard, and I have a gut feeling that the issues I had with this book will be resolved in the next. That said, I have to mention that Susan did something that very few authors of series books have competently done; she has written a first-in-series book that could stand alone, which is so refreshing. Of course, I WILL read the next book in the series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, but I'm not left frustrated with a horrible gut-wrenching cliffhanger.

So, have I decided if this book gets four stars or five? Nope. I guess, it will have to fall in the middle...

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Grade Level Recommendation: This book was pretty clean. No sex. No major cursing. There is some graphic violence, but it's pretty tame considering much of the other YA out there. I would say this is fine for grades 5 and up (ages 10+).
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on September 2, 2012
Right from the start Eleanor grabbed me and pulled me into the story, so much so that I was actually able to ignore my sister's dogs while they barked. There was no waiting to get into the story, right off the bat you have mystery and intrigue that you don't want to put the book down. Luckily the book keeps up with the jump-out-of-your-skin action.

As much as I loved Eleanor, I disliked her mother who was almost comical the way that she tried to push Eleanor into a relationship and a marriage. I could see how she meant well, but it was through her mothers own faults that the family was in the financial ruin that they were. I admired that although her mother seemed to care more of marrying her off than she did of Eleanor, she still seemed to want to make her mother happy.

Lastly, I don't even know how to find words to talk about Daniel. I loved that as many times as he came to her rescue, she came to his as well. I thought it was interesting how their lives intersected and how Eleanor gave him the chance to explain his side. But I'm not telling you more because you have to find out for yourself.

I loved this book so much that I went out and bought the hardcover the day after it came out. When my mom asked me why I needed to buy the book when I had the ARC, I told her that I wanted to start supporting my favorite authors because the more books they sell, the more books we get.
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on March 26, 2015
I absolutely adored Something Strange and Deadly! It is a wonderful combination of historical details and paranormal elements, woven smoothly into a story that is, at turns, strange, fantastical and exciting. With characters that leapt off the page, and an engaging writing style, Dennard has gained a new fan in this particular reader with her debut novel.

Initially, I feared that this novel would be typical of its genre. But as I continued reading, I knew this wasn’t the case. Dennard has taken zombies, necromancy and historically-accurate details to combine them into something that’s altogether her own. The setting draws you in, the plot won’t let you go and before you know it, you’ll be turning the last page and wishing for more of everything. That is precisely what happened to me, and I don’t regret a single second of it!

The best thing about this novel is not the setting or the story, but it is the characters – particularly Eleanor, Daniel, Joseph & Jie. Learning about each of their stories and their personalities happens so naturally that it’s almost magical. It felt like they were people I had met in real life!

Eleanor, our main character, is an example of the ideal young woman during her era. Or she would be if she weren’t so stubborn, strong-willed and gifted with endless curiosity! When it comes right down to it, Eleanor is certainly someone I’d want on my side in a pinch. She’s quick-witted, clever, brave and most of all, she’s loyal, which is a quality that should never be overlooked. These things actually make her a perfect fit for the group of Spirit-Hunters.

Daniel, Joseph and Jie are the three Spirit-Hunters, who are in town in order to stop the dead from rising and taking over the entire place. Joseph is a well-bred gentleman versed in a few unique ways of stopping the dead. He’s the leader of their little group, and often the one to represent them in front of the government. Jie, on the other hand, is basically a kick-ass fighter. I lost track of just how many times Jie fought off the dead with physical combat – but it was so darn cool.

Daniel’s a bit of a nerd, capable of creating some of the coolest inventions I’ve ever heard of. He’s not only intelligent, but he’s also physically capable (as will be demonstrated time and again in the novel) and fiercely protective and quite kind. In spite of his attitude and posturing towards Eleanor when they first meet, he managed to find a spot in my heart and burrow down deep. There are things he does or says that made me swoon, and my only complaint is that I wanted more of him.

I might have been able to guess a major plot twist, but Something Strange and Deadly was still a delightful read! The characters became familiar friends, while the setting made me want to go and have high tea. With the way the story ends, I’m satisfied but curious to see what happens next. I’m thinking it might have been a bonus that I read this one so late in the game, as the wait for the next book won’t be long now!
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on August 14, 2014
My first reaction to Something Strange and Deadly was a result of the girl on the cover with the big poofy dress. Apparently bloggers tend to dislike covers with the girl in a fancy dress on them. I’m not really one of them, but I wasn’t sure what would be different about Something Strange and Deadly from other girl-with-poofy-dress-covered books that I’ve read. What I didn’t know was that Something Strange and Deadly has ZOMBIES in it. And it is historical fiction, so the poofy dress is actually appropriate for this cover. But I was still misled. Although Something Strange and Deadly has zombies in it, this is NOT a zombie book. At all.

Something Strange and Deadly had a bit of a slow start for me. Even though there’s a “zombie attack” fairly early on in the book. These zombies have the capability to be the scary zombies that seek out human flesh to satisfy their hunger, but for the most part all of the zombies within Something Strange and Deadly are controlled by a necromancer who has used black magic to raise the dead and bend them to his will and become his army. BORING.

Something Strange and Deadly is one of those books where we’ve got the ordinary leading female character that has a mission that is bigger than herself. Eleanor’s mission is to find and save her brother from the hands of the evil necromancer. When her brother was in school, he was tormented by bullies. Eleanor always kind of felt like it was her responsibility to take care of him. And then Elijah went off to study ancient texts and such, traveling the world. And now he’s unable to come back home due to the necromancer. Eleanor is convinced that she needs to save him and so she sets off to hunt down the Spirit-Hunters that fight against the walking Dead and various other spirits.

The Spirit-Hunters comprise of Joseph, the face of the Spirit-Hunters, Jie, a Chinese immigrant who dresses like a boy, and Daniel, who appears to be the bull-headed inventor that automatically assumes that Eleanor is a pompous, entitled debutante. Joseph, Jie, and Daniel make a good team, but Eleanor is determined to force herself upon them in hopes of finding and releasing her brother. What she finds is a group of friends who don’t care that her family is poor. There’s chemistry between Eleanor and Daniel, but Eleanor really needs to marry for money and Daniel’s background isn’t all blue-skies and rainbows.

The conflict was a bit obvious. Yet I had a few questions about specific characters, namely Clarence, that I just couldn’t nail down for sure as being a good guy or a bad guy. Ironically enough, there is a gray area, and almost all of the characters fall somewhere in between.


-Why is it that no matter how realistic or rehearsed a lie is, it always rings false in the teller’s ears?
-“You have the curiosity of a cat and the common sense of a goldfish.”
-Wounds will heal, grief will pass, but a reputation can never be recovered.
-He slung off his cap and pressed it to his chest. Then, with the casual grace that marked all of his movements, he dropped to one knee and bowed his head. He was declaring fealty to his empress.
I will say that one frustration I had with Something Strange and Deadly was Eleanor’s desire to rid herself of her fancy dresses. She’s described as being soft, curvy, not necessarily fat, but not skinny. And so, sure, being laced up into a corset isn’t pleasant I imagine. And trying to run and fight off zombies in a petticoat and fluffy dress isn’t easy when one can throw on a pair of trousers, but I found myself wondering why even set the book in this time period if Eleanor is going to fight these customs? The very idea of fighting the Dead in this kind of outfit is one of the very things that drew me into the series. It just kind of felt like the wrong direction to go to me. Maybe the rest of the series will make me feel differently.

At this point, I enjoyed Something Strange and Deadly, but it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be—but not in the good kind of way. The pacing was a bit slow, I really only connected with Eleanor (and still had some frustrations with her) and Daniel (who we didn’t get to spend nearly as much time with as I wanted), and I found myself confused as to why this story might have been marketed as historical zombie fiction, when all of the wonderful elements that would comprise weren’t what I imagined them to be. I will proceed with the story as I already have the other two in my possession. Thankfully, a fellow blogger, Rachel @ Paper Cuts, has given me hope that the remaining two books might be better. Something Strange and Deadly gets 3.5 Stars from me. Have you read Something Strange and Deadly? What did you think? Let me know!

For more book reviews, check out Somewhere Only We Know - http://sandyfarmer.blogspot.com.
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on August 13, 2014

I remember being at RT and getting swag from this author. Bookmarks and whatnot. They looked good and Im finally just getting around to reading them. This is a historical YA paranormal book. I love historicals but I Hate the women of that time. I love strong, kick ass heroines and Eleanor Fitt is not one of them. She was annoying, cowardly and at times I thought she was going to pee herself. But she had a smart mouth and the potential to be better than the women of her time. I guess this book was the perfect example of character growth and development. If you have ever read a story where the kick ass heroin hints at a time when she wasn't so kick ass and some hard times or extenuating circumstances made that character who she is today, that is that story for Eleanor Fitt. This is the story that defines the type of woman she will become and its not a cowardly woman of her time. She becomes strong and brave. She ends up with war wounds that no one should have. I can't wait to read more from Miss Fitt of the Philadelphia Fitts. This sums it up perfectly...

"When you first came into our labs, I thought you were a snobby princess who only cared about herself. Just the sort of person I hate."
I bit the inside of my mouth, trying to keep the thirsty ache away. "A-and now?"
"Now..." He shook his head and gazed at his cap. "Well, you're none of that. I was wrong. You're an empress with grit and brains, and I wish..."

There was just as much mystery in this book than there was the walking dead. It all started with her father and the people her father called friends. There is betrayal, bullying and secrets. There is so much more to Clarence than you see in the beginning. I loved the spirit hunters. Daniel especially. there wasn't much spark in the love interest department as I think was intended. I really didn't feel for either guy until the end.
"The Fault is not in our stars," I whispered to the ceiling. "But in ourselves. This was my choice."
This book didn't really get good until the end because I just didn't like her much. I did start to like her more and more throughout the book and towards the end it was really good. I will be reading the whole series and I intend to start the next one immediately.

And with all the strange and deadly things in the world, what was there even to dream about.

I give this book a 3.5 stars and I have a feeling this series is only going to get better and better and I will be there for the ride.
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on February 11, 2016
Originally seen on Emily Reads Everything

I’ve been hearing so much about Susan Dennard’s newest book, Truthwitch. It’s everywhere. Her clans are always on twitter talking about it. In my Birthday Giveaway it was one of the most requested books. I’m not in a Clan but I have participated in her #clanchat on twitter on #truthwitchtuesday several times. I had never read a book by Susan Dennard and I wasn’t able to read Truthwitch yet. When I read this, it wasn’t out yet. I figured the best way to try it would be to see if I even like her writing style. So I tried this book.

I really liked the style. I love steampunk and gaslamp fantasy so when I read the synopsis I felt sure that this was an easy slam dunk for me. Right away, I loved the combination of historical and paranormal fantasy. The setting was a huge positive for me.


Everything else fell really flat for me. The main character, Eleanor, seemed like a caricature instead of a person. She had one main feature, she was odd. She didn’t fit into the society. I don’t think I’ve ever complained about a character wanting a different life than the one planned for her. However, it didn’t feel like there was anything else that set her apart. I never connected with her so I didn’t care whether she succeeded or failed. I knew she was going to be fine because she had to be. I was never worried about her.

I also felt like the story was very predictable. At no point was I surprised, which was sad because there is a huge twist in the end. I was so disappointed because I knew what the twist had to be from the very beginning of the book. The story and characters didn’t distract me from the knowledge either. If I predict the twist but I love the story and the characters, it doesn’t bother me. However, this wasn’t the case here.

The one slight ray of light and the reason I will probably read book two is Daniel. I loved Daniel and I really wanted to know more about him. I thought the little bit of romance between Daniel and Eleanor was adorable. He fell victim to the trope where he continually pushes Eleanor away because he doesn’t want her to get hurt. However, I could forgive that because they were so darn cute together.

Long story short, I’m not hooked yet but I’m also not giving up. Maybe book 2 will have that extra something. Or at least more Daniel!
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VINE VOICEon July 31, 2013
"Something Strange and Deadly" was a very enjoyable book from a new author. I got it at a great Kindle bargain price because the sequel was getting ready to release and the special price point did its job because I just went and paid regular price to buy the sequel (that just released last week). The story is set in a slightly alternative past and it definitely features some steampunk elements. Steampunk stories haven't always worked for me, even though I find the idea of them inventive and charming. Those elements are present in this novel but they are downplayed and really seem to work well.

The story is about young Eleanor. Her brother is missing. Her father is dead and her mother is trying desperately to keep them from being destitute by planning to marry Eleanor off as soon as a man shows a spark of interest. Oh, and the dead are rising due to a powerful necromancer who is in search of an object that will make him even more powerful. Eleanor embarks on a mission to find her brother and it leads to many mysteries that will be unraveled regarding her family's history, their friends and their foes. The huge Exposition is going on (with such amazing descriptions of exhibits that I wanted to be there to view them myself!) and the zombies seem to be flocking to it. A team of Spirit Hunters is in town trying to save the town and find a way to take down the dead. There we meet Daniel. Daniel and Eleanor have such fun scenes together from the get go that it is pretty clear that they are going to be a couple. But Daniel has a shady past which leads Eleanor to yet another mystery to solve.

The plot moves swiftly along.I couldn't stand Eleanor's annoying and superficial mother. I went back and forth on how I felt about Clarence, Eleanor's would be suitor. I have to say that there were some twists I didn't see coming. That always counts as a good thing in my book. Another thing is that I loved that Eleanor isn't small and demure...she sounds like a slightly larger woman. The author also doesn't spare her characters any grief. There is no insta-love (Yes!). We get to feel the chemistry growing between Daniel and Eleanor which is a pleasant change. Also, something quite shocking and life changing happens to Eleanor at the end of the book and I am really impressed that the author `went there'. It's a daring move and makes an unforgettable impression on this reader. Now there were parts of the book that felt redundant and I wish the setting of the book would have been announced earlier in the story because I was confused for awhile about when and where the story was taking place. I would have liked a little more back story on the zombies as well. While the huge volumes of animated dead were odd the idea of them was not. There is some back story there I felt was missing.

All said, this is a series I am glad I didn't miss out on. I plan to devour the novella and second installment very soon.
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