See, I've had this novel in my TBR list for a couple years now, and I even bought it and had the hardcover sitting on my shelf for at least a month and a half before picking it up. Part of that has to due with how busy I've been with schoolwork and field hockey, the other part was just that I didn't really feel like reading it. Boy, do I regret that now. If you're like me and have a similar love for fantasy and historical fiction, this book is the one for you.
The protagonist, Eleanor Fitt, is the perfect combination of sass, courage and determination. She's basically the epitome of what most people want from a YA protagonist. While, yes, she had some flaws, those only made her seem like a more realistic, relatable character.
Eleanor is basically (to quote another character) Philadelphia royalty. Her family is high class, one of the richest families in the city. Or, at least, they were. Before Eleanor's father died. Now her mother is scrambling to keep up appearances while her brother has seemingly abandoned the two to travel abroad. This puts Eleanor in a tricky situation, for her mother is determined to marry her off to the first rich young gentlemen who comes a knockin-- something that Eleanor is most certainly not interested in.
When Eleanor receives word that her brother has been kidnapped, she will do anything to get him back, including working with the low class Spirit Hunters. Jie, Daniel and Joseph Boyer are the three who make up the small team of Spirit Hunters, and they all add a fun new angle to the story. As I've figured out long ago, I have quite the weakness for handsome men with bad attitudes and a good heart. So, of course, I fell hard for Daniel Sheridan. The cranky inventor with a heart of gold. As soon as we first met him, I couldn't help but laugh. Susan Dennard must have a liking for angry men, because both her books' lead male can be quite irritable. (Daniel, Something Strange and Deadly & Merrik, Witchlands)
The romance in the book takes a backseat to the more pressing events. I quite appreciated this about the story, because obviously there are more pressing matters than boys-- especially when your bother's life may depend on it. Since there were less romantic scenes, the few that were in the book were even more riveting. I can full heartedly say that this is a romance I can root for. Sorry if you see that as a spoiler, I feel like the official synopsis (which I will post down below) spoils the main love interest anyway so... Sorry anyway.
My one biggest issue with the book was how predictable the plot was. Maybe it's just because I read too much and have learned to become overly suspicious of everything and notice every little detail so foreshadowing doesn't often slip past me, but I guessed every single "huge plot twist" almost from the beginning of the book. While this was a bit of a problem, I didn't mind it overly so. See, the enjoyable part of this book is not the surprise factor of it, but the beauty of the well rounded characters, their relationships, and how they react to the circumstances they are put in. If I were to pick the most important factor of the story, character or plot, it would most definitely be the characters. While the plot was good, the story was made great by the abundance of intriguing characters.
I would give this book an 8/10 stars. I really enjoyed it, and it has definitely earned its place on my favorites shelf. I don't know what else to say other than I highly recommend it. I mean, it's set in the Victorian era, has a great cast of characters with complex relationships and messes with steampunk and-- oh! I completely forgot to mention the zombies.
Yes, there are zombies in this series. Though, here they are not called zombies, but the dead. And they're not the creepy, brain dead things simply stumbling around trying to eat people's brains. Dennard's twist on these dead are that they are controlled by a necromancer. While one or two Dead could appear now and then, if a bunch of them rose, they had to be awoken by a necromancer. And a necromancer seems to have come to Philadelphia during the events of the book. The Dead awoken by a necromancer are also controlled completely by it. Meaning that there is basically an army of zombies controlled by one man (or woman), who is also responsible for capturing Elijah, Eleanor's brother. That is what drives her to seek the Spirit Hunter's help-- the Spirit Hunter's purpose in life is to fight the Dead and return them to their everlasting rest.
Sorry if this review is choppy, I haven't written one in a long while and am rather tired. Plus I have to get up early tomorrow for my field hockey team's playoff game. If we win we make it to Champs (This would make it five years in row). That's not the point, but just wanted to slightly brag about that for a second, haha. Anyway, sorry if this review is choppy and confusing, but I just want to get this point across to you, it's a great book and you should read it. Especially of you enjoyed Dennard's other book, Truthwitch. While set in completely different areas, there is a familiar writing tone in both of them. Which makes sense since they possess the same author.
Well, I'm glad I got out of my month long reading slump and stayed up way too late on a school night to read this book. It was totally worth it.
There's something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .
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 the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.