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.
The story sucks you in completely and won't let you go until the very end - everything I read about was captivating and interesting, and that comes from someone who does not read about zombies or steampunk normally. I have to admit, though, that the mystery aspect of the novels is a tad bit weak - now, this didn't take away a lot from the story, but it was one of my main problems. In the first two books it was painfully easy to guess the bad guy, and it was terribly annoying when the characters failed to see that up to the very end. On the contrary, the third book offered some unexpected twists, but they were too abrupt, and had very little, if any signs earlier. Another teeny-tiny problem I had were the steampunk elements that kept lessening as the trilogy progressed.
Through the series, Eleanor, our main character, grew to be one of the most unique heroines I've ever read about. At first I wasn't too impressed by her, but she developed so much that, by the end, I couldn't recognize the lonely girl who had been desperate to fit in. The most authentic thing about her was that she had a dark side and she grew to accept and control it. Sure, many protagonists commit shadier things once in awhile, but they do so to help others, and who can blame them, then? Eleanor, on the other hand, would keep terrible secrets for her own good, and I loved that, because it was realistic. I mean, how many of us would say goodbye easily to the powers she had?
“ You are strong and independent,(...) Capable and clever. No males needed.”
Next to Eleanor, we also get some of the most well-crafted characters I've read about in awhile. The Spirit Hunters - a.k.a. Daniel, Joseph and Jie - were all very well-developed, and their dedication to their cases made me want to be dedicated to something, ANYTHING. Plus, the way they were FAMILY to each other, strictly with capitals, was just beautiful. One thing that truly bothered me about them was how judgemental they could be, thus they jumped to conclusions very quickly, even when it came to people they knew. I understood their fears, but for people who wanted others to give them a fair chance, they refused to give that to Eleanor a couple of times.
Daniel seemed like the typical brooding and arrogant guy, and his "dark past", didn't help him be any more unique. However, much like Eleanor, he grew on me. Daniel was rude and, frankly, someone I'd have loved to punch, but he did have his reasons and there were moments when he truly stole my heart. Also, his passion for his inventions was one of my favorite things in the series. That said, my feelings toward him remained mixed until the end, and the same can be said about the romance. On one hand, it was well-written, the slow burn kind that I love, yet I was annoyed because Daniel seemed unable to fully accept Eleanor.
“Real love isn't about drama or heartbreak. Real love just is.”
There's one last character I'd like to mention - Oliver. Oliver was incredibly complex, wonderfully written and my favorite person from the series. The fact that I'd much rather reread his parts than the romantic ones (which, in my opinion, are the best parts to revisit), shows you a lot more clearly how much I adored him. I'd have totally been down with him and Eleanor as a couple, even though, their relationship was clearly platonic. *sobs*
“That's a very comforting response, Oliver. Of course I can trust you implicitly when all you care about is using me for your own designs.”
Eleanor and her mother's relationship was the only one I found a bit lacking. I suppose my inability to understand the mother - she was annoying, but she seemed to want what she thought was the best for Eleanor - didn't help that case either.
I'd say, my favorite thing in the trilogy was that nothing and no one was either black or white. Sure, there were some characters, one in particular, who turned out to be truly evil, but the rest? Despite that some of them committed terrible crimes they were human, and had redeeming qualities.
Overall, the trilogy deserves a strong 4 star-rating, in my opinion. As for how to rate the novels individually... now, that is what I had a hard time deciding. One thing was sure, though: I wanted to give 5 stars to, at least, one of the books. After thinking everything through, I decided to give four stars to Something Strange and Deadly & A Darkness Strange and Lovely, while Strange and Ever After received 5 stars from me. For me, the third novel was the one in which both the plot and the characters were in their best possible form.
“And together we wept on. For all we had fought.
For all we had given up.
And for all we were never meant to lose.”