A Darkness Strange and Lovely: Something Strange and Deadly, Book 2

Book review by
Julie A. Carlson, Common Sense Media
A Darkness Strange and Lovely: Something Strange and Deadly, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Thrilling sequel puts zombies in Victorian-era Paris.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers will learn about Parisian architecture, food ,and culture, including what it's like to be a young woman and man the Victorian era.

Positive Messages

Believe in yourself, trust, and have hope and courage are themes threaded throughout A Darkness Strange and Lovely. The novel also shows the dangers of addiction, although instead of drugs or alcohol, Eleanor is addicted to magic and necromancy. Friendship is another important theme in the novel, as Eleanor feels she has to choose between her loyalty to the Spirit-Hunters and her new friend, Oliver. But as Eleanor's best friend Jie says: You always have a choice.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Eleanor once again sparkles as a go-getter and plucky heroine in her second outing versus the Dead. Although, this time Eleanor keeps some very dark secrets from the Spirit-Hunters, which causes her friends and her harm. Eleanor will do whatever it takes to protect her mother, despite her mother not wanting anything to do with her. Eleanor makes friends easily and is a delightful companion. Daniel Sheridan, her on-again-off-again beau, is charming and clever. He loves Eleanor, but gets jealous of other guys paying attention to her and is easily flustered in her presence. The other Spirit-Hunters, Joseph and Jie, also continue to be solid role-models and protectors. Oliver often manipulates her into using magic and necromancy for his own purposes.


Hand-to-hand combat and not-too gory descriptions of the Dead (zombies).


Mild romance, flirting, and kissing.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Eleanor, an older teen, drinks champagne. Oliver (not clear on how old he is) drinks alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Darkness Strange and Lovely is an exciting second book from Susan Dennard, following Something Strange and Deadly. Readers who enjoyed Eleanor's adventures in Victorian Philadelphia will love her outing in Paris in the same era. The novel's about the Dead (zombies) rising through the black magic of a powerful necromancer -- much like in the first book. This story picks up just months after the first book left off. It's full of heroic characters, zombies (without gory description), and romance with some kissing, but no strong language to worry about. People are killed, but nothing is described.

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What's the story?

In her last adventure, chronicled in Something Strange and Deadly, Eleanor Fitt battled the rising dead in her hometown of Philadelphia. Eleanor also believed her troubles with a dangerous necromancer, who caused the chaos were over ... or at least held at bay. But Eleanor's troubles are just beginning in A Darkness Strange and Lovely. Through her ragtag group of friends, the Spirit-Hunters, she learns that the Dead are rising in Paris. Eleanor fears the worst -- the necomancer or a new one has returned. Traveling from Paris to Philadelphia to assist her friends, Eleanor discovers that several Parisians are being murdered by a dark sacrifical power. On board the ship to Paris, Eleanor meets a charming but strange young man named Oliver. Oliver was friends with her brother, and through manipulation shows Eleanor her own true power as a necromancer. Eleanor loves the feeling that magic gives her, but struggles with its temptation by either embracing the black magic or putting everyone and everything she knows at risk.

Is it any good?

A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY is a thrilling second novel from Susan Dennard. Just like with her first book, readers will enjoy the characters, quickly turn the pages to figure out the mystery, and delight in the romantic spark between Eleanor and Daniel. However, it's not until halfway through the book that readers finally see Daniel. Hurray! The story slogs a bit aboard ship, and readers will look forward to when Eleanor is once again on dry land. Dennard's research and knowledge of Philadelphia and Paris clearly shows. A Darkness Strange and Lovely even begins to have a more steampunk edge with airships and cool gadgets. The action-packed ending will leave readers eager for the third installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the series. How do you think the sequel compares with the first book, Something Strange and Deadly?

  • Do you like that Susan Dennard set the story in Paris this time rather than Philadelphia? How important is setting in a fantasy novel?

  • Does Eleanor make the right or wrong choices when it comes to handling her addiction to magic? What are your thoughts on addiction and how people struggle with it?

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