Review: Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard

Strange and Ever After
by Susan Dennard
Series: Something Strange, #3
Released: July 22nd, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: 4 stars
Word rating: overall satisfactory
Reviewed by: Blythe

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He took her brother, he took her mother, and now, Marcus has taken her good friend Jie. With more determination than ever to bring this sinister man to justice, Eleanor heads to the hot desert streets of nineteenth-century Egypt in hopes of ending this nightmare. But in addition to her increasingly tense relationships with Daniel, Joseph, and her demon, Oliver, Eleanor must also deal with her former friend, Allison, who has curiously entangled herself in Eleanor’s mission.

With the rising dead chomping at her every move and Jie’s life hanging in the balance, Eleanor is convinced that her black magic will see her through to the bitter end. But there will be a price. Though she and the Spirit Hunters have weathered every battle thus far, there will be consequences to suffer this time—the effects of which will be irreversible. And when it’s over, only some will be able to live a strange and ever after.

Susan Dennard will leave readers breathless and forever changed in the concluding pages of this riveting ride.

This review contains minor spoilers for the first two books in the series.

What I love most about this trilogy is that you could really see how much it's grown with each book. I remember the first novel in the trilogy being solely a fun and entertaining zombie read, but when I think of it now, that's really all I remember it as; then, when I read the second book and Strange and Ever After back-to-back, I saw a noticeable change in tone, and I loved that. Novels that are just fun for the sake of being fun are perfectly fine by me, as evidenced by the high rating I gave Something Strange and Deadly, but ultimately the strongest points of this trilogy for me are the complex characters and their equally as complex relationships. 

Eleanor remains a strong and likable heroine in this final installment, but what's most remarkable about her character for me is the darkness Susan Dennard lets Eleanor truly embrace. I've been comparing Eleanor's character development in this series, but especially in Strange and Ever After, to that of Walter White's in Breaking Bad, although to a lesser extent and, you know, without the meth: both are characters that start off with good intentions to benefit those they love, but over time they grow obsessed with the concept of power, security, revenge. Walter White takes it to admittedly further lengths than Eleanor does, but I think the basis for their character development is about the same. They're both morally gray characters who embrace the dark sides of their life, if you will, and it all stems from a manic thought growing with trauma. Dennard's portrayal of Eleanor's character, fragile state, and conflicting morals was absolutely one of, if not the, most brilliant aspect of the novel for me, and I loved seeing a main character that wasn't only just good

Also high points of the novel for me were the relationships Eleanor shared with fellow Spirit-Hunters, namely with Oliver, her demon. Eleanor's relationship with her love interest, Daniel, was sweet but also rough, and realistic, and a bit heartbreaking; I loved that about the romantic relationship, and I appreciated how Dennard didn't make everything so perfect for them two, because it's rarely ever like that, least of all given the circumstances in the novel. Her relationship with Oliver, however, is one of the most emotionally complex, platonic relationships I've read about in a while. Almost every character is given a real chance to shine in this final installment, but Oliver and his love for Eleanor despite their fights, and her love for him likewise, shone through most of all. 

With all of the amazing relationships in the novel, I had expected every single one to be like that, which I suppose is unfair on my part. With that having been said, I found myself ultimately very upset with how a particular character in the novel, and her relationship with Eleanor, was handled. Spoiler » The relationship development between Alison and Eleanor was, as everything else, amazing. Up until the end, when Dennard took what was a truly great and original friendship and threw it all away for the sake of plot twists. All in all, I felt that a great disservice was done to a truly refreshing relationship and character, and I found it all rather upsetting and...wasteful, really. So much more could have been done with this character and this relationship, and so much more had been done with this character and this relationship, and what happened in the end was a bit of a shame, in my opinion.

That aside, Strange and Ever After is an entirely satisfactory conclusion to the Something Strange and Deadly trilogy (or, as I've penned it, the Ke$ha zombie trilogy). The zombie fun is still there, and creepier than ever, but this time around the characters have gone through really dark things, and it shows in how they handle themselves and how they've grown. With its characters, plot twists, heartbreak, a sense of adventure, and a perfect final chapter, Strange and Ever After should please and destroy fans of the trilogy so far. It's got more and more to offer in regards to its characters and its world, and with it Susan Dennard has taken her entire trilogy to a whole new level.


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