Summary from Goodreads:
With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and sees haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.
To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she'll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there's a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.
I love it when a sequel surpasses expectations. It doesn’t happen very often, for one thing, and also, it just makes my reading experience so much better. A Darkness Strange and Lovely certainly outshone Susan Dennard’s debut, and I’m enthusiastically glad to count myself a fan of this book. It was far better than I’d ever anticipated.
The events of Something Strange and Deadly left Miss Eleanor Fitt in rather dire circumstances. Her brother is dead and his body is possessed by a demon, her mother is in an insane asylum, she’s hopelessly poor, and the man of her dreams rejected her. Things are definitely not looking good in Eleanor’s corner of the world. Then she finds herself on the run to Paris, with her brother’s dead best friend in tow—said best friend also happens to be a demon.
I admit, the beginning of this book had me a little bit suspicious. Dennard has established that Eleanor is in love with Daniel, but when she meets Oliver on board the ship to France, it seemed like a love triangle was imminent—after the first book already featured one love triangle, I was not okay with a second. Luckily, A Darkness Strange and Lovely thwarted my expectations, and it becomes clear to the reader (if not to Eleanor herself) that Oliver swings for the other team. And once Eleanor and Oliver arrive in France and the novel really gets into the swing of things, I was wholeheartedly along for the ride with no other objections.
Like the first book in the series, A Darkness Strange and Lovely is a light historical/paranormal with a hint of mystery, and it’s consistently fast-paced and ever engaging. Yet while I spent a lot of the first book detached or rolling my eyes, this book saw a vast improvement. No, Dennard still doesn’t take things too seriously, but the plot was far better, the characters more interesting, and the prose more riveting. The end result was an enjoyable adventure through the streets of Paris to uncover a necromancer with an agenda, with some time devoted to romance and the series’ overarching plot as well. The main mystery is wrapped up satisfactorily, but some things are left open, as at the end of the book, Eleanor and her friends head off to confront the Big Bad Demon once and for all—a showdown I’m looking forward to.
Susan Dennard shows marked improvement in her sophomore novel. Eleanor Fitt’s adventures in this book are far more readable and interesting than they were before, and the result is a very good novel. A Darkness Strange and Lovely really worked for me on a number of levels, and I’m happy to have been so pleasantly surprised.