These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.
For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!
- Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager (April 26, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062049763
- ISBN-13: 978-0062049766
- Purchase Phoenix Rising at Amazon
More mystery than romance, Phoenix Rising, the first book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series, is what one would get if they stuck James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and the 1960s Avengers’ TV series into a Steampunk blender and set it to puree. The book is an intelligent and cheeky read with more twists and turns than an Escher
I loved following agents Books and Braun on their adventures to save the British commonwealth and thought the authors did a fantastic job keeping the book light and engaging, while still dealing with serious issues such as xenophobia, class disparity, betrayal and trust between people with very different personalities and backgrounds. It helped that Ballantine and Morris lightened the mood by giving characters quirky names (assassin Sophia De La Morte, Agent Bruce Campbell, Archivist Wellington “Welly” Books and arms master Eliza Braun to name a few) and that humour was used well and with excellent effect to balance very serious moments.
As far as the Steampunk element of the story goes, Ballantine and Morris were able to maintain the world, character and other elements of Steampunk while managing to keep the story from being bogged down by descriptions of fashion and gadgetry.
The only negative response I had to Pheonix Rising was that there was a lot going on plot wise and, for me, it got a bit slow in the middle. This happens to be the case in a lot of series firsts, but considering the calibre of Ballantine and Morris’ writing and story-telling I’d be willing to wager money that this will not be the case in the second book of this series.
If you’re looking for an excellent mystery or maybe to try Steampunk for the first time I would highly recommend Phoenix Rising. I can’t wait to read more from this talented duo!
I received this book and its sequel from Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris on my recent trip to the Authors After Dark book convention in New Orleans. Ballantine and Morris’ passion for Steampunk and general excitement to connect with both old and new readers was infectious. It was a pleasure meeting them both, albeit briefly, and their genuine love of their craft put Phoenix Rising at the top of my TBR pile.