Review: Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Posted May 3, 2011 by Jen in 4.5 stars, Rating A, Reviews, Steampunk Fiction Tags: , , ,

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

Authors: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Release Date: April 26, 2011
Publisher: Harper Voyager Publishing
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1
ISBN: #978-0062049766
Genre: Steampunk
Format(s): paperback (416 pgs), e-book
I received a copy of this book from the NETGALLEY for the purposes of an honest review.

From the author’s website:

     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 top-secret organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza 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!

What I’m talking about:

     Agent Eliza Braun is one of those secret agents that always gives 100 percent, lives for the thrill, and always uses a bit more dynamite than necessary.  After completing a mission to save the Ministry’s Archivist, dashing Wellington Books, she is sent to work with Agent Books in the Archives. There she discovers countless abandoned and unsolved cases, including one that lead to the downfall of her previous partner.  Soon Ms. Braun has dragged the prim-and-proper Agent Books into the middle of a far-reaching, diabolical plot against Her Majesty.
     Phoenix Rising is a well-written amazing adventure. The plot unfolds at just the right pace, leaving me at the edge of my seat throughout much of the tale. The story is smart and the characters witty. The steampunk world created in this tale is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes or the movie The Prestige. (For those still unfamiliar with “steampunk,” the authors have a wonderful post you can read HERE.)
     Agents Eliza Braun and Wellington Books are the perfect duo. With her field experience, fighting capabilities and feisty attitude and his vast knowledge, keen interest in mechanisms and upper-crust breeding, they complement each other. They may not run like a well-oiled Mark I Mechamen (read the book!), but they always seem to make it out alive, taking the bad guys down as they exit. I throughly enjoyed watching the pair get over their fears and learn to trust each other to the point that they become true partners.
     As for the rest of the cast and crew… we learn of two sets of “bad guys” that have ideas of bringing down the Queen: the House of Usher, the group responsible for kidnapping Agent Books, and the Phoenix Society, the primary focus of this story.  The Phoenix Society is run by those types of bad guys you love to hate, including the “evil genius” to run the show.  Toss in a beautiful assassin-for-hire and a somewhat bumbling traitor and you have the ideal mix of fiendish adversaries.
     Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris have captured my imagination, heart and mind with their wickedly delightful tale. Phoenix Rising kicked off what I hope to be a long-lived series of adventures for Ms. Braun and Mr. Books. Although they may have closed the unsolved case they uncovered in the Archives, there are mysteries remaining and bigger bad guys waiting in the wings. I look forward to the next story from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.
My Rating: 

Loved it – enthusiastically recommend (A)

6 responses to “Review: Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel

  1. I thought this book was a blast. The bickering and banter between Eliza and Wellington reminded me a lot of Watson and Holmes in the 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie.

    What did you think of Eliza? She was pretty badass, eh? I was really surprised (but pleased) that the authors had her willing to go the distance if worse came to worst at that evening party when Wellington went to bed. Do you remember which one I’m talking about?