Review: Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Posted March 20, 2014 by Jen in Rating B, Reviews, Steampunk Fiction Tags: , , , ,

Dawn’s Early Light
Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Jen Twimom
Rating: B

What I’m Talking About:

The third full-length tale from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences begins shortly after the conclusion of the second book, with Agents Wellington (Welly) Books and Eliza Braun en route to America. This is Books first official mission as a field agent, although he’s been through the routine a few times with Eliza. The pair are being sent to America to help with a case, but more importantly, to stay out of the limelight back home while there is some heat on the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences following their last case. While on the airship, the pair gives chase to a cunning thief, who gets away. The start of Dawn’s Early Light opens with action and adventure, befitting of our heroes.

Once Books and Braun are in the New World, they are paired with their counterparts from the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical (OSM). Agent Felicity Lovelace is the OSM librarian. She’s never been in the field, and this is only her tenth assignment. Then there is William “Wild Bill” Wheatley. He is a rough and tumble cowboy with arrogant attitude. He and Eliza share a brief history, and he was the cause of some problems for her several years ago. The American pair are truly mirror images of Welly and Eliza. The team is tasked with investigating the disappearance of airships off the coast of North Carolina. But what they uncover is something much larger, taking the quartet cross-country, and involving Thomas Edison, The House of Usher, a female priest, and a death ray. The story truly is a madcap adventure with high stakes and plenty of action.

One thing that I love about the Ministry books, which holds true with the current offering, is that the stories are richly detailed, complex, and full of action. There is so much that goes on within the pages of each book, that to try and recap the adventures would take up several paragraphs of review space, something I choose not to do. So don’t mistake my lack of summary for a sign that the book is simple in structure and nature – for it is not. And if I tried to connect the dots, not only would I spoil the experience for other readers, but I could never do justice to the marvelous storytelling of Ms. Ballentine and Mr. Morris. I will admit, however, that at times the volume of information did overwhelm me, and careful note taking was a must. But once the pieces of the puzzle started to lock into place, I found that the journey to get there was well worth the effort!

The story is told in the back-and-forth third person point-of-views of both Wellington and Eliza. There are also interludes that are written from one of the antagonists’ POV or the agents’ director, Dr. Basil Sound. These interludes provide bread crumbs of parallel stories that all come together by the end of the book. Hearing the tale from both Books and Braun’s perspective is wonderful. Each of the agents have their own unique way of thinking about the cases and life, so the reader is privy to a more complete picture of the story having both POVs.

In addition, the reader gains some insight as to the emotional ties and feelings each agent is experiencing. For example, in the previous book, Books planted an intense kiss on Agent Braun, leaving her to ponder what it meant. And boy, does she think about it. A lot. And she tries unsuccessfully several times to do something about it while on their journey. But Books is completely obtuse, leaving Eliza even more confounded. However, Eliza’s personality pushes her to solve the meaning of the kiss and Welly’s behavior. At first I loved how perplexed Eliza is over the kiss; however, once I reached the midpoint of the book, I had grown tired of Eliza’s childish attitudes and jealousy. While I loved how their feelings enhanced The Janus Affair, for about half of Dawn’s Early Light, I found it distracting and annoying. But it does get better… a lot better!

Eliza’s wit and sarcasm are such a pleasure to read. I found myself chuckling out loud throughout the title. She is sharp and seems to know when and how to speak her mind to provoke a desired reaction. However, there is more than one time that Eliza is left speechless. One such example comes in her interactions with Wild Bill, someone she relates to as a field agent. There is a definite spark there, and when he kisses her (not giving any more detail than that!), Eliza isn’t too sure what to think or say. In addition, Agent Lovelace gives Eliza a run for her money when it comes to Welly’s attention. Felicity may seem innocent and naive, but underneath is an observant woman who can call it like she sees it. Finally, Wellington has poor Eliza stumped. Why did he kiss her? Why can’t she figure this one out? I don’t know if there is as much character growth as in previous books, but we do see a side of Eliza we haven’t before… jealousy. The evolution of both her and Books’ feelings was enjoyable, but it did take up a little too much of the story.

The most enjoyable scenes in the book come when Books and Braun work together in the field. They make an amazing team. Neither tries to outdo the other, each recognizing his/her own strengths and weaknesses, while acknowledging the same in the other. When it counts, they are seamless. I think Chapters Nineteen and Twenty were my favorites because they showcase the pair’s teamwork so marvelously. And then, Eliza does something crazy, which is a stroke of genius, to finally air out the pair’s true feelings.

Another favorite part came early in the book, when the agents observe a potential witness dying. The entire scene was marvelously written. Not only is it touching – allowing me to gain more emotional investment in the story, but it showcases the agents, all coming together with differences aside, to pay respects to a fallen hero. The scene demonstrates the integrity of the agents, telling us so much more by painting an entire picture, rather than using a few words to describe the characters. This is the type of storytelling I admire and appreciate.

Finally, for readers of the series, we learn a lot more about the mysterious Maestro, who I had been confusing as the head of the House of Usher. After finishing Dawn’s Early Light, I went back and reread large chunks of The Janis Affair to piece together the bigger picture. Overall, this storyline, which also involves the Queen and Dr. Sound, is still a bit too ambiguous and enigmatic for my liking. And unfortunately, the book ended oddly with a vague chapter, which personally, I could have done without.

Overall, Dawn’s Early Light is another great tale in the amazingly creative and entertaining Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. Although I struggled with some of the extended jealousy, I enjoyed where it took Eliza and Welly in the end. I was also a bit confused over some of the background story, and I didn’t care for the final chapter. However, I loved Books and Braun in the field, the gadgets, the fight scenes, the use of historical figures, and some of the interactions involving supporting characters. This series becomes richer with each title, and I cannot wait to find out what adventure is next for dear Books and Braun!

Rating:  B Liked It, recommend


About the Book:

After being ignominiously shipped out of England following their participation in the Janus affair, Braun and Books are ready to prove their worth as agents. But what starts as a simple mission in the States—intended to keep them out of trouble—suddenly turns into a scandalous and convoluted case that has connections reaching as far as Her Majesty the Queen.

Even with the help of two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, Braun and Books have their work cut out for them as their chief suspect in a rash of nautical and aerial disasters is none other than Thomas Edison. Between the fantastic electric machines of Edison, the eccentricities of MoPO consultant Nikola Tesla, and the mysterious machinations of a new threat known only as the Maestro, they may find themselves in far worse danger than they ever have been in before.

Release Date: March 25, 2014
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #3
ISBN: #978-0425267318
Paperback (384 pages), e-book, audiobook
Book Source: Publisher

Purchase Info:
Dawn’s Early Light (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #3)

Reviews in the Series:
Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)
The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #2)


6 responses to “Review: Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

  1. teemorris

    So glad to hear you enjoyed it, and that we kept you guessing to the end.

    As far as what is happening with the Queen and Sound, we do have another book in the works…with more answers to come! 😉

    • I have every faith that you and Pip will write an amazing follow up. I just love Books and Braun more and more! I am certain the whole Maestro plot will end up being amazing… I just don’t enjoy ending on quasi-cliffhangers! LOL But… I promise I will try to be patient, and not hound you… too often! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. B.

    I have wanted to read this series for a while now, but just haven’t been able to get there. Thanks to this review, I’m going to have to bump it up higher on my TBR list to get to it before there’s another one to catch up on! I absolutely adore steampunk with all its gadgetry, but throw in a mystery, and I’m sold. Thanks for the great review!

    • If you enjoy steampunk and madcap adventure – with great writing and mysteries to be solved… *sigh* it’s a wonderful series. But start with the first one!

  3. Rummanah

    I’ve heard great things about this series and it sounds just so much fun! I’ll have to find the previous books before picking this one up. Fabulous review, Jen!

  4. UnaReads

    I have head a lot of really great things about this series, but I haven’t been able to pick it up yet. Loved your review and have now added this to my “must read” list. Thanks!