Monday, 15 October 2012

Phoenix Rising Review

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)
-       Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Publisher: Harper Voyager
Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.
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!

It’s been a little while since I read any steampunk, but after finishing Phoenix Rising I wondered why I left it so long! This book has bags of energy, invention and sophistication. New Zealander and Ministry Field Agent, Eliza Braun loves action – she’s happy chasing down suspects in horse drawn carriages, gun in hand and saving the British Empire. Books is the ministries Archivist, inventor of useful gadgets and happy keeping the other agents files in order. When they are thrown together an unusual partnership is born which could just save the Empire – if Braun and Books can survive each other.

Eliza Braun is a modern woman, capable and independent, but a little reckless and brash. Books always thinks before he acts and is reserved, but he has hidden depths that not even Eliza is aware of... yet. I loved the way they were getting to know each other and testing their expectations. It felt like they were really figuring each other out – Books being able to out drink Eliza, while Eliza’s well appointed apartment surprises Books. The banter between them is sparkling and amusing. They start investigating what really happened to Eliza’s former partner, now an inmate in an institute and how this relates to an age old secret society within London’s upperclass.

The plot is fast-paced with discovery and revelations quickly made as they move from one scene stealing event to the next. Eliza is quick on the draw and has a wonderful collection of gadget and weapons, while Book’s gizmos are fantastic and useful. Together I felt like Eliza was a female Bond and Books her Q! In fact the whole story does read like some sort of Victorian Bond story, but without the dour straight face.

There are still some outstanding mysteries particularly with regard to Books past, Dr Sounds activities in the Archives and Bruce Campbell role. These mysteries plus the chance to see how Eliza and Books are coping with each other now means I will be picking up the second book, The Janus Affair very soon! This was frantic fun in Victorian London which will leave a massive smile on your face.

Recommended for fans of Meljean Brooks and Gail Carriger. 9 out of 10


  1. I did not like it :/ And it made me so sad. But I am glad it was the new series for you :D

  2. If you want to know more of Books read the next. I think you'll really enjoy that one. :)

    YaY! You finally read it and enjoyed it! YAY!!!

  3. Oh I'll have to read this one, I love ideas. thank you:

  4. YAYAYAY!!! You've loved it as much as I did! *happy dance* I am so glad, Mel! You are totally right, - it was so much fun! ;) Lovely review!

  5. Yeah yeah yeah!!!! SO glad you enjoyed this one. And I will say if you enjoyed this one this much, you are going to LOOOOOVE The Janus Affair!! Really!!! :D