Saturday, May 21, 2011

Review: PHOENIX RISING: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

PHOENIX RISING: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris.

This title probably treads the far borders of the books Bite Club usually reviews.  Steampunk/teapunk isn't paranormal, but it's fun and just weird enough that it appeals to we paranormal readers.  The cover of this novel makes it pretty darn impossible NOT to want to read it.  The heroine brandishing a fantastical weapon and questionable Victorian fighting gear aims a deadly gaze at you, while in the background the calm, collected hero sips a spot of tea.  Love it!  [Note: I attempted to find a good cover gif online, but alas...not even on the author's website.]

This story spends a lot of time developing the twosome, the hero, Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire, chief archivist of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and Eliza D. Braun, special agent to the Ministry, and fan of creating large explosions.  I liked that.  Some readers may insist upon nonstop action, but I appreciated the detail and setup.  The authors balanced the action with the details marvelously.

The story immediately takes off with a daring rescue, then it introduces us to Books and Braun and we learn that the last place on earth the chastised field agent Braun wants to be is consigned to the dowdy basement Archives with Books, and his dull files and boxes.  Eventually, she finds a manner to amuse herself, by investigating old cases left to wither in the dark corners of the archives.  The reader suspects this is the set-up for their partnership, looking into cold cases, for future books to come, and this reader crosses her fingers that it indeed is true because I want to read much more about this daring duo.

The hero is very happy stuffed away in the basement with his files and analytical engine as he organizes and records, and creates amazing devices to aid his work.  But fear not, Wellington Books has been trained as a field agent, and just when you think he's all tea and pomp the daring adventurer in him rises and he surprises not only the heroine but the reader as well.  His personal insights into the heroine also touched me, even though they don't rush into any intimacies better left for lovers.  Together they get entangled in an investigation that finds them posing to join a secret society of debauchery and strange desires to overtake the world with an army of steam-powered robots.

Phoenix Rising has all the steampunk gadgets and gears readers desire, along with a smart pair of protagonists that you will insist on reading about in the next book, and the next book, and....
— Michele Hauf for Bite Club

No comments: