Book Review: Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

May 26, 2011 Books, Reading, Reviews 4 ★★★

This book could have been really awesome but, sadly, it’s only sometimes awesome.

The book revolves around the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, a secret ministry within the British Government–like the X-Files. Agent Eliza Braun is a field agent from New Zealand, sentenced to work in the Ministry’s Archives because she uses dynamite a bit too liberally (which is kind of awesome). The Archivist is Wellington Books, an English gentleman of letters. Naturally the two clash but secretly yearn for one another.

But the book only gets interesting when the pair begin investing why Eliza’s former partner went mad. He was attempting to infiltrate a group called the Phoenix Society (which sadly has nothing to do with Albus Dumbledore). The book’s best moments are when the pair fighting it out at the opera and going undercover as a married couple. However, the big reveal of the secret society’s plans for world domination are sort of ho-hum. And I’m not sure the orgy that happens just before it was strictly necessary to the plot.

There are enough loose ends to tie up in future books in the series. I certainly hope those delve deeper into the characters’ past, and give more nuance to the universe. As it is now, I could simply tell you the names of the characters and that it’s steampunk and you could probably guess the plot. Eliza Braun and Wellington Books (Brains and brawn, now not subtle!) are our heroes and they battle an assassin called Sophia del Morte.

But I can’t be too down on a book that espouses the theory that librarians are necessary to save the world.

Reviews Elsewhere

Publishers Weekly: Phoenix Rising

The Pew Reviews: Phoenix Rising

Daily Steampunk: Phoenix Rising Review

RealTegan: Review of Phoenix Rising