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

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

Book Review: Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee MorrisPhoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris
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!
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1
Published by HarperCollins on 2011-04-26
Genres: Speculative Fiction, Steampunk
Pages: 416
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Buy the Book at: Amazon

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

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