Evil is most definitely around and Britain's fate rests in the hands of an intriguing renegade.and a librarian...
Londoners are vanishing and then reappearing as corpses, washing up on the banks of the river Thames drained of blood and bone. Yet the secret ministry of Peculiar Occurrences refuses to investigate. Something Eliza D. Braun, field agent, doesn't understand. With her bulletproof corset and a fondness for dynamite, she refuses to let the matter rest. She'll even drag her timid new partner, Wellington Books, along with her if she must.
An evil-minded brotherhood is working in London's shadows to enslave all Britons and bring down their government. And Books and Braun - he with his encyclopedic mind and she with her remarkable gadgets - must get to the bottom of their dreadful plot...or see England fall to the Phoenix!
Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel is the fantastic first book in a new steampunk series by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. Steampunk is becoming a subgenre which I'm really beginning to enjoy with all of its diversity; each author seems to bring something new, wonderful and enjoyable to the mix. While some steampunk novels are focused on either the science or the romance of the genre, this particular book has more of a "Wild, Wild West" feel to it - courtesy of its focus on the sexy field agent, the steam and mechanical gadgets, a political mystery and a bookish agent with lots of secrets.
The story begins by introducing us to the two main characters; Eliza D. Braun, a female operative from New Zealand, working for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences as a field agent and Wellington Books, the Ministry's archivist (analytical researcher and librarian). In fact Eliza is rescuing "Mr. Books", who has been kidnapped by an enemy agency, known as "The House of Usher". This situation introduces the characters to each other and also results in Eliza's "punishment" for failure to follow orders (she was supposed to kill Mr. Books but realizing he had not been compromised, she choose to rescue him instead). Eliza's punishment was to become Mr. Books new partner and assist him in the Archives.
While trying to exhibit how important the archives are to the Ministry, Books introduces Eliza to the "cold files", cases which the Ministry has temporarily given up on. She immediately recognizes a file which had been worked by her previous partner, William Harrison, who is now a resident of Bedlam - the mental hospital. Determined to discover what drove "Harry" crazy and solve this peculiar case, which will result in field work, Eliza begins an investigation without clearance from the Ministry. She's caught "red handed" by none other than Mr. Books, who joins in her investigation. They are determined to solve the mysterious disappearance and reappearance of Londoners who are washing up as either boneless or bloodless corpses on the banks of the Thames.
The scenes between Eliza and Books are full of lively conversation and a bit of tongue in cheek humor. They are not romantic but there is a hint of a mutual attraction which I hope Ms. Ballantine and Ms. Morris develop further in future books. Eliza and Books are almost complete opposites; she's emotional, very physical and prone to making rash decisions, while Books is generally even tempered, scholarly and slow to act. They both share a love of the gadgets, which we are introduced to throughout the book, and a mutual desire to protect their country and serve their Queen.
The secondary characters are well developed and important to the plot. From Doctor Sound, the mysterious director of the Ministry who seems to have his own secrets, to Doctor Havelock who is both an inventor and a madman. I especially liked Sophia del Morte, the assassin working for hire, who first kidnaps Books for one rogue agency and then goes to work for a different agency, which is behind the current mystery Eliza and Books are trying to solve. A secret agency whose existence dates back to Roman times and whose goal is the destruction of the British government.
When their adventure takes Eliza and Books into the British countryside, where they must masquerade as husband and wife, the plot really picks up speed. We are finally introduced to the evil mastermind behind the gruesome deaths and the invention of some frightening new gadgets with tremendous military application. Will Eliza be able to pose as a meek wife while Books poses as her rich industrialist husband? Will Books be able to overlook his aversion to weapons when the chips are down and he must save himself and Eliza? And will Doctor Sound discover their secrets and banish them from the Ministry? You'll have to read Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel to find out. I highly recommend it and can't wait to read the next book in this intriguing series.
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!