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The Janus Affair (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series) Mass Market Paperback – May 29, 2012
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...provides action, mystery, undercurrents of a personal nature and a pace that is sure to keep a reader's interest. The blend of story, characters, action, mystery, and humor worked really well. The combination of Eliza Braun's tough, opinionated exterior and her soft interior with Wellington Books' bookish, somewhat fumbling exterior and his hidden depths is a wonderful dynamic. (Top Pick)
-Night Owl Reviews
Morris and Ballantine just get better and better with Eliza and Welly, and I have difficulty thinking of anything I didn't like about the characters or the world in which these authors set the story. I have read THE JANUS AFFAIR several times now and I am delighted every time. Describing a novel as delightful might sound trite but there isn't a better word to describe a book that keeps your interest and makes you laugh each time you read it.-Book Chick City
I felt The Janus Affair was tailored expertly and tightly woven, not unlike an elegant leather corset with a strong foundation and bright bits and bobs of clockwork brilliance that leaves the reader wrapped securely and held delighted beneath each thread. Highly, highly recommended.-Lit Stack
The Janus Affair isn't pretentious or overwrought. It seeks nothing but to entertain readers in the smartest and best way possible and to show the love that Ballantine and Morris have for steampunk, for larger-than-life adventurers and big stories. It's engaging, it's a page turner and above all, it's a really fun story to get lost in for a while.
-Sticky Trigger Entertainment
If you've never read steampunk before, this would be a great introduction. If you've felt steampunk wasn't for you, The Janus Affair will change your mind. If you're tired of books that take themselves too seriously and forget to let the reader enjoy the story and characters, Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris had you in mind. -View from Valhalla
From the Back Cover
Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!
Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.
The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.
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It does bother me, though that the author uses many words that she does not know the meaning of and, apparently, there was no editorial oversight at all. Or, of course, the editor was one of those cheap labor, barely literate, newly graduated English--majors who are so often assigned this type of project by publishing houses. So they can "gain experience". Just because it got past Microsoft Word Spell-check--does not make it a valid word to use in that context!
I fully admit I am enjoying these books, but I do miss the original 'alternative history' Sci-fi books that spawned this genre. They described worlds that had an internal logic and consistency that I prefer to this freewheeling, anything goes, fantasy style
The most enjoyable part of the book comes from the numerous gadgets and gismos that appear before their time. Plus there's lots of action and twists and turns in the story involving an array of odd, interesting minor characters. Add all of that to the budding romance between Brooks and Braun and you have an excellent example of steampunk literature at its best. I would highly recommend the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels to readers who like lighthearted steampunk stories or anyone looking for a thrilling book to take to the beach.
Eliza Braun has a personal connection to the suffragist movement and the disappearances occurring within its membership, but even if she didn’t, she’s the sort to follow that lead anyway. She’s not the type to see a mystery and just say, “Well, somebody else will take care of it.” I love that about her. She sees problems and starts working on the solutions. She’s a fantastic character to read about, strong-willed and feisty, always on the go, sure of herself even when others seem bent on forcing her into a mold for which she isn’t suited.
Wellington Books, on the other hand, is a character I love to follow because he’s studious and composed and yet there’s so much more to him than meets the eye. He’s the kind of person I’d have wanted to be when I grew up, had I read these books years and years ago. And put together with Eliza, they make such a great team with a great mix of personalities that you can’t help but want to read more about them. I adore the way they play off each other.
Plot-wise, there’s a lot going on here. While Books and Braun are investigating the disappearances of suffragists (off the record, of course, because they’ve been specifically told not to investigate at all), we also get insight into Eliza’s past and her romantic life, a conspiracy within the Ministry itself, a handful of intertwining subplots to keep things going even when the main plot has come to a bit of a standstill. None of the subplots feel forced or tacked on; they flow quite naturally, since really, when do any of us only have to deal with one thing at a time in life? Combine this with plenty of action and tension and you’ve got yourself a winning formula that keeps the entertainment coming.
Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of social commentary woven into the story, particularly about the place of women in society and the rights thereof. The Janus Affair is one of those books that can really get you thinking about the history of women struggling for equal rights to men, and the setbacks to the movement. Ballantine and Morris do not go into extreme detail about some of the punishments given to women imprisoned for their campaigns, but they do make mention of historically accurate issues such as being force-fed through tubes after going on hunger strikes. But even the milder refusals to concede that women are equal to men can rankle, especially when it comes from characters you expect better on. Even Books made a comment that seems relatively benign but still relegates women to the realm of the “gentle, lesser sex.” For those who haven’t done much research into the history of women’s right, who have only seen the fights occurring today, some of the content in this book might be a bit of an eye-opener, and a good jumping-off point for further personal research (if you’re anything like me, that is).
I don’t know why I waited so long between reading the first and the second books of this series. Typically I’m not much of a steampunk person, but honestly, the writing and the worldbuilding in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences books more than makes up for any ambivalence I may normally feel. Twice now I’ve been proven wrong, and that’s convinced me that I need to read the third book soon, in preparation for the release of book four. Even if you’re normally hesitant about steampunk novels, this is a very fun series you definitely ought to try.