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Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series) Mass Market Paperback – April 26, 2011
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Steampunk is a fascinating genre, and Ballantine and Morris have captured it perfectly. I think this series could serve as a great introduction to the genre, in fact, since you really don't have to have much of an understanding of steampunk to enjoy the book. There also seems to be an element or two of the pulp genre, though much of that is actually turned on it's head.-Pew Reviews
If James Bond wore a corset and drank Earl Grey it might be something like the adventures in Phoenix Rising...The two agents make light-hearted banter whilst chasing down evil villains and mad scientists and getting in and out of scrapes in immaculate period style. It's anachronistic and absurd, but Phoenix Rising has a sweet ending and getting to it is gleeful fun.
-Warp Core Sci Fi
This was a great start to a great series. Steampunk-when written right-can be a grand adventure into the past that tells a whole new story of the ingenuity of the human mind. The banter between Eliza and Wellington, or "Welly" as she calls him, had me chuckling in more than one spot. --RomFan Reviews
I enjoyed this book more than I think I can express in a single review. The moment I finished it I wanted the next one in the series. The steampunk world is incredible, all the way from awesome weaponry to colorful clothing. Eliza's sassy attitude kept me upbeat throughout the entire book, even when I was scared for the characters' lives.-All About Romance
This book combines aspects of the "The Odd Couple", the first three Indiana Jones movies, any good detective novel and the TV show, Cold Case...People love Steampunk and I think in Ballantine and Morris we have authors that can carry the torch. If you haven't purchased this book or downloaded it you are missing out.-Geek Life
From the Back Cover
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!
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Top Customer Reviews
Ballentine and Morris absolutely put together an excellent premise for this novel (and the books to follow, though I haven't read them yet). There's a secret plan against the British Empire, you see. And while everyone acknowledges that Eliza Braun is a brilliant field agent, she's just a mite bit... dramatic. Especially after that excessive use of dynamite. So she's assigned to work with Wellington Books, the Archivist (who dabbles with a Babbage Analytical Engine when he can), an assignment which Braun sees as entirely too dull. Of course things don't STAY dull....
The execution of this premise is, I must admit, sometimes a bit shaky. Despite a lot of action, the plot itself takes a while to get started. As a result, the book was somewhat put-down-able... though I did obviously pick it back up again.
It's very much saved by impressive world-building; I kept wondering what else the authors could throw into the backstory, and was always pleasantly surprised. Also there are moments that sparkle with "I'm not taking this too seriously and neither should you" brilliance. It's geeky, it's fun, and it's enjoyable.
But there are small irritations which take the gloss off. The heroine, Miss Eliza Braun, is a New Zealander and rarely lets us forget it. Nothing wrong with being a New Zealander; I'm one myself. But we don't all constantly drink beer and call everybody 'mate'. The language overall is confused, perhaps showing a need of a good editor. Early in the book, Eliza prefaces a number of her speeches with the mysterious word 'Oye' to gain attention to what she's about to say. Fortunately she later gets over it, about the time a 'real' Londoner comes out with the much more common 'Oi!'. There's also a confusion of idiom. To 'get ahold' of something isn't generally something a New Zealander (or English person) would do; we just say 'get hold'. Nor would we say 'as good of a starting place' or 'how poetic of a man'. Americans won't see anything wrong with this (I'm not intending any criticism of Americans!), but we'd simply say 'as good a starting place' or 'how poetic a man'. The 'of' just jars on my NZ/English sensibilities.
Aside from these stylistic problems (and why, oh why, must the Australian be called Bruce???), it's a light, enjoyable read.
The setting is old-fashioned, (Edwardian), steampunk, but this is one of those books in which the characters and the character interaction trump the steampunk elements. Steam provides some spice, informs the action, and allows for a number of funny or gripping, (or both), scenes, but it is not the reason for or the primary appeal of the book. For that we turn to shoot-first-and-shoot-often loose cannon Eliza Braun and careful, tidy archivist Wellington Books. (Really, Books and Braun? A tongue in cheek jest that just zips by, but gives you a sense that you're in for a clever romp.)
Here, we have conspiracies, an evil Combination, chases, escapes, derring-do, dynamite, puzzles, stiff upper lips, analytical calculating machines, gears, more dynamite and lairs. And that's in, like, the first fifty pages.
The agents meet cute, during a rescue. In classic fashion they are assigned to be uneasy mismatched partners. They rub each other the wrong way, unintentionally and intentionally, but they always rise to the occasion when the chips are down. Is the book padded out a bit and sometimes draggy? Sure. Do you mind? Nope.
So, if you want banter and action with a steampunk background and a clever, good humored gloss, this is a great place to start.
Please note that I found this book while browsing Amazon Kindle freebies. I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.