Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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!
Thoughts: If the X-Files dealt more with artifacts and the truth behind urban legends, and existed in Victorian London, you might end up with something like the Minsitry of Peculiar Occurences, office of Her Majesty the Queen, handler of those strange events that need to be taken care of in the most discrete and sensitive way possible.
That is, until Eliza Braun comes in with gons a-blazing, with Wellington Books shaking his head in long-suffering acceptance.
Phoenix Rising is the first book in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences series, and what a fantastic beginning it was. We get thrown right into the action and intrigue, which doesn’t let up its pace for the whole of the book. Through a series of circumstances which doesn’t please either of the two main characters, Agents Books and Braun (lovely pun on the ideas of intelligence and brute strength, which they respectively embody) are thrown together, and among other things, find themselves embroiled in a conspiracy to overthrown the Queen and restore glory to the remains of the British Empire.
And that’s in their off-hours.
Ballantine and Morris bring together a wonderful blend of writing styles that show great creativity and talent for the little details of Victorian steampunk living, as well as a sense of humour that left me chuckling aloud at some moments (such as the chapter titles). It seems to me that this was a book that must have been as fun to write as it was for me to read, and the enjoyment shows in the tone of the novel; even during the tense and serious moments, there’s witty humour and sarcasm, and you tear through the pages wanting to know just what happens next.
Phoenix Rising is, ultimately, a fast-paced action-adventure that should not be missed. To fans of steampunk, or just fans of books with a good plot and sense of humour, this is one book that should definitely be gracing your bookshelves. And I don’t say that lightly; this is a book that was given to me for free as an e-ARC, and I know very well that I’m going to be buying a hard copy as soon as I can. It isn’t often that I do that, but in this case, I’ll make a very happy exception.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)