Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: Phoenix Rising

My latest Steampunk read was Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris.

This rousing romp of an adventure starts with a bang as Miss Eliza Braun, a field agent with the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, rescues fellow agent Mr. Wellington Books, the Ministry's Archivist, from the clutches of an organization attempting to torture information from Books. Braun makes the rescue in as destructive a manner as possible, leading the head of the Ministry to assign her to the Archives in the hope that the refined and even-tempered Books might have a civilizing effect on his wild agent.

What follows is a potboiler of a plot involving (not necessarily in this order) Mad Science, a secret society, a bullet-resistant corset, men killed and drained of their blood, a beautiful assassin, a night at the opera, urchins, mechanized men, and our heroine in a bathtub.

One review suggested that the closest analogy for this book was a Steampunk version of The Avengers, with Eliza as a Colonial Emma Peel and Wellington as a more gadget-oriented and less field-tested than John Steed. The analogy is apt.

When an author names her lead characters Books and Braun, the reader can readily see that the authorial tongue is planted firmly in cheek. However preposterous the plot, it's a fun, quick read that keeps the pages turning, the reader constantly wondering what kind of trouble our agents could find.

Phoenix Rising was clearly designed as the first in a series of novels about Agents Books and Braun, and I look forward to their further adventures.

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