Release date: 1st May, 2011
Authors: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
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 Brooks 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!
I’ve always had a soft spot for the idea of Steam Punk. It’s an appealing genre for so many reasons, but mostly, I guess, because it’s just plain fun. I like to put on the British accent and affect the mannerisms as I read and it just really makes me happy. Typically set in the Victorian era, it invents an alternate history for the world where so many things are possible.
Now, I said I like the idea of it. I have to confess to not having read a whole lot of this genre, so I don’t have much to compare ‘Phoenix Rising’ with. What I can say is that it had everything I could have hoped for: guns, machines, action, secrecy, sinister plots, good old fashioned British sensibilities.
It also had something I didn’t really expect, in the form of the main characters: Eliza Braun, a feisty colonial from New Zealand—obviously this is going to go down well with me, a New Zealander through and through. While the bulk of the novel is set in Britain, it was pleasantly surprising to have someone from outside that country play such an important role.
Books, the unassuming Archivist for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, is also an intriguing character. He is so much more than he first seems. I adore him.
Both are refreshing and original. I thought they were really well developed and brought a lot of depth to this novel. Both appeared to be a certain way to begin with, and over the course of the story we’re shown more of their layers and complexities, which is something that really worked for me.
And the plot? Wow. Just, wow. Right from the very start it’s action packed—these two sure know how to get themselves caught up in trouble, and get themselves out of it (in fairly good shape anyway!). The storyline threaded through past and present, blending backstory and character history seamlessly into the action, while also raising enough questions to leave the reader itching for the next book in the series. There are bigger things afoot, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
If you like a rollicking good time, then I encourage you to check this one out—you won’t be disappointed. Also, if you get a chance, why not check out the fabulous website for the book? There are some great podcasts in there as well as other fun stuff.