Book 1 of Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Book purchased from Book Depository
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!
AH’s Review – 5 Skulls – A
Great fun! Automatons, bullet-proof corsets, explosions, and more!
Eliza Braun loves her weapons and her dynamite. Wellington Books prefers to hide away in his basement offices at the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. When these two characters are forced to work together, sparks fly – literally.
PhoenixRising is the first book in Philippa Ballantine’s and Tee Morris’ Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. This is steampunk done right, down to every last detail. Set in Victorian London, Phoenix Rising has all the requisite clockwork, brass, and steam contraptions. The integration of the steampunk elements into the world and the narrative is extremely well done.
This book has some of the most interesting steampunk contraptions out there. I was especially intrigued by Book’s Analytical Engine, a machine used by Books to catalogue the many cases and items archived in the basement. This machine was a fascinating bit of technology, running on pulleys and gears. It was also able to function as a primitive GPS device as well. There was even a barmaid contraption, able to serve drinks. And what steampunk would be complete without automatons and mechamen? These automatons even served dinner!
Located inside an import/export company, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a top secret organization that investigates strange cases, a sort of Victorian spy agency. There’s even a group of Clankertons who work for Research and Design, reminding me a little of James Bond’s Q.
Books and Eliza were delightful together. Books, the “…dashing hero of history” was the Chief Archivist at the Ministry. Books was very serious about his work – you could call him fastidious. Around women, Books was extremely shy and Eliza’s brashness just flabbergasted him. Eliza was a loose cannon, literally preferring to shoot first and ask questions later. Eliza seemed to enjoy shaking up Book’s world at first. Eliza wanted Books to leave his office and go out in the field and enjoy his life. The banter and dialogue between these two characters was hilarious. At times, they even behaved like a married couple.
I enjoyed Eliza’s character. Her perspective of the world made me laugh. Upon attending a long and boring opera she remarked that it would be greatly improved with dynamite. Eliza was a fierce fighter, a crack shot, and generally someone you would want on your side. I also loved the fact that she was fiercely independent. While Eliza comes across as tough and irreverent, she also has a softer side. Eliza has a crack team of informants called The Ministry Seven. The Seven are a group of street urchins that she has taken under her wing.
Phoenix Rising is one of my favorite reads so far this year. The sequel The Janus Affair will be out May 29. If you’ve been hesitant to read a steampunk book, this is a great start. The book is action packed with edge of your seat excitement.
“Pushing manners to teeter on the precipice was where she found an equal euphoria to that of demolitions and covert operations, and Wellington sometimes resembled a pom caricature – full of fuss and feathers. Watching him squirm did blunt the serrated edge of her punishment slightly.”
“My ample bosom broke my fall.” She broke out into a cackle as she threw her arms around Book’s neck. “And this- “she chortled, rapping her knuckles against her corset. Standard issue for female agents. “It’s bulletproof.”
“You know, if I didn’t know any better, I would swear we were actually married.”
“I can’t think of anything more off-putting.” Wellington placed his hand in the small of her back as he continued, “than being married to a walking armoury. You, my dear Miss Braun, are a living, breathing advocate for bachelorism.”
Note: The authors have a great website with lots of information about the series and steampunk. The crest posted above is found on that website. There are even pictures of the characters.
The Pinterest site has great pictures of all things steampunk.
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