Review: Phoenix Rising

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Phoenix RisingPhoenix Rising by Pippa Ballantine, Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1
Published by Harper Voyager on April 26, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Mystery, Paranormal, Steampunk, Urban Fantasy
Pages: 402
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

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!

So, here we have a steampunk book with an archivist as a main character. Can you say awesome? I know a few archivists myself, and some of them can be quite awful and, well, stereotypical. Thankfully, Books falls firmly into the realm of the fantastic archivists. He is concerned with the “preservation of the Empire” and of the ministry’s artifacts and papers (291).

From the beginning, I identified more with Books than with the confident, flirty heroine. A librarian myself, his attempt to find a nonviolent solution, along with his nerdy love of books and research, seems the ideal method. Eliza, while a strong heroine, never really felt like a real person to me. She lacks background, except that she misses her homeland of New Zealand. All I really know about her is that she likes to make Books uncomfortable and to make things explode (likely those two things will combine at some point, but not in this book, the first in the series). Hopefully, some more character depth will be forthcoming.

Clever people that you are, you have likely noticed that Books is a fitting name for an archivist. This naming convention continues throughout, with many of the characters wearing fitting monikers. Like the rather brawny Miss Braun. Or the female assassin del Morte. I found these little elements amusing, along with most of the old timey language. Expect pages “full of rabble-rousers, Fabians, cut-throats and Dollymops” (133). Although there are some occasional slip ups in the use of the old fashioned words, such as referring to an event as grizzly, when the authors really meant grisly.

I will undoubtedly be venturing forth into later volumes about the escapades of Books and Braun. Phoenix Rising was quite entertaining and I hope book two will be even better. If you love reading about librarians with a few aces up their sleeves, explosions and strong women, you won’t want to miss this amusing steampunk novel.

2 responses to “Review: Phoenix Rising”

  1. AbbyDe says:

    You should have said: “I know a few archivists myself, and some of them can be quite awful and, well, stereotypical, but one of them is a true bad ass who is totally cool enough to have a book written about her!”

    Just a suggestion!

  2. Christina says:

    That would be a true assertion. I will vouch for that. I won’t change it though, because then your comment wouldn’t make sense. 😀

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