Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: June 2011
Co-authors Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris ingeniously reimagining England’s Edwardian Era in Phoenix Rising—a hilarious, rip-roaring steam punk fantasy romp that the voracious fans of New York Times bestseller Gail Carriger will eagerly devour with great relish. In this outrageous, non-stop adventure, Ballantine and Morris introduce us to Agents Books and Braun of the ultra-secret Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the most delightful duo of very British evil-bashers since The Avengers, Emma Peel and John Steed. With its malevolent secret societies, earth-shattering conspiracies, breathtaking derring-do, and absolutely wondrous weapons, Phoenix Rising out-Sherlock’s Robert Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes.
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 encyclopaedic 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!
Steam punk is a fascinating genre, and Ballantine and Morris have captured it perfectly. I think this series could serve as a great introduction to the genre, in fact, since you really don't have to have much of an understanding of steam punk to enjoy the book. There also seems to be an element or two of the pulp genre, though much of that is actually turned on its head. And of course, there are the main characters, who remind me of every male/female pulp partnership I've ever read or heard about -- with one major difference.
Ballantine and Morris include vigorous chase scenes and blow-by-blow fights, most notably a girl-on-girl rumble at an operatic performance of MACBETH in which explosive gas and several stage weapons are employed. But though a body count rises, the carnage is understated, and the gore remains minimal, barely classifying the novel as horror; strange and creepy, perhaps, but not technically frightening.
Phoenix Rising is the first book in a new series, so we have a lot of set-up. There are many conspiracies still left floating, so there is plenty of fodder for future books. By necessity, since this book was how Books and Braun came together, the focus is mainly on them, but there are many intriguing side characters
All in all I thought this was a strong first book and that anyone who was a fan of the adventure in the Blades of the Rose series and the dynamic in Sherlock Holmes movie might want to check this series out.