Explosions the Book: A Review of Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris’ “Phoenix Rising”

A new star is added to my shelf of fame!

A new star is added to my shelf of fame! (Photo credit: Paulette Jaxton)

This book, like Big Machine, took me about a year to read.  And again, it’s not the that book was bad, I just have reading ADD.

“Phoenix Rising” is a book in the series “Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.”  It is a steampunk novel that takes place in the late 1800s.  Enter Agents Braun and Books, a lady with a wild streak and an uptight nobleman who has a knack for research, respectively.  You meet these two at the very beginning of the novel.  But it was this quote that really caught my attention:

“‘The Ministry remains rather underfunded by the Crown, Books, and I was given the choice of either more backup or more dynamite.’  She held up the stick. ‘I went with what I could trust.'”

After reading this, I was hooked.  A girl who likes explosions is my kind of protagonist.

But this book isn’t all mindless entertainment.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that we join our daring duo on a deadly mystery.  They research a secret society that was thought to be long gone, but is, in fact, very much alive.  I know, I’ve seen that movie too.  But what makes the plot interesting is the characters.  Yes, they are mismatched, but they learn from one another.

Perhaps what I enjoy most in fiction is characterization.  The two authors of this novel really hit the mark with Books and Braun because they are at once likable and flawed, leaving room for growth.  You know characters are well developed when you talk to the characters.  There is one scene when, on an undercover mission, Books tells  the people he is with that Braun is mute.  Given that Ms. Eliza Braun is a brazen, corset-wearing woman who likes to speak her mind, I immediately said, “Oooh, you’re going to get it later, Books!” (Wait, you don’t talk to book characters?   …I guess I’m just weird).

Another aspect of the story that I liked was the fact that it does not take place in contemporary America.  It is set in late 1800s England.  Sometimes the dialogue took some getting used to, but I enjoyed hearing about analytical engines and reading about horse-drawn carriages.  Call me old fashioned, but it was refreshing to read a book that didn’t include iPhones and the Internet.

This novel isn’t ground breaking, but it is fun.  Ballentine and Morris do a great job balancing action, suspense, and humor.  I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, enjoyable read.

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