Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “Yes Books, I know. I’m such a bad, bad agent. I should be put across your knee and spanked.”
BLURB: 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! (Goodreads)
When Special Agent Eliza D. Braun rides in and single-handedly rescues Special Agent Wellington Books from certain torture and death at the hands of the House of User…you’d think she’d get a medal. But alas, Agent Braun once again used her magnificent and impressive array of firearms and dynamite to blow the building in which they were keeping Books and in doing so earned herself a dressing down and a reassignment. A reassignment to none other then Agent Books domain-the Achieves.
Agent Books views the archives as his domain. He fears for his precious books and devices when Agent Braun is sequestered with him for an indeterminable time frame. As Braun confuses, infuriates, and tantalizes Books, she comes across an old case involving her previous partner, Agent Harrison Throne. Eliza and Harrison investigated this strange and gruesome case but when told to leave off by their superiors, Harry disappeared only to be found alive and insane. He was committed to Bedlam and has never recovered. Eliza knows that this case is still on going and feels it is her job (and Books) to find out what drove harry insane and solve the case themselves.
As Braun and Books are drawn deeper into the case, they are find a conspiracy involving a very old and very nasty club called the Order of The Phoenix. Research shows Books and Braun that this order pre dates the Freemasons. When an opportunity arrives to infiltrate the order, Braun and Books jump into the mission with both feet. But soon the mission takes a turn for the worse and we are left wondering if Braun’s skill and Book’s brains are enough to save her Majesty’s agents.
Phoenix Rising is the first in a series-Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. A steampunk fantasy, we are transported back into the Victorian era. I found the world building to be extremely engaging. Fabulous intricate mechanical gadgets and inventions rule along side old world speech and dress. The beginning starts out with a BANG as Eliza arrives, guns blazing, to rescue Books. The dialogue between Books and Eliza is fast paced and hilarious as these to are thrown into a partnership together. These two couldn’t be more different from each other. Eliza is an rambunctious, courageous, free spirited woman who lives for being a Special Agent. Born and raised in New Zealand, she is a “colonial” who has many different facets that become more apparent as we and Books get to know her better. Book is her exact opposite. Extremely intelligent, he is more at home among his papers and books. Raised as part of the upper class, he is quiet, proper, and cautious. Eliza mystifies and at times offends him. Especially when she nicknames him Welly. Yet, they complement each other wonderfully.
The hint of romance between Books and Braun is a mere wisp of an idea that flows under the main storyline. We get a feeling something may happen in the future but we aren’t given any concrete evidence.
Our secondary characters are well presented with in depth individual personalities. Even those we only see once or twice leave a mark in the story and they stick with you long after you leave the scene. Our villains are quite devious and evil. I like the fact that both Books and Braun realize that but for a difference of circumstances, they could have each been friends with the some of the villains. I’ll admit I didn’t expect the book to take the serious dark tone it did, but I found myself thoroughly engrossed as we race towards the end.
The ending is quite dramatic, filled with heart stopping action. I like that Books gets more billing here as it takes him out of Braun’s shadow and gives us a chance to really see him and learn what he is made of. I look forward to seeing more of what’s behind his carefully cultivated exterior.
The only problem I had with the book is the overwhelming amount of time is spent with these two in the archives getting to know one another. They paired off so well together in the beginning that I felt that part slowed the story down quite a bit. I found myself putting the book down and walking away on quite a few occasions. It took a lot for me not to skip ahead. I’m glad I didn’t but hopefully the next book with move quicker as we do not need as much set up.
All in all a wonderful beginning to what looks to be an exciting addition to the steampunk genre.