The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1: Phoenix Rising

February 2013 Prof. Cassandra Lobiesk

This book had my three favorite S's tied up in a ribbon: Sassy and Sexy and Steampunk. And I don't care if some people whine about the sub-genre of steampunk going into the mainstream world, because if books like Phoenix Rising keeps on getting made, then all the better!

Wellington Books and Eliza Braun (yes, I kid you not, Agents Books and Braun...) are not exactly what you would call ideal partners, especially when it comes to field missions from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Wellington likes the comfort of his Archives and his unique inventions, while Eliza would rather have two guns in her hands and sticks of dynamite hidden away in her bullet-proof corset. But alas, clearly the Ministry has something else cooked up for these two, because they do wind up working together to solve a mystery thought to have been a closed case. Throw in a dangerous femme fatale working for two rather fatal secret organizations, mad scientists, medical mysteries, and explosive gatherings, and clearly it's a wild ride up in Victorian England.

There were obviously a lot of things I liked about this book, chief of all the dynamic between the two characters (often they're referred to as the "dyanmic duo" in the chapter titles, and I'm actually inclined to agree!). The tension between the two sizzled throughout the entire story, and I am impressed by how much Wellington Books still retained his gentlemanly ways by the end (I mean, come on, a hottie like Eliza? Who wouldn't try to hook up with her, right?). Furthermore, there is more to Wellington than meets the eye, and on occasion, I must have giggled like a crushing schoolgirl at the thought of the gentleman agent being more than just an Archivist, his inventions notwithstanding.

I loved where the story was going, and it was tied nicely up at the end, though there were definitely more sprinkles of mystery sown in. The fact that I still have numerous questions I want answered may be a problem (I mean, what was Doctor Sound truly up to in that secret room of his? And why does Wellington have such an aversion to guns?), though, especially if Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris are using Phoenix Rising as a springboard for an ongoing series (titled The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for a reason, surely)...

From Antarctica to London to an English countryside, Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris did not fail to entertain, either by producing witty dialogue, poignant and interesting storylines, and even the shock factors that put the "punk" in the sub-genre. Whatever the case, I'm clearly thirsting for more.

Obviously I need to get my hands on book 2.