Customer Reviews for

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series #1)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

A Rollicking Success

First, and foremost, I really love the concept behind Phoenix Rising. Part Avengers (the 60's British TV show, not the superhero comics), part X-Files, part Wild Wild West (again, the TV show, not the movie), and gloriously, drippingly, extravagantly steampunk from begi...
First, and foremost, I really love the concept behind Phoenix Rising. Part Avengers (the 60's British TV show, not the superhero comics), part X-Files, part Wild Wild West (again, the TV show, not the movie), and gloriously, drippingly, extravagantly steampunk from beginning to end. It's a romp, and a hoot, and a ripping good yarn to boot. It's a shame this didn't come out in a hardback edition (I've grown to dislike the smaller paperbacks, and opted to finish reading this in ebook form), because it's the kind of book that should be enjoyed in front of a fire, sipping a glass of port, while wearing a smoking jacket. (Okay, I confess, I don't smoke and I rarely wear jackets around the house, so make mine a fluffy dressing robe.) Tee Morris and Pip Ballantine have struck steampunk gold with this collaboration, and I eagerly await the next and subsequent installments of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series.

The two main characters are likable and accessible. The reserved archivist, Wellington Books, is just the right blend of British posh and Victorian gear-geek to play foil to the impulsive and -- dare I say it? -- explosive colonial, Eliza Braun. While not an exact copy of Steed and Peale from the Avengers, this duo has all the same sparks flying between them. The interaction of these two is what makes this book (and the hopefully the forthcoming series) a rollicking success.

That said, I got the sense in reading Phoenix Rising that the authors may have been too rushed to complete it on time. At times the writing seems hurried, with shortcuts and liberties taken that left me wanting more detail, and a great deal more dialog between Eliza and "Welly". For example, several times Wellington is described as a sort of amateur inventor, and yet we never see the plethora of little gadgets and failed experiments one might expect from such a character. And far too often one or the other character "thinks" they should say something witty, but then doesn't. With characters this awesome, I want to hear every witty thing they have to say, whether they say it out loud or not!

In the past year or so, I've read some pretty bad steampunk. It's a genre searching for itself, and sometimes it seems like it's searching in the dark. Well, Morris and Ballantine have found the light and this steampunk effort glows with awesome!

posted by PJaxton on January 11, 2012

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

An Interesting Read Review brought to you by Verushka Steampun

An Interesting Read

Review brought to you by Verushka

Steampunk is not my first choice of genres, with Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate ‘Soulless’ being my first introduction to it. So, a steampunk novel is going to have to work hard to keep me i...
An Interesting Read

Review brought to you by Verushka

Steampunk is not my first choice of genres, with Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate ‘Soulless’ being my first introduction to it. So, a steampunk novel is going to have to work hard to keep me interested and Phoenix Rising succeeds admirably. The climax of the novel might have given me flashbacks to Branagh in the unfortunate Wild Wild West, but that was short-lived, and also a movie (yes, I watch too many movies that have nothing to do with the rich, engaging and absolutely enjoyable prose of this novel).

Eliza Braun, a field agent is introduced to us mid-mission on her way to rescue Wellington Books, an Archivist at the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, a clandestine organisation dedicated to investigating, well, peculiar and supernatural occurrences for Queen and country. Books is a bookworm, happier stuck in the Archive of the Ministry, filing unsolved cases and ignoring the voice of his father in the back of his mind and his upper-crust upbringing.

Eliza is his complete opposite, a fiery and brash colonial (a New Zealander, and proud of it, much like Pip Ballantine, one of the authors. As an Australian, the references did make laugh out loud). Her attitude gets her in trouble more often than not, despite her talent as a field agent and this is what lands her in what is probably the most boring place in the Ministry to her, the Archive as Book’s assistant.

What is interesting though, is that Eliza begins the book by keeping a secret from her rescue mission of Books, concerning Books from him, and by the end of the book, Books in turn does the same with her. By then though, readers are fully aware that neither is what they seem, and what I think is a joy to read is that when these characters do learn from each other, and about each other causes them both to develop further as characters, when too often things like that can be forgotten within a novel. It isn’t the most original set-up, but the authors’ talent and skill elevates what is a common plot to something better.

The elements of steampunk that have always fascinated me, and all are present in this book: the Ministry, with their gadgets and their secret agents in need of gadgets, not to mention a secret Phoenix society hell bent on destruction and power. Everything is primed to show off some remarkable incorporations of modern tech that had me laughing as I was reading this on the train to work.

The gems in this book though are Eliza and Books, both as fabulously alive within these pages, as they are opposites. The book takes readers to both aspects of London reflected in their characters – the working class pubs where Eliza feels at home, and the upper-crust of society where Books knows he can fit in, but might not feel quiet at home. I should mention though, as much as Eliza loves London, she is colonial and proud of it, and longs for New Zealand. The book works hard in making each overcome their pre-conceptions of each other, but again the authors’ skill saved a simple plot tactic from being boring. It is fun watching Books fluster at the depths to Eliza which brings me to something else – the cover does create a misconception in regards to the story, for it is Eliza and Books’ story, not just her’s. (cont)

For the FULL review and more visit openbooksociety dot com

posted by Openbooksociety_dot_com on June 30, 2012

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  • Posted May 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Great steampunk mystery fun read!

    Wellington Thornhill Books meets the lovely Eliza D. Braun as she is saving his arse from being tortured, by booming the place. But Eliza has a secret about saving Wellington. Agents Books and Braun work for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences in different fields of the company. They each have strong personalities and feelings for the areas they excel in. Street agents and the archivist see each other as two different components. But, for their exceedingly strong believes they are paired up as new partners, in "Books" archives. Yet Agent Braun wants nothing more than anything to be back in the field blowing up something with her favorite weapon, dynamite. Miss Eliza Braun has a hard time at adjusting to being in the Archives trying to file the many magical items and cases away, so Mr. Wellington Books takes her to show her something new deeper in the Archives ~ Cases of the Unknown. After seeing hundreds of cases classified as Cases of the Unknown (Books opinion of words) Agent Braun decides with her abilities in the field and Books intelligence here in the Archives and basic training, to take on these cases. When Eliza comes across a case in filing that she recognizes as one her last partner had worked and ended up in the mental hospital over, she decides to do as he had done and pick up the case on her personal time.

    I think I can go on and on about this book. It was so well written and so many different aspects that I enjoyed.

    The book starts right in with a bang with action and bullets flying every which direction as the main characters meet. Then we step back a bit to have the world of The Ministry drawn for us to understand what they do and the set up of it. We learn the Archives, in the basement of the Ministry's office building, is a library of sorts and storage area for many peculiar items and past case information, almost magical items. The Archives even reminds me a little of the television show Warehouse 13 on the SyFy channel with the warehousing of magical. While we are learning of the Archives we are also getting to know the characters and the rough blend of personalities, but I have to say I love the give and take in jabs between these two. Once they talk of the Cases of the Unknown we see how Eliza then Books get drawn to one particular case. Before they realize it they are eyeballs deep in the investigation. Then we have another addition to the mix as the House of Usher is after Agent Books for reasons we are not yet aware of.

    The characters are fun! Books is the gentlemanly kind of man, not one who thinks of loads of weapons, but one to get lost in the design of things and the puzzle in figuring them out. Books is one that loves the steam machinery and pully machinery, which is ever present in this book. Eliza is a kick arse ask questions later kind of woman. Eliza is the one who loves weapons and to make things go boom. Books even references her once, to himself as he is so gentlemanly, as the Angel of Destruction.

    Some might say the book has a slow start or moves slow after the bang of a beginning in the first chapter. However, I have to say it's a perfect balance of action, fun and case building/solving for me. And the dialect and writing styles is a pleasure to read. This is a book to sit down with and enjoy from all angles; world building, characters, case solving ~ all for the style, fun, and mystery of it.

    Until next book I have the podcasts of different cases

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Loved it

    Phoenix Rising was my first foray into the steampunk genre, so I have no idea how it stacks up with steampunk other books. I'm not quite sure how to sum it up except to say that I enjoyed it and really, really liked it. On top of having never read a steampunk book before, I've never read either author, nor have I read a lot of historical-ish books, so I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I started reading. I was a little apprehensive, and I did feel a tiny bit out of my depth with some of the language (the phrasing and vocabulary in particular tripped me up from time to time). There were also more descriptions than I'm used to, and more depth to the story than I anticipated, so there were times when, despite all of the action going on (and there really was a lot going on), the story felt slow and a little dense. But the main characters drew me in and kept me hooked. Honestly, how can you not like that the gun-toting, explosive-loving lady is named Braun? And that the nerdy, detail-loving, rules-abiding gent is named Books? Thrown together as partners, they both begrudgingly start opening up over the course of the book, and their dynamic worked for me. I kept laughing at the things they'd say to each other. I love both of them enormously, both separately and together, and I honestly can't wait for the next book to see how their relationship/partnership develops. And I'm not going to lie - I'm pulling for them to end up together, maybe not right away, but eventually. As a general thing for me, I'm not ever super excited to have tidbits/subplots brought up and not resolved by the end, but the ones in Phoenix Rising made me excited to pick up the next book versus being just irritated. I want to know what happens next! Which is a good sign of a first book of a series, and I wish more first series books were as solid as this one. At the end of the day, I really enjoyed Phoenix Rising. It's probably not for everyone, but if you can keep an open mind and enjoy some good bantering, I'd suggest giving it a try. Favorite excerpt: She groaned as her face turned to press against the rosewood floor. "Welly, remind me to order a better mattress for my bed. This one is far too firm." "Oh, Eliza," Wellington gasped, now remembering why he was in these lush surroundings. "No broken nose, I hope." "S'all right," Braun slurred. Her voiced dropped to a whisper. "My ample bosom broke my fall."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

    Loved it

    This book was a breath of fresh air for me. I can't wait for the next one!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2014

    Excelent

    unfortunately I read these books out of ordeer but it is not a real loss as they stand alone preety well. Steam punk is a fun sub-genre and this as well as the others in the series are really good fun. I highly recomend them alol.I really can see Diana Rigg, in her younger days, playing the lead here in the movie version.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2013

    Great Steampunk

    Engaging and entertaining,

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013

    Great Steampunk book...mystery, adventure, action!

    Great Steampunk book...mystery, adventure, action!

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  • Posted November 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highest Recommendation - the most fun you can have between the pages.

    I love steampunk. I've loved these steam-powered adventure stories since I was a kid reading my first Jules Verne novel. I love British television. My first memory of watching a British show was the Avengers (not the comic book) featuring the dapper Mr. Steed and the sexy but deadly Emma Peel.

    Phoenix Rising has taken these two great loves of mine and mixed them into a delightful new concoction. It's exciting, it's touching, it's a mystery, it's steamy (in more ways than one), it's funny, and it will make you forget anything else you had to do that might be more important.

    If you are a fan of a rollicking good adventure story about a friendship forming while solving a mystery wrapped in a Victorian era you only wished could've happened then read this book!

    If I had any complaint it was the e-book I read had a lot of typos. And I guess it is also a credit to the authors that despite the typos I was constantly sucked right back into the story. The characters are likable, memorable and they think (not something you always get these days). The villains are formidable, dastardly, dangerous, and one is even sexy. I give this book my highest recommendation and I can't wait to read the next one, and the next one, and the next one.

    What there is only one more? Tee and Philippa if you are reading this quit wasting time and go right more of these books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2012

    I wish I had an extra thumb

    Riviting tale with just the right attention to detail. I was captivated from the very begining. I give it a two thumbs up.

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  • Posted July 2, 2012

    Loved it, and I can't wait for more.

    Loved it, and I can't wait for more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 30, 2012

    Rollicking adventure

    This was a fun, fast-paced book. As I was reading it in bed, I would tell myself "five more minutes and then I'm going to sleep" ... which is how I ended staying up two hours later than planned! I look forward to the next Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2012

    Loved!

    Adore the character's relationship. Well paced without any dry or dull spots.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    Truly enjoyable

    A fantastic yarn. Well worth a read.

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  • Posted September 13, 2011

    Awesome Read

    For those of us who used to watch the Avengers with Mrs. Peel, you will love this steampunk version.

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    Posted January 30, 2012

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    Posted April 9, 2014

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