Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series #1)

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series #1)

4.2 84
by Pip Ballantine

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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

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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!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Agent Eliza Braun of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, who sports a bulletproof corset, is a New Zealander prone to shooting first and asking questions later. Archivist Wellington Books invented the Difference Engine supercomputer and has a dislike of guns and a surprising skill for undercover acting. Obviously, they are fated to meet cute and fight crime. Their opponents are the Phoenix Society, a murderous cabal devoted to world domination and wife-swapping. Eliza's plan involves infiltrating their recruitment orgy, leading to explosions and fisticuffs. Oddly slow given the outrageous plot, this slightly steampunkish spy fantasy would benefit from losing 100 pages, an exceedingly pointless drunk scene, and a bevy of plucky urchins, but it's still well suited for a bit of early summer beach reading. (May)

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Series, #1
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.10(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.20(d)

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Phoenix Rising 4.2 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 84 reviews.
PJaxton More than 1 year ago
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!
Fallen_Valkyrja More than 1 year ago
You have read other reviews and the blurb so you know what the book is about. The only thing I have to add is that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and will most definitely be picking up the short stories and the next book in the series when it is released. Funny, smart, and imaginative... these authors know how to engage and deliver.
Melhay More than 1 year ago
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
harstan More than 1 year ago
In London, someone abducts the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences archivist Wellington Thornhill Books. Field Agent Eliza Braun rescues him from his Antarctic prison. However, though she gets the job done, the MPO leadership decides Braun uses too much brawn with her excessive collateral damage and Books thinks the archives is his personal library. Ministry Director Dr. Sound finds a subtle solution to his two problem children. He assigns Braun to work for Books. However, her work there leads her back to her first cold case Rag and Bone Murders that left her partner insane. This quickly takes the operative and the archivist into uncovering a nefarious plot by the House of Usher. Filled with sound and fury, the Director will learn sometimes you get what you wish for. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences steampunk fantasy is a fun tale starring a gender bending couple with apt surnames of Book and Braun. The story line starts with a big bang at their first encounter and remains loaded with action; but some scenes seem more like cul de sac additions. As the lead pair struggle to survive one escapade after another with the help of cute Oliver Twist kids, fans will enjoy their dysfunctional exploits. Harriet Klausner
Openbooksociety_dot_com More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a breath of fresh air for me. I can't wait for the next one!
Joseph Baker More than 1 year ago
X-files steampunk style
Murasake More than 1 year ago
It's sometime in the late 1890s--late Victorian London, and Wellington Thornhill Books, Archivist for the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is kidnapped, whisked away to an Antarctic stronghold for, ahem, questioning, and is rescued by Ministry field agent Eliza D. Braun. Upon returning to London, she is assigned to assist Books in the Archives. This is Ministry director Dr. Sound's version of killing two birds with one stone: Eliza Braun is too unpredictable and resistant to orders in the field, and Books is starting to think of the Archives as his. Books has a working Difference Engine that he built himself, and has programmed for all manner of useful tasks. The Archives are filled not just with accounts of solves and unsolved cases, but artifacts--a map to the city of El Dorado, and a Zulu amulet that does truly dangerous things, among others. The agents, including Books, wear rings that can be tracked by the Emergency Tracking System. Braun is not really cut out to be an archivist, and she's haunted by one of the first cases she worked on after arriving in England from New Zealand. Known as the Rag and Bone Murders, the case revolved around bodies found dead and mutilated in a variety of gruesome ways: one drained of all blood, another with all bones removed, yet another with the skin completely removed. She and her first partner, Harrison Thorne, found no solution and the investigation became increasingly dangerous, until they were ordered to stop, and the unsolved case consigned to the Archives. But Harry didn't drop the case, and eventually disappeared for a week, only to turn up near a factory, completely mad. Braun can't let the case go, either, and inevitably sucks the very staid, very proper, very not-a-field-agent Books into the case with her. And that's when things really get dangerous, as they clash with a secret society with its own plans for England, agents of the House of Usher still intent upon questioning Books, a deadly female assassin, and the mad genius who's behind everything--maybe! They repeatedly escape by the skin of their teeth, due to Braun's way with weapons and explosives, or Books' way with machinery and codes. And when the final showdown comes, if they want to survive, they have to get over their mutual friction and incomprehension, and start trusting each other. This is a great romp through a Victorian England that's just off enough to be intriguing, and I found Books and Braun rapidly growing on me. The pace is lively, and the authors keep the reader guessing.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Ursula4400 7 months ago
I only made it to page 5. Didn't care for it.
ddaniel28 More than 1 year ago
A Victorian John Steed and Emma Peel In Phoenix Rising, we are introduced first to Wellington Thornhill Books. He is being held prisoner, in Antarctica no less, by the House of Usher. I'm not clear who they are, but theirs is a minor role in this novel. Books is also Chief Archivist at the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. Next we meet Eliza D. Braun, one of the Ministry's Field Agents. Bang, bang! Crash, crash, BOOM! She has resuced Books. Back in London, we learn that The Ministry's head, Doctor Basil Sound, had instructed Eliza to deliver only one shot in Antarctica: the one that would have ended Books' well-ordered life. All on her own, she decided that Books had not been compromised, and his death wasn't necessary. Sound feels that Braun has long shown a tendency to ignore her orders and improvise while on missions. He tells her that, until further notice, her new assignment is to help Books out in the Arcives. Eliza is horrified at the thought. Now Braun, a dangerous-but-sexy pepper-pot from New Zeland, and Books, a perfectly-mannered, upper-crust Londoner (think John Steed or even Phileas Fogg), are poised to become a team. They will eventually investigate a dead file from the Archives that Braun has a personal connection to. The evil Phoenix Society is investigated. Much danger and great fun ensues. And firey destruction. Pip Ballantine is from New Zeland. I would say that this eBook has a suprising number of grammatical errors, but perhaps I'm just not used to a Kiwi's take on English. This is thechnically a Steampunk novel, but it doesn't focus too much on that genre's usual gadgets. Occasionally will whip out an unusual device and refer to the "clankertons" in research, much as James Bond might refer to Q. Also, Books has built an elaborate Babbage Engine in the Archives, and a major Steampunk trope shows up at the end. The book stays interesting and stays fun throughout. There is a good deal of sexual tension that is never quite carried to conclusion. Some events while our heroes are undercover in the chief villians' country home, however, reminded me of The Story of O or Eyes Wide Shut. I look forward to reading the other books in this series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent fast paced. Great for travel or killing time.
billcstf04 More than 1 year ago
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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Brains and Brawn!
Denise_Golinowski More than 1 year ago
What a rollicking introduction to Book and Braun! And you have to LOVE those names! The opening scene hooks you right away, and the characters are engaging. All the appropriate Steampunk tropes are present and accounted for with style and finesse! I'm looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Engaging and entertaining,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great Steampunk book...mystery, adventure, action!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago