Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel is the first novel from Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris writing together. They take us back to...morePhoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel is the first novel from Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris writing together. They take us back to the age of Queen Victoria, and give us a view of a secret organization in Her Majesty's government. This clandestine organization, the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, deals with the strange, the bizarre, and those things best not talked about in polite society. Agents of the Ministry travel the world investigating these strange and unusual events, and returning dangerous artifacts to Mother England where they can be safely stored away from dangerous hands.
This tale follows Eliza D. Braun, an agent of the Ministry originally from New Zealand. Exiled from her homeland under mysterious circumstances, Eliza is one of the most effective agents of the Ministry. And one of the least covert. After her latest mission led to the destruction of a stronghold of the secret society known as the House of Usher, and the mountain that housed the stronghold, Eliza is put on suspension, and re-assigned from the field to serve the ministry in the Archives, the repository of all these dangerous artifacts and boring agent reports.
Another thing deposited in the Archives is one Wellington Thornhill Books, Esquire, the Ministry's appointed Archivist, and the object of Eliza's last mission. Kidnapped by the House of Usher, and returned by the unconventional Miss Braun, Mr. Books was looking forward to returning to the peace and quiet of his Archives, but instead finds himself with an unconventional assistant. An assistant who insists upon reopening unsolved cases of the Ministry and investigating them. Starting with the case of what happened to her old partner...
This begins a roller coaster ride of intrigue, secret societies, and steam-driven science gone mad. With a touch of hedonism thrown in in case you got bored. Everyone has their secrets and surprises, and this book is full of twists, turns, and reveals. This is an excellent book. If you're at all insterested in steampunk, I'm sure you'll enjoy Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel. (less)
This review is based on the podiobook version. When I get my hands on the hardcover I reserve the right to change my mind.
Brand writes an excellent st...moreThis review is based on the podiobook version. When I get my hands on the hardcover I reserve the right to change my mind.
Brand writes an excellent story, and the podiobook consumes like a Nathan Lowell story. The setting has a very Steampunk feel, although elements of the story show that this is a cultural affectation and the story is clearly set in the future... making it Sci Fi. Or to put it another way, if Steampunk is Cyberpunk rolled back 200 years, The Hidden Institute is Steampunk rolled forward 200 years. I love the setting.
But... This book needs to be picked up by a publisher and made to go through a few editing cycles. The reason I say this is the pacing seems off to me. Some things are beaten into the character's head repeatedly, then he suddenly seems to get it and speeds to the head of the class. There just seem to be too many fast forwards in the story. I'd like to see some of those sections fleshed out more.
As it is, The Hidden Institute is still worth a read, or a listen. I just have the feeling that it could be even better.
All power comes at a price. Magical power doubly so. Weather Child is Philippa Ballantine's tale of magic and power and the lengths that some will go...moreAll power comes at a price. Magical power doubly so. Weather Child is Philippa Ballantine's tale of magic and power and the lengths that some will go to gain more than their fair share.
Each child born in New Zealand has the chance to become bonded to a Seraphim, in a bond formed out of pain. With the bond comes a constant companion and the chance to tap into the power of the seraphim. But the price of that power is pain. And if one taps the power too deeply or too often, madness.
Weather Child tells the tale of New Zealand's children. How they grow up in a world that fears and envys them this dubious gift. And how some seek to exploit them for their own eds. How does it all end? Not even the Seraphim know.
This is a fantastic and engaging story and a creative look into history. This book is a gem, and sadly overlooked because it is set in New Zealand. Some publisher should wake up and ask to put this into print, but for now, you can have it in the author's own words by podiobook.
My Parsec Award nominated short story is now available as an e-book. It is a story of a woman reconnecting to her past and discovering new secrets, an...moreMy Parsec Award nominated short story is now available as an e-book. It is a story of a woman reconnecting to her past and discovering new secrets, and new happiness. I hope you'll give it a look. (less)
Fastens your seat belts, folks, this one is one hell of a ride.
If you read last year's review of Phoenix Rising, you probably either already know what...moreFastens your seat belts, folks, this one is one hell of a ride.
If you read last year's review of Phoenix Rising, you probably either already know what I'm about to say, or you're already nose deep into the book and not reading this review. For those of you who are coming late into the game, Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris are at it again! On May 29th, 2012, Harper Voyager released their second Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, The Janus Affair. Once again, Wellington Thornhill Books, and Eliza D. Braun have emerged from the Archives of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences to uncover a dastardly plot that endangers Queen Victoria's England, and possibly the rest of the world.
The winds of change are blowing across the face of the empire, as women all over England are demanding the right to vote, spurred on by visits of New Zealand suffragettes who have come to help their disenfranchised sisters in the mother country. But this change is not welcomed by all. Books and Braun are returning from Edinburgh to London on the latest hyper steam train when a terrified woman vanishes from right in front of them in a burst of lightning. This incident turns out to be the tip of the iceberg, as a quick search of the Archives reveals that a number of influential members of the Women's Suffrage Movement have disappeared in similar cases. Cases which have been closed half-investigated by their fellow agents in the Ministry.
With Miss Braun's mentor, Kate Sheppard, come from New Zealand to further the cause, along with her son Douglas, Eliza's former fiancé, the duo must take the investigation into their own hands. This leads to a fast-paced romp over and above the streets of London as the leadership of the Movement begin disappearing one by one.
Second books in a series often take a bad rap as pale imitations of their predecessors. Fear not, gentile reader, this is NOT the case with the Janus Affair. Ballantine and Morris have exceeded themselves with an excellent tale of intrigues and machinations as Books and Braun try to track down the missing women and discover who is behind their disappearances, Douglas attempts to renew his romance with Eliza, and Wellington discovers feelings of jealousy he hadn't been aware of. On top of all this, there is a traitor in the Ministry, working to bring the Ministry down.
The book is beautifully written. The characters are real, and the dialog rings true in a wonderfully snarky way. This is a great story and a great read, and it looks like the next book, By Dawn's Early Light, will continues in this vein. If you're a fan of Steampunk or Adventure and don't mind a love triangle or two thrown in, I think you'll love this book.(less)