Kat's Reviews > Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising by Philippa Ballantine
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's review
Dec 12, 11

I can't say this book turned my head as much as I wanted it to. There are some incredible ideas, concepts, scenes, and action in here, and the whole thing feels like a rough gold nugget just waiting to be polished to a brilliant shine. And in some places it did, so brilliantly, in fact, that it made me forgive many of the issues of the novel, and even turned me on to giving any second attempt a try. But the places where it was left rough and unpolished--sometimes criminally so by the editors, and not through any fault of the author's--detracted enough to make me want to knock my head on a wall. Repeatedly.

The Good:

The entire concept of the super secret organization the main characters work for is very cool, as is the very charming and smaller Ministry of Seven. In fact, the entire novel is littered with Moments of Cool, ranging from steampunk inventions to orgies to action sequences that will take your breath away. The characters were eminently likeable, and if the joke with the names (Books and Braun) was not subtle, I can honestly say I never stopped being amused by it. Books is actually a very complex character, and I sometimes had the impression the writers liked him more than the impulsive and much easier to understand Braun.

The Bad:

The editing will make you want to punch a publishing house in the face. The shoddy editing was NOT the fault of the writers, nor should it reflect badly on their writing skills. Someone was either asleep at the wheel, or just didn't care enough to do their danged job.

What can be placed on the writers is some inconsistent pacing, or scenes so painful they stalled out my reading. Not to mention the painfully shoehorned romance which not only felt forced, but sometimes downright blasphemous considering how REAL Braun's feelings for her dead ex-partner felt. It's not that any of this was intrinsically BAD, just done in such a way that certain bits could be a chore to read. Thankfully, they were rare--and again, a better editor would have caught such anomalies and had the writers fix them before the book ever went to publishing.

The Ugly:

WORLD ESTABLISHMENT. The authors NEVER DID THIS. Sure, they set the steampunk part of it up well--you deeply understood the Ministry, the conspiracy, the asylum, and any part of the world the two characters had to immediately interact with. But for anyone with a smidgen of knowledge of history, they left us hanging. Questions like why Braun would allow the very male Books to see her bathing, questions about their very informal manners when masquerading as a husband/wife duo of the upper classes (hint, the upper class did not generally call each other "sweetheart" in public or cling all over one another), and several dozen other historical inaccuracies left any informed reader swinging in the breeze.

We never discovered if this was normal for this alternate society, or if the authors had just been lazy about researching the facts. Even Braun's suffragist tendencies didn't sit well; she was obscenely aggressive even for a woman of our era, making her a veritable anomaly or possibly a candidate for Bedlam in any earlier time. And yet, no suitable explanation was ever given as to why Braun was being accepted as a functioning member of society. I would have appreciated a little more fleshing out of WHY and HOW their Victorian era was not like OUR Victorian era, other than "they had way cooler guns."

You'll notice, though, that even with it's issues I am giving the book a solid four stars. Why? Because it is obviously a first effort on the part of the writers, and it's pretty danged obvious the writers held up their part of the deal to the best of their abilities. There comes a point in the novel writing process--preferably BEFORE publishing--that a second pair of eyes are supposed to look over, give feedback, and lovingly correct a book. And had that been done, most of the issues seen here (including troublesome grammar, misplaced words, misspelled and even missing words--you know, the basics) would have been corrected.

As well as this was written overall in SPITE of what was an obvious lack of care by their publishers, I suspect they'll get a second crack at this series. And I will want to see it when it comes out. And the fact that I'm willing to try again tells me all I need to know.

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