Phoenix Rising - Phillipa Ballatine and Tee Morris

Intrigue and mystery? Sassy ladies with a love of explosives and bookish gentlemen with secrets? Scandalous secret societies? Where the hell has this book been and why did it take so long for me to discover?

“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!”

(I preface this review in saying that I read this book a while back and at this point, I am trying to play catch up with all the books I’ve read and hadn’t had a chance to review…and there are a lot of them…)

I just love the title of this book. It sets up the reader with all sort of amazing expectations. Oh! And did I mention its steam punk?! Steam punk! Oh, I *heart* you…

This story seems to carry with it the typical steam punk staples: sassy leading lady, the strong and silent type leading man, and secret government organization. And I am okay with that. Sometimes there are formulas for certain type of genres and they work perfectly. Phillipa Ballatine and Tee Morris work the formula perfectly, giving the perfect balance between mysterious detective novel and rip roaring action adventure tale.

The names giving to the characters fit their personalities perfectly Eliza Braun is a strong female character, both physically and mentally. However, she’s not heartless and she shows her compassion at various points throughout this tale. Wellington Books is well, a librarian of sorts really; a man who tends to use his brain more relying on his physical strength. They work well off each other in a sort of Abbott and Costello way sometimes, but I’m willing to deal with that in that the characters were likeable and fun. The villains (yes plural as there is more than one!) tended to lean a little bit on the twirley mustache side of villain scale. However, I am okay with that in that it seems in must steam punk books, the villain is a mustache twirling fiend.

My favorite scene though in the whole book is when Eliza gets totally plastered and Books has to take her home to her apartments. It seems to be one of those scenes that is needed for levity as in the beginning of the books it’s like “death death death!!” and then near the end its “secret sex society! Automatons! And oh yeah, death!!” Nothing like an awkward drunk scene to break up with dead bodies piling up and dealing with a creepy secret society hell bent on bring down the British government.

My only niggle with this book is pretty superficial and it’s the cover of the book. The show the lovely Eliza looking like some haughty strumpet (translation: a trashy hoochie mama). In the book she is very much more classy. Don’t get me wrong, she is a total bad ass, with her guns and dynamite and steam punk gadgets. However, Eliza has class and style that is totally being misrepresented by showing off a whole bunch of unnecessary skin. But then again, sex sells so what are you gonna do?

If you have never read steam punk before, I feel that this would be a good one to start with. It’s fun, full of action, and lots of witty one-liners and comeback lines. Oh, and loads of mysterious mystery. Oooooo! They of course leave this ending open to introduce the a book two. Which, lets be honest, is totally awesome!

Go forth and read my friends. Let the words take you away and let you escape reality for a while. Hell, that’s what books are for.