Review – Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising, Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1

by Phillippa Ballantine & Tee Morris


This is the first in a series and a fun little steampunk romp through Victorian England.  The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a clandestine agency working for the Crown.  Our two leading characters are agents for the Ministry.  Their names are telling, Wellington Books is the archivist and Eliza Braun the dynamite-wielding, “jump in with both feet” field agent.  Though they initially don’t like each other much, being too different, they are a good pairing.  Eliza is demoted to the archives after calling too much attention to herself and ignoring direct orders.  She and Wellington start investigating a cold case the Ministry won’t let anyone investigate and get caught up in the Phoenix Society, who are, well, I guess trying to take over the world.

So the fun parts – steampunk gadgets are great and there are a ton of them in here!  Books is quite handy and technical and he is kind of funny in an uptight kinda way.  Braun is always trying to show how tough she is, she can’t follow orders and is a wild card.  She also likes to make Books feel uncomfortable by throwing around her, um, assets.  He gets all mumbly and red.  Very cute.  I loved the Ministry Seven, street urchins Eliza employs for reconnaisance.  And the grand finale was awesome.  There were some interesting, tense and eye-popping moments during the final parts of the book.

The meh – The names, Books and Braun are a bit obvious, aren’t they?  That is a silly thing to pick on.  But at first, I have to admit that I had a hard time with it.  But they are named that way for a reason and ultimately it fits and then just doesn’t matter with all the other crazy stuff going on.  There are My Fair Lady overtones as well…But those characters grew on me, and I ended up liking them a lot.  Also, during the middle, even though they are running around and figuring things out, getting shot at and such, I was tempted to put it down.  But, I read through my malaise and got sucked back in fairly quickly so it was probably just me.

The writing is different and interesting, chapters are named things like “Where Our Dashing Hero of History and Cataloguing Undertakes the Taming and Training of this Shrew”.  So they are funny, yet a little time consuming to read.  🙂  The bad guys are pretty dang bad.  If I were to pick apart how our heroes found the bad guys I would wonder why and how and really?!…but if you just go with the flow and enjoy the ride, it is fun.

I give the book 3.5 stars.  I am looking forward to the next book because there are some loose ends dangling, what is their boss doing when sneaking around, and will that politician find something to bring the Ministry down?


About ocdreader

I love to read! I always have a book or four going, I have more books in my to-be-read pile than I can read in a year and yet I continue to haunt the bookstores. I have a problem, but I somehow soldier on. I enjoy talking books, so pass on your recommendations and thoughts - I would love to hear them.
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4 Responses to Review – Phoenix Rising

  1. Karen says:

    Hi! I’ve been following your reviews since I discovered your site on the A to Z Challenge. I have a novel coming out in September and I’d love to have you review it on Lost Inside the Covers. Can I send you an ARC?

    • ocdreader says:

      That would be lovely – thank you for following Karen! Congratulations on your new book. I will send you an email today.

  2. readabookonce says:

    OK, serious question. How do you feel about historical (or historical-ish) fiction that doesn’t accurately depict some of the historical aspects of the setting? I know that this book is steampunk, so it’s more fantasy than anything, but take for instance the wayward female lead who flashes her assets and kiss ass unabashedly. It doesn’t exactly jive with the role women played in Victorian society.

    Now, Victorian society was notoriously f***ed in the head, but does the lack of that aspect in the book (not necessarily that the female lead isn’t docile and humble, but that cultural mores are less prevalent, and indeed, textually relevant) hamper your enjoyment at all?

    Just asking. This is solely out of curiosity and isn’t meant to call into question the book (it is a kind of fantasy after all) or your reading preferences.

    On that, note, it does look like something I’d enjoy. 🙂


    • ocdreader says:

      That is a really good question and I am going to have to answer it in a wishy washy way – sometimes – sometimes yes, it bugs the hell out of me. But I think it also depends on how much I know about the time period in question. If I don’t know much, it’s storytime and I am just having fun. If I do, I am irritated and the story suffers. Kind of like my mom (a nurse) watching doctor dramas, she is constanly saying – “yea right, that could never happen” and then thinks the show is stupid.

      This one gets a pass because it is meant to be an alternative/fantasy world. BUT, the authors do use those expected mores and traditionally approved behaviors to juxtapose Braun against Books, to show just how shocking he finds her behavior, hence how high society might have really viewed her. She is the main female anomoly but not the only one. The others are more “behind closed doors”. They also explain her behavior because she is a colonial and from New Zealand (all that riff-raff down there – lol). So I guess they got to play both sides because they added cool steam-powered gadgets.

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