Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Release date: April 26, 2011, pre-order now!
I got an advance copy of this book via NetGalley, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This is Steampunk meets the Avengers, and it's a very fun ride.
This book introduces us to the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, a British secret service, and two of their agents. Books is a archivist with a mechanical bent, and Braun is a brassy New Zealander with a fondness for explosives. The characters are introduced in the same manner as their natures: we are allowed a look into Books' logic-filled thoughts as he first appears, while Braun makes a dramatic entrance in a haze of chaos.
The book starts on a high action note, and doesn't really slow down all that much throughout. There are places with a more sedate pace, but those are generally setting up more action or important plot points. The setting is a Victorian England with plenty of fun steam-powered gadgets, nicely but not off-puttingly described, to keep the reader entertained. Besides the main pair of agents, we also get some nicely fleshed out side characters, which always makes for a better read. The Ministry itself has endless plot potential, with the Archives being a focal point for artifacts and mysteries. And the book conveys a strong sense of both history, of the world and our characters, and future, as there are unresolved plot points clearly pointing to a sequel or sequels. At the same time, the main story within the book is self-contained and complete.
I'd recommend this to fans of action, anyone into Steampunk as a genre, and readers looking for a strong female character. There are a few disturbing adult scenes, but the action cuts away or changes dramatically quickly enough to take a squeamish reader safely through them. Definitely a fun read.