There will be a brief jewelry hiatus (but for those still doin' the Bead Soup Thang, here's the link) in order to bring you this week's book review (warning - there ARE some spoilers!):
"Phoenix Rising" by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris. The first in an upcoming series, "Phoenix" details the start of the adventures of Agents Books & Braun from the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. It's sort of like the X-Files meets Steampunk.
Things I liked:
The cover art is brilliant. In fact, that's what drew me to the book even though I usually have a strict "don't get suckered by the artwork" policy on trying new authors. Still, you have to admit, pretty awesome looking.
The concept is great. I like the Steampunk genre anyway and it makes sense that of course there would be a "Ministry" keeping tabs on the more unusual goings-on in and around London and the rest of the world.
The book opens with a bang. Literally. Seems Agent Braun likes her some dy-no-mite. Great action in the opening pages really helps grab the reader, thought, and I'm always in favor of it. I really don't want to read 3 chapters of "set-up" thanks ever so.
Things that were so-so:
I could've done without the pun names of Books and Braun. And the fact that he's the mild-mannered archivist and she's the hell-on-wheels field agent...felt like I'd seen or read that before.
And while I get that it's an alternate universe, I thought Agent Braun's behavior and dress for a woman in that period...well, she would've been mobbed or lynched...or mobbed and then lynched. Sorry, I just couldn't stretch myself that far.
After the grab-bang opening, I still got stuck with chapters of set up (some of which will not come to fruition until future books which I find annoying).
Things I didn't like:
Since many of the elements of the mystery (the murders, the insanity of Agent Braun's former partner, etc.) happen before the events of this book, there's a sense of distance from them which doesn't allow the reader to have as much of a personal connection with the Agents and their search for the truth as one would have liked. Yes, yes, bad people doing bad things should be stopped. Agreed. But I want to CARE about why this is personal to these two agents.
The orgy scene was gratuitous. We already know these people are crazy bad. An orgy is the least of what they've done so I don't see why it was needed. AND, I didn't buy that one Agent was able to skip out on the orgy entirely and the other was able to just sort of dance around the periphery and then leave early when they are both supposed to be undercover as bad guys themselves. A passionate scene between Books and Braun would have been MUCH more interesting.
The corset thing is just stupid. There is not a woman in the world, much less one with a sizeable chest, who can do physically demanding activities in a corset (bullet-proof or not) without there being significant boob flashage. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's the second (or maybe third?) law of thermodynamics: strapless tops + running and jumping and carriage chases = everybody look at my BOOBS!
Which brings me back to the whole mobbed-then-lynched thing.
So, I know it sounds like I hated the book, but I didn't. I actually liked quite a bit about it, but felt that it had some rough edges that needed polishing. Given that it's a new series with relatively new authors, I will probably check out the next book to see if things improve.
In the meantime, if you think you might be interested in Steampunk as a genre, I can HIGHLY recommend Gail Carriger's "Parasol Protectorate" novels. The first in the series is "Soulless."
Next week, I'll be reviewing "Ghost Ship" by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. Stay tuned.