Secret agents, explosives, strong drinks - not shaken not stirred, gallant British gentlemen and beautiful - and deadly women. Ah the good old British Intelligence, God save Queen… Victoria?
No, this is not a review of the latest James Bond book. It is a tale of everything else I just mentioned. Toss onto that clockwork technology and a whiff of the supernatural and you have all the makings of a Steampunk era British spy thriller in the tradition of the Avengers, with the old "new" tech of Artemis Gordon.
Phoenix Rising (A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel) is the collaborative work of Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine. Tee Morris has written both fiction and non-fiction, being the man who literally wrote the book on audio book podcasting and has given us the sarcastic wit of a dwarven detective in Capone's Chicago and the high seas swashbuckling thrill to remind us of the era of Errol Flynn. PJ Ballantine has a knack for fantasy and weaving it into a completely realistic setting, be that Elizabethan England or a future may be Cyberpunk world.
So the first worry I always have when reading a collaborative work, is if it will flow. Having been one of many writers in single product, I know how easily it is for the different styles to become very jarring. This wasn't an issue. I'm familiar with both Tee's and Pip's writing styles and I found it hard to tell the two styles apart. They clearly took time to blend their work together.
The story itself starts off like any good action movie. In a scene that would give James Bond a run for its money we get a taste of the era, the steampunk technology and the decidedly opposite personalities of the two main characters. And much like Mulder and Scully, it's antagonism at first sight. If the heroes are to save the British Empire, it looks like it will be in spite of themselves, given how little they get along. After all, how smart is it to call the person you just saved a lunatic. Especially when laying in the open door of an airship a couple thousand meters over the frozen expanse of Antarctica.
And that's just the first chapter - which you can read for free from Amazon.
I have to agree with other reviewers who've noted how well Phoenix Rising exists with in the setting of Steampunk. Goggles and gears are not some decorative icing tossed on the top of some pulp fiction thriller. Instead, Morris and Ballantine have woven a complete tapestry where the technology is part of the world and history has adjusted ever so slightly to reflect this technologically advanced British Empire. Any doubt on the richness of the universe they have created can be dispelled by listening to any of the eight podcast short stories set in the MoPO universe.
I don't get to read much these days and it takes something pretty special for me to buy an actual paper copy of a book. Phoenix Rising is just such a book and I am certainly looking forward to the next book in the series.
PS- Congrats to Tee Morris who has just proposed to his writing partner. May Tee and Pip have many happy years of marital and authorial bliss together.
Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner
Caveat Emptor- These blogs are written without the protection of an editor. I do proofread them, but I know I'm far from perfect. The ideas are sound and I'm still learning the foundational techniques. Thank you.