Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel
Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, 2011
New Release! E-Galley provided by the publisher though NetGalley
I had forgotten the premise of this book between the time I requested the galley and the time I read it. This did not improve the experience, as I was not mentally prepared for steampunk. Bear that in mind.
Premise: Archivist Wellington Books and Agent Eliza Braun are thrown together by their jobs at the Ministry, but must learn to work together and trust each other in order to track down and foil the secret society endangering steampunk Victorian England.
Is it me? I would think steampunk should be a good fit for me, but I just found this book tedious.
The characters began unlikable, and despite glimmers of interest now and then, never graduated to anything higher than fine.
The plot feels haphazard in my opinion. It meanders for a long time without a clear direction, and then once the main set piece picks up, it's just a pile of cliche after cliche after cliche. I knew almost everything that was about to happen, and not in a satisfying way. Plus the bad guys just didn't seem dangerous to me. They seemed venal and obvious, with some big plans tacked on at the end, and I couldn't muster much of a sense of tension for the plot.
I ended up skimming a lot.
The book isn't badly written in a technical sense, and if I'd been in the mood for a trope-y romp, I might have really enjoyed it. It just had a very odd balance, between history and not-history, between playing up tropes for fun (as is implied by the cover) and beating them to death (as was my personal experience); a tone that I couldn't sink my teeth into. I wanted more about how this world is actually different than history, not just a few gizmos. I wanted more heart to the characters underneath the cutesy names and styles, and substance sometimes shined through, but I never connected.
(Side Note: I've read a few egalleys now, and many of them say "uncorrected reader copy" or some such thing. This one said that constantly, and a good thing, too. This galley had more typos, grammatical errors, and downright confusing formatting errors than any other galley I've read by a factor of five. Now, the reason I'm telling you this is because it will probably be a much more pleasant book to read in its published form, even without any change in story/character content. However, this is the version they released to reviewers, and so this is the version I read. The score does not reflect the errors (a book with such errors would be an immediate 1 or 0) but the experience of reading the galley was unavoidably colored by confusion.)
2 Stars - An Okay Book
More about Phoenix Rising on Amazon.com