I have had the good fortune to read and enjoy the work of Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine for several years. I like the writing styles of both but they are very different. When I heard that they were collaborating on a book, and a steampunk one at that, I was cautiously optimistic. Not because I didn’t think they could pull it off, but because I had no idea what the meshing of their two voices would be like.
In other words, would the result be a symphony or a cacophony?
I am delighted to say that the book, “Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel” is a symphony of the highest order. The characters are rich and the plot twists in a most satisfactory manner. And the pace of the story? Well, let’s just say I had to put the novel down periodically to catch my breath.
Tee and Pip (or Pip and Tee, if you would prefer) show what good research can do to improve a story. The use of language and the description of the everyday world ensured that I felt as if I were experiencing an alternate, steam-powered version of Victorian England.
Of course, steampunk is famous for its gadgets, gears, and cogs; writers must tread a fine line to ensure that these things do not overwhelm or undermine the story. That is not a problem here in the least.
The technology was in no way frivolous or ill conceived; the melding of our world and the steampunk realm was done cleanly and to great effect. It made me wish our technology was steam-powered now.
The relationships between the characters were ever evolving and interesting and the characters themselves surprised and delighted me with their layers upon layers of complexity. By the time I was done reading, they were living, breathing people, some whom I liked and others I reviled.
It may sound cliché but the only complaint I have with this book is that I am finished reading it and there isn’t another one ready to go. Believe me when I say, there are enough loose threads that I hope to be enjoying the series for a long time to come.
For now, I may have to reread it again just to pick up nuances I’m sure I’ve missed.
All in all, an extremely good book that I whole-heartedly endorse.