An evil brotherhood (possibly two) is threatening the British Empire and, it stands to reason, the civilized world. Unfortunately, the only man who knows anything about it is being kept in a drugged stupor in a mental institution. And mental institutions in Victorian England are not places to be left in.
Only two people can solve the mystery of what in the world is going on — an Archivist who spends most of his time in a basement office, and a field agent whose previous cases have resulted in her being placed on probation … in the care of the aforementioned archivist. But both are highly trained agents of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, so really anything can happen.
And trust me, it does.
A one word review — wow. Another word — exquisite. I simply am thankful at this point that the wise people at HarperCollins have bought this as a series, because after one book all I can think of is “When is the next one coming out??!”
I have read both Morris and Ballentine before, and have enjoyed both authors’ work. When I heard that they were getting together for a steampunk series, I knew I had to keep track of it. When they announced publication, it immediately went on my must read list. And when NetGalley offered the ebook for reviewers? I couldn’t click “Request” fast enough. I wasn’t disappointed at all.
Steampunk is a fascinating genre, and Ballantine and Morris have captured it perfectly. I think this series could serve as a great introduction to the genre, in fact, since you really don’t have to have much of an understanding of steampunk to enjoy the book. There also seems to be an element or two of the pulp genre, though much of that is actually turned on it’s head. And of course, there are the main characters, who remind me of every male/female pulp partnership I’ve ever read or heard about — with one major difference.
See, traditionally the man is the aggressive, guns blazing type, and the woman (if she isn’t just the damsel in distress) is the perfectionist, analytical type who needs saving quite a bit. And at first glance, we’ve got the formula here — the main characters are, after all, named Books and Braun.
In this book, though, that would be Wellington Thornhill Books, Archivist, and Eliza D. Braun, field agent. And everything you ever thought you knew about this type of adventure fiction is now turned completely upside down.
And that is the fun of the book. That and the interplay between these two polar opposites, who are thrown together and who end up corrupting each other. No — not like that (not in this book, anyway). But that kind of tension is there, too. Some of the scenes reminded me of Moonlighting, in fact, especially in the way that Eliza Braun seemed to enjoy making Books … uncomfortable. Strong characterization is something I always look for in fiction, and I certainly found it here. These are characters that I felt like I knew, and I want to know more about them.
The plot is a classic. Secret society has superweapons, and they’re trying to take over the world for it’s own good. In the process, they’re perfectly willing to kill anyone that gets in their way. Books and Braun, of course, are intent on getting in their way. And, of course, there are twists and turns so that, while you may know how it will turn out, you won’t really know how it gets there, or why. AND, there are enough loose ends left dangling in our faces that we’re just going to have to get the next book, and the one after that, and so on ….
Amazon says this book will be released on April 26. Click the picture up there and pre-order a copy or two. I know I plan on it.