Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
It looks like an urban Victorian steampunk, which is indeed what it is. Braun’s outfit is patently ridiculous, considering the ratio, in the text, of times she wears men’s clothing to times she wears gowns. However, I must admit that the cover conveys, in broad strokes, the personalities of the two leads.
Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.
These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.
For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!
There are several sequels and a few short story collections, too.
If you are a fan of light steampunk, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, sure. I am not, however, in any way suggesting that this book is as dreadfully plotted and written as the above-pictured movie. There just aren’t that many light steampunk movies.
Gender Role Reversal! Agent Braun is female and swashbuckling and nontraditional. Agent Books is male and straitlaced and conventional. Together they fight crime! (And yes, those names are a little too on-the-nose.)
Steampunk (that really is)! I’m so glad that this book really was about a steampunk society, rather than just slapping a few gears on things and calling it good.
Swashbuckling! When I said that Agent
Brawn Braun was an adventurous gal, I meant it. She usually drags Books along for the ride, too.
It was a fun ride. I enjoyed reading it, and certainly wouldn’t object to reading more, but I don’t think I’ll be seeking them out immediately. I can’t actually put my finger on why this wasn’t magic to me, but I think it might be because the romance (of course they are on their way to falling in love) felt forced, or wedged in somehow. On the scale of urban fantasy/steampunk awesomeness, it’s definitely lower than Gail Carriger (her awesomeness is hard to measure, but approx. 11), but probably a solid 7/10.