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A Reader of Fictions: On Her Majesty's Secret Service - John Barry Orchestra

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

On Her Majesty's Secret Service - John Barry Orchestra

Phoenix Rising
Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, Book 1

Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Pages: 347
ARC Acquired From: Voyager, a HarperCollins imprint, via NetGalley
Brief Summary:
Agent Eliza Braun of the Ministry of Paranormal Occurrences was ordered to dispatch a captured ministry agent, Wellington Thornhill Books, archivist for the MPO. When she realized she could rescue him, she did, assuming the Ministry would be happy to have him back, since he had not broken under torture. For her trouble, she was demoted. To the archives. And made the partner of Agent Books. Braun's loves in life are bombs, guns and trouble, so cataloging does not exactly satisfy. This leads to the new goal of convincing Books to help her solve unsolved ministry cases, namely the one involving her formal partner, now in an insane asylum. Lucky for Eliza, she is going to find that librarians (archivists!) are far more resilient than she ever suspected.

So, here we have a steampunk book with an archivist as a main character. Can you say awesome? I know a few archivists myself, and some of them can be quite awful and, well, stereotypical. Thankfully, Books falls firmly into the realm of the fantastic archivists. He is concerned with the "preservation of the Empire" and of the ministry's artifacts and papers (291).

From the beginning, I identified more with Books than with the confident, flirty heroine. A librarian myself, his attempt to find a nonviolent solution, along with his nerdy love of books and research, seems the ideal method. Eliza, while a strong heroine, never really felt like a real person to me. She lacks background, except that she misses her homeland of New Zealand. All I really know about her is that she likes to make Books uncomfortable and to make things explode (likely those two things will combine at some point, but not in this book, the first in the series). Hopefully, some more character depth will be forthcoming.

Clever people that you are, you have likely noticed that Books is a fitting name for an archivist. This naming convention continues throughout, with many of the characters wearing fitting monikers. Like the rather brawny Miss Braun. Or the female assassin del Morte. I found these little elements amusing, along with most of the old timey language. Expect pages "full of rabble-rousers, Fabians, cut-throats and Dollymops" (133). Although there are some occasional slip ups in the use of the old fashioned words, such as referring to an event as grizzly, when the authors really meant grisly.

I will undoubtedly be venturing forth into later volumes about the escapades of Books and Braun. Phoenix Rising was quite entertaining and I hope book two will be even better. If you love reading about librarians with a few aces up their sleeves, explosions and strong women, you won't want to miss this amusing steampunk novel.

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Blogger AbbyDe said...

You should have said: "I know a few archivists myself, and some of them can be quite awful and, well, stereotypical, but one of them is a true bad ass who is totally cool enough to have a book written about her!"

Just a suggestion!

May 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

That would be a true assertion. I will vouch for that. I won't change it though, because then your comment wouldn't make sense. :-D

May 5, 2011 at 1:34 PM  

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