Book Review #18: The Janus Affair (Book 2 of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences)

Title: The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel
Author: Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: May 29, 2012 (Available for pre-order.)
Available Formats: Mass Market Paperback

About a week ago, maybe a bit more, The Janus Affair was made available in electronic ARC for review blogs. I signed up and was given permission and a link to download. I really enjoyed the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences maiden voyage, Pheonix Rising, and was really hoping that The Janus Affair wouldn’t suffer a type of sophomore curse.

On to the review.

Synopsis: Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain’s best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain’s latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats. (Stolen from Amazon.com)

Setting: Victorian London. However, this is the Victorian London not seen by your ancestors. This is the Victorian London Verne and Wells would have chosen to live in if the choice had been available. The wonderfully infernal devices evidenced throughout The Janus Affair are much more blended into the story than almost any other steampunk story I’ve encountered. I’ve heard complaints about steampunk from two almost antithetical camps. The one seems to hate anything that is overly analyzed as most contraptions would be taken for granted. The other camp has severe issues whenever there are not enough steam powered devices in evidence. I am unsure whether Mr. Morris and Ms. Ballantine have heard these same complaints or if they just happen to walk the perfect middle: The Janus Affair is peppered on every page with plenty of gadgets and the only device that I remember being explained is a Victorian glowstick.

Plot: Ms. Braun has much cause for rejoicing as London’s suffrage movement, which is beginning to gain steam, is visited by her old mentor Kate Sheppard, the first lady of the New Zealand Suffrage Movement. However, suffragists from around London are disappearing and Books and Braun endeavor to make sure Kate isn’t next.

Characters: Besides Wellington and Eliza, many of the cast from Pheonix Rising return and are fleshed out. Of particular note, the Ministry Seven have a much larger role in The Janus Affair, a fact that you’ll be quite happy about. All of the characters gel a bit more in the current story and each plays their part well.

Odin’s recommendation: I make no bones here; I’m going to gush. I truly and simply loved Pheonix Rising at the time I read it and stated that it was the best example of steampunk I’d read. I continued to feel that way until I read The Janus Affair. Simply stated, The Janus Affair is a substantially better story than Pheonix Rising. I’d have given Pheonix Rising an unreserved A rating. The Janus Affair one upped it and got a perfect score; then did the extra credit. In all honesty, I can’t think of a single scene I’d change.

If you’re a fan of good writing, you need to go ahead and pre-order The Janus Affair now. (Feel free to click the image on the carousel to the right.) If you’ve never read steampunk before, this would be a great introduction. If you’ve felt steampunk wasn’t for you, The Janus Affair will change your mind. If you’re tired of books that take themselves too seriously and forget to let the reader enjoy the story and characters, Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris had you in mind.

I truly believe with The Janus Affair: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel, this series will become a fan favorite and readers will demand to find out what happens when next Eliza and Welly suit up for their next adventure.

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