1,5 stars out of 5.
I wanted to like this book better, I really did.
The idea of a super-secret society operating right under the nose of Queen Victoria and the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, trying to “rebuild” Britain to its “former glory”, only opposed by one field agent and one librarian archivist, because everybody else just doesn’t have a single clue, sounded wonderful. And in a Steampunk setting, no less. (Plus, the cover is beautiful and really intriguing.)
I imagined a daring hero/ine with a brainy sidekick (or even a full-fledged partner of equal value, for once) fighting the bad and saving the Empire James-Bond-style – or something the like.
And it actually came to that.
More or less.
Only what seemed like a thousand pages later, which is just too effing long.
“Phoenix Rising” took its sweet time to a) set a plot, b) get to the point and c) getting an effing move on! (Meaning: it was often really lengthy and thus pretty boring.) Which – consequently – made it very hard to find at least SOME kind of access to it and to find the motivation to continue reading.
Also, the two authors spent a huge amount of time to establish the two main characters, but completely forwent to establish the world they’re operating in. Yeah, it’s the Victorian age with a bit of Steampunk thrown in, but what does that actually MEAN?
I’m not exactly firm on Victorian etiquette and his was my very first Steampunk novel, and while I don’t expect Steampunk authors to start from Adam whenever they’re writing a new book, a few general guidelines would have been very welcome.
Even if the plot turned out to be quite interesting after all, this book seems to be mostly carried by the two main characters and their newly-formed partnership/friendship.
Which brings me neatly to the second biggest problem I had with “Phoenix Rising”. (More on my biggest problem later).
This isn’t a partnership, let alone a friendship. This is something like a “work relationship”, at best. And a forced one to boot.
The authors try so very hard to convince us – especially towards the end – that Books and Braun really came to like each other (or “became fond of the other”, or whatever), but no matter how often they tell us that, not once during the whole book, did I get the feeling that they DO. Not even at the very end.
All Books and Braun ACTUALLY do is:
– slander each other
– try (and fail) to establish a kind of witty-banter-thing, which pretty much always comes across as stiff, aggressive (and most of all completely unnecessary) posturing
– and work more against than with each other.
The only times when they actually get something accomplished are times when they work ALONE and APART from each other. The “divide and conquer” thing is way more effective, because they really do make a horrible team.
Mostly “thanks” to Eliza Braun, field agent (my aforementioned biggest problem) – for reasons I will never, ever understand, because she’s neither a good field agent nor a nice person. Oh, the authors insist on telling us that she totally IS, but judging by how she is constantly trying to “unsettle” Books by shoving her breasts in his face, salaciously rubbing her (beautiful, of course) body (including the ample bosom) against him and making insinuating remarks at every possible moment, she is not exactly professional. (And thus Dr. Sound was imo absolutely right to demote her and transfer her to the archives. He could have – and maybe should have – rescinded her agent status.)
She’s careless with everything stored in the archive (e. g. she destroys one of three vases which – put together – would have had a map to El Dorado on them and is not even remotely sorry). She never listens to Books let alone follows orders, and she makes absolutely no effort of being polite. (Well, the authors say she does, but she really doesn’t.) She’s almost losing her calm at any given moment, even when playing a part or just staying calm is absolutely vital. (E. g. she’s on the verge of losing it and about to slap the host because he slandered the Suffragettes, but ISN’T when an uncle abuses his Laudanum-drugged, minor niece. She merely leaves, because “she would have most assuredly been his next prey”. M-hm. Yeah. Super-agent.)
All the times Eliza drones on and on how Books should go out in the field and needs to act like a “proper” agent, including improvising and thinking on his feet and whatnot. And the first time he actually DOES, she absolutely hates and resents him for it and immediately wants to punish him! He’s playing a role. Something she wanted him to do in the first place. So instead of being happy that he finally got a clue and acts like the agent she apparently wanted him to be she’s just jealous that he had beat her at her own game and even seems to believe he IS the role that he’s playing. Even if the “partnership” is relatively new, she should really know him well enough by now (page 255 ff.) to be able to distinguish a role he’s playing from his actual character. Seriously, what stupid kind of agent is she, anyway? (Of course, she can punish Wellington a while later. And “punishing” him by throwing him on a bed and practically riding him is not only immature, it’s also cruel and mean. For someone who has claimed to like Books she’s acting like a total bitch towards him. All the time.)
Seriously, Eliza is one of the most ridiculously aggressive characters I’ve ever read.
She blows hot and cold all over, is prone to serious mood swings and apparently completely hung up on being “a colonial” from New Zealand. I mean, seriously, she repeats that every five or so pages, so obviously she hasn’t come to terms with it yet.
That goes for the other “colonial” characters as well, btw.
And I just don’t care. It’s annoying.
It’s okay to tell me once, “There are also people from New Zealand, Australia and whatnot, and they’re looked upon as kind of inferior and worthless by the snobby and seemingly “proper” Brits.” But if you repeat that, like, a hundred times throughout the book, I can’t help but thinking you believe me to be either extremely slow or just too stupid to have understood that the first time. It’s actually quite insulting.
No, sorry. This book definitely wasn’t for me. The only things I liked were Books and the last hundred pages, and that just wasn’t enough.