Friday, August 3, 2012

Book Review - Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris' The Janus Affair

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Published by: Harper Voyager
Publication Date: May 29th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 432 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy

Eliza and Wellington have been behaving themselves... mostly. Since the to-do with the Phoenix Society, Eliza's desire for field work has been mildly slacked. But even Welly MUST admit that when a case just falls into their lap it can't be ignored. Even if it wasn't so much the case fell as a lady disappeared in front of them on a hypersteam train from Scotland to London. Eliza had just met the lady in question at a Suffrage meeting and now she's all screaming and lightning and gone. Yet their boss Dr. Sound doesn't follow the logic of Braun. She's too close to the case and therefore shouldn't investigate. But for Eliza this is exactly the reason why she must investigate, that and the knowledge that their fellow agent assigned to the case, Bruce Campbell, will do nothing. A promise he lives up to when he quickly sends the case down to the archives as closed... but not solved.

Eliza might have been convinced by Welly to back down if they didn't see it happen again. They are wandering around the park and head over to Speaker's Corner. There is a large Suffrage rally in progress and a large shock in store for Eliza. Kate Sheppard is there. Eliza hasn't seen Kate since the incident that made Eliza an outcast, no longer welcome in New Zealand. Kate is looking pretty good with her half metal face, she's not one to back down when the going got tough! Then all of a sudden the same metallic tang fills the air and Eliza knows Kate is going to be snatched. Jumping to the podium, Eliza once again saves Kate, but the other girl wasn't so lucky.

Now that there are two cases, Eliza combs the archives and finds even more. Key women to the Suffrage movement snatched out of thin air. But why? And why bury the cases? Are they being killed, kidnapped, ransomed? Or is this all just to undermine the movement? Because not knowing what is happening is sewing more fear than a direct attack would. Yet Kate is ready for a fight if Eliza is! Too bad Kate brought her son Douglas along... Eliza's first true love. No matter who is behind this or why, Eliza will solve this, job and life be damned. Yet, with the forces of darkness aligning themselves against the agents and their ministry, could it really be the end for Books and Braun?

First, make sure you've read the first book, second, make sure you've read the short story The Evil that Befell Sampson, which really should be required reading to get this book, ok, done? Now we can discuss. I adore Books and Braun. Their chemistry and their combined talents are such a perfect match. Yet, with just the two of them, you'd have a decent book. It is all the perfectly formed peripheral characters that make this book so much more. From Eliza's Ministry Seven, her answer to the Baker Street Irregulars, to her kick ass half steam maid, to their fellow agents whom you not only fall in love with but mourn. Even the baddies fascinate me! Usually the adversary is some mysterious, convoluted, not very well plotted big bad, yet here, we have Sophia and Lord Sussex and the conflicted Bruce. You are almost cheering them on as much as the protagonists. I want to know more about them, I want to know more about the mysterious Maestro. I want to know exactly what is happening to Sussex, because right now I have fifty million theories, and most point to a Jekyll and Hyde scenario. I never have cared much for villains in the past, maybe a passing interest in a roguish cad... but actual villains? Nope.

The world of this novel makes me want to curl up in it and never leave, which is why I'm so excited they put out so many short stories, because how else would I survive till the next book comes out? Still, there where a few things in this book that made it click a little less for me. What I loved most of all was that the arrival of Douglas threw Eliza and Wellington's feelings for each other into relief. We also had the closure of the Douglas chapter of Eliza's life. There could be no romantic entanglement between the two of them till at least the most obvious of the obstacles where removed, ie, Eliza's former partner, her former love. That isn't to say that there aren't tons of other problems, psychological and ideological that could get in their way... but now the real hurdles have been passed.

The Suffrage movement, personally, I could take it or leave it, but that's probably because I have grown up in a world that has never banned me from voting. I love this historical aspect and the little things, like the distinction of calling the women Suffragists not Suffragettes. Also, the fact that Kate Sheppard was a real hell cat for New Zealand, minus the bionic makeover, makes this ever more real. Yet, the fact that this struggle is somehow the final straw that broke our villain's back and had the world heading for... I'll be good, no spoilers... well, something really bad, I didn't really buy.

What I didn't like? I missed the archives! Which, because of this book's ending, I fear I will continue to miss. I liked the idea of them having a base of operations within this larger organization. I loved them thwarting their boss and trying to cover up what they where up to with elaborate shadow play and excuses. I missed the research in that dank little cellar! The archives are a character all it's own and I missed it! Plus, the archives has so much to offer, and really, it is their job! I found it not that feasible that they where not missed at all for the entire duration of the book. They maybe stopped by once or twice and no one commented on their absence? Really!?!

Though the thing that bothered me the most was a lack of copy editing. Hell, I would personally copy edit these books for free to avoid the grammatical errors and the occasional missing words which would make a sentence not make sense unless your brain filled in the gaps, which my brain is quite used to. Though, I think a continuity editor would be even better because of one niggling thing that drove me bonkers. The added elevator. In the first book, Phoenix Rising, there is a scene when Welly has to take the drunken Eliza home. He has to carry her comatose body up flights and flights of stairs. It was a struggle because that little pepper pot (a word starting to get overused in the chapter headings) was wearing her reinforced corset... yet in the second book, after Douglas shows up at Eliza's when Welly is there, Welly and Douglas leave together and glare at each other while riding the elevator to the ground floor. Say what!?! If there was the option of an elevator when Welly was lugging around a drunk Eliza, I think he would have taken it! Also, not much time has passed since the first book, so I find it highly unlikely that an elevator was installed. So, magically appearing elevator... yeah, no thanks. Yet, even these detractions can't take away my love of this series and the fact that I am desperate for the next volume... which probably won't be out to next year... sigh, sob and wail.

Moste Importante Steampunkery:
Sophia de Morte's Lococycle. It's basically Batman's Batcycle but cooler! Especially so once Wellington finishes adding some of his touches, sure to be far more effective than that lame crotch rocket Christian Bale was riding in The Dark Knight Rises! Though I think Sophia would approve of Catwoman having her own. Meow! This "infernal contraption" might be inelegant to the eyes of some, Sussex cough cough, the "two wheels, one in front of the other like a bicycle" added with pistons and valves makes this the fastest mode of transport for delivering messages to your dark master or rescuing your partner. It also scares the hell out of horses.


glad you liked it! I'm also really glad that you warned me about reading the short stories, I might not have otherwise. Looking forward to the steampunk!

Yeah Steampunk! The short stories are such a fun read too. I love finding new books in genres I love!

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