Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novels

The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences NovelsUnknown-1

Phoenix Rising

The Janus Affair

by: Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Harper Voyager New York, NY

This is a relatively new series.  The third book is due out any time and the fourth has a publishing date next March.  Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris are a husband and wife writing team.  This may be why the female characters in this steampunk fantasy world are so strong.

The setting of these novels, at least the “home” of the Ministry, is in 19th century England under the reign of Queen Victoria.  But this isn’t historical fiction as the world of mechanization, experimentation, and steam-powered construction is only limited by the imagination of the authors.   Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes would fit neatly into this world, and probably be recruited by the Ministry.Unknown

Where there are “good guys” there must also be evil.  The primary opponent to the Ministry is the House of Usher.  Allusions to Poe are probably intentional as are the occasional off-handed quips about historical figures.  But the House of Usher isn’t the only game in town.  Books and Braun (the archivist and the field agent) are caught between several factions with visions of “improving” the empire.

These are a light read, a tongue in cheek romp and a steampunk delight.  Covert ops appeals to the swashbuckler and the mechanical gadgets to the science geek.  Corsets are padded to turn away blades and bullets.  Hats must be worn and schedules kept.  And the internal intrigue at the Ministry itself is office politics at it’s best and worst.

I’m enjoying the indulgence and will continue to follow the series as new books appear.

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Fantasy, Fiction


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Throne of the Crescent Moon

Throne of the Crescent MoonUnknown-1

by Saladin Ahmed

DAW Books New York, NY  2013

ISBN: 0-756-4071-17

This is the first book of the Crescent Moon Kingdoms series.  I got myself into it with my eyes wide open and I’m not disappointed.  This is a first novel and it holds the promise of even better work to come.

The setting is highly influenced by the scenes and cultures of Asia Minor.  It is an Arabian Nights world with demon hunters, herbalist alchemists and magicians.  Water is scarce and politics complicated.

This story plants us in the middle of an overcrowded and impoverished city ruled by a cruel and selfish Khalif.  The city guards are more likely to harass and bully the citizens than protect them.  There is also a rise in “odd” deaths.  Body’s are found with their hearts ripped out.  This is a sign that there is someone very powerful calling up the demons.

In this world of Djenn and ghuls there is also a rebellion forming.  A man calling himself the Falcon Prince has taken on the characteristics of Robin Hood.  He is a terror to the wealthy and a boon to the poor.  He appears with food and medicine in places where all hope is lost.  Although he is not actively sowing discontent, it is clear that he is a threat to the throne.

Our characters are an odd bunch.  There are the aging ghul-hunter (the last of his kind) and his dear friend the magician.  There is the magician’s wife, a notable alchemist and an immigrant.  Then the youngsters a Dervish  warrior whose devotion to his calling is continually challenged by the irreverent ghoul-hunter.  And lastly a young tribeswoman, who can turn herself into a sacred lion of the desert.

This is a delightful fantasy.  It has the exotic and the familiar.  It’s characters are well developed and highly flawed, but honorable to a fault.  The religious structures fuel the magic and empower the Dervish and still are questioned as to the limits of human devotion.  I am truly looking forward to more.


Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Fantasy, Fiction


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The Boy Who Could See Demons

The Boy Who Could See DemonsUnknown

by: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Delecourt Press New York, NY  2012


Alex sees demons.  This is established from page one of the story.  One of those demons is his friend.  The demon has several different forms, depending on his mood and sometimes he asks Alex to do bad things.  Anya is a psychiatrist with a specialty in childhood schizophrenia.  She takes Alex’s case, even though the call comes in on the anniversary of her own daughter’s death.

This sounds like a straightforward case study, it’s anything but that.  The story takes place in Northern Ireland. Through Michael, Alex’s social worker, we get a sense of how these children carry trauma from living in a war zone.  Even the children who have never been directly exposed to “the troubles” are affected by them.  It’s heart-wrenching.

As the story progresses we also learn more about Anya’s troubles.  Apparently the reason she pursued this career is because of the schizophrenia in her own family.  She blames herself for not being able to recognize and support her own daughter’s struggles with the disease.  She blames herself for leaving her daughter alone long enough for her to jump out the window.

Alex’s demons are a mixed bag.  Yes they do encourage him to do bad things, but only to bad people.  The most dramatic incident is when the demon prompts Alex to kill the mother of his friend who is clearly being abused.  Alex’s failure to act on this prompting ensures more damage to his friend.

This is a very well written, very compelling piece.  Just when I thought I had a handle on the story it took a new turn.  It is haunting, and the characters pull on your heartstrings.  This is a thought-provoking novel that continues to stay with me.  I highly recommend it.

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Posted by on October 3, 2013 in Fiction


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