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.
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.