The Janus Affair by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I have quickly become a huge fan of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. I first heard about the series through SpecFicNZ.org – I followed a link to the first story in the Tales from the Archives podcast series that supplements the books, loved it, and pre-ordered book 1, Phoenix Rising.
Oh, how I enjoyed Phoenix Rising. The LOLing, and the squeeing, and the re-reading of favourite scenes. I’ve spent the last year dying to get my hands on book 2, The Janus Affair. When I finally had a chance to read it the other day, I read it all in one gulp, staying up until 3.30am on a work night to finish it – 3.30!
The Janus Affair is somewhat different in tone from Phoenix Rising – now that we are familiar with the world, the scope opens out and more characters are drawn in. We get a better sense of the day-to-day life at the Ministry, and for agents Books and Braun. Stakes are raised, secrets are revealed faster than I was expecting, and Ballantine and Morris demonstrate that they are brave enough to put their characters through the metaphorical meat grinder.
There are a few little plot niggles that caught my attention – dropped plot threads (the children!), improbable leaps of logic, and mis-matches between spoken words and thoughts (unless certain characters were lying about certain things). But these problems did not hinder my enjoyment of the book. It is so much fun to read, I was able (despite being a pedant) to overlook those problems for the sake of the story.
What I most enjoyed about the book is that the authors have proven that they are not going to make the same mistake that TV police procedural writers often do – you know, that mistake where they seem to think that the “will they, won’t they?” question is the only possible tension that could be added to a budding romance storyline. Instead, Ballantine and Morris have gathered a whole collection of other tensions not directly related to that question and thrown them into the mix. I can see the complexity these myriad tensions create paying off well in the long run, and coming together to form a most satisfying and iconic relationship arc.
If you are a fan of steampunk, historical fiction, X-Files, spy stories, romance, explosions or, most particularly, all of the above, then I’ll wager that you will love this series as much as I do.
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