The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Rating 8.9/10
A most shocking and electrifying ride through Victorian London.

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents.

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance… with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books... and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats.

The Janus Affair is the second book in the A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series written by Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris. The book was released in the summer of this year and follows up on the events of Phoenix Rising. After my introduction in Phoenix Rising, which was pretty cool, this was definitely a series for me to watch. The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences is a steampunk series that features two quite opposite special agents turned archivists, Eliza D Braun and Wellington Thornhill Books. But both do not quite agree with the lengthy job down in the archives... And with Eliza’s explosive nature her and Wellington find themselves in for something bigger…

One plus that I mentioned in my review of Phoenix Rising was the introduction to the chapters by giving catchy names to them, conjuring a certain image in my mind of what was in store for me. This time it starts off with “Wherein the perils of train travel are made plain”. Well, I hope I am not encountering that soon though! Anyway I again found these lively titles a great addition to the story.

After the dashing start with Eliza saving Wellington from the House of Usher in Phoenix Rising and where both of our Archivists rounded-up the Phoenix society and got away with their careful spinning of the tale of what actually happened to the director of the Ministry Dr. Sounds. Now in The Janus Affair the story starts off with a new peculiar occurrence, a unexplainable disappearance by a bolt of lightning. With a link of the person who disappeared, both Eliza and Wellington, again go against the grain in order to get to the bottom of this case.

In the Janus Affair you again see the story told with Eliza and Wellington in the lead. I really like the characters and the personalities that were introduced in Phoenix Rising. On one hand you have the highly explosive Eliza and on the other the more reserved librarian Wellington. These personalities are again kept in top shape and showing some nice stereotypical behaviour that worked great in the setting of the book. There was also great interaction between Eliza and Wellington, where in the end it felt that Eliza was losing some of the wild hairs and Wellington becoming more bold and brash. Looking back at The Janus Affair, the storyline is more divided between them and with the introduction of a fellow New Zealander, Eliza, trying to find out what to do with herself. So in the beginning of the book there was a less notable follow-up of what occurred between Eliza and Wellington in Phoenix Rising. Continuing in the book this was all made to rights and reflected nicely a less forced but more passionate view of Eliza towards Wellington and vice versa. In this Wellington's character really shines, and he is one of my favourite characters in the series. Wellington is stiffly British, with his rigid comments and his actions, is showing jealousy, and even goes pretty far to get away with his frustrations in a rugby game. These events painted Wellington with a darker shade and added a great amount of info to his character. Added to this was a fact that I mentioned about Wellington's past, mainly about his relation with his father and how he was influenced by this, to my pleasure this was also followed up neatly and integrated nicely into the storyline while dialoguing with Eliza. For me it felt that Wellington really was the star of the show in The Janus Affair, this did not take away the ever present Eliza though, but I hope to see more of how her character develops in the coming books, so far she has been entertaining with her explosive nature but I hope to see more.

As you followed the nefarious Phoenix Society in Phoenix Rising there is no direct link to a new organization planning to take over the world. I was left in the dark about who was behind the disappearances, right until the end. But before coming to that, there are a few references in several interludes where you do see a villainous party that is out for something, led by an assassin of who I got to know in Phoenix Rising and a reference to a mysterious person who as I perceived it has something planned out, Maestro. In the interludes that feature Sophia and the Maestro there was a nice revealing that they were not - that is directly - behind the disappearances but that they are also out for the machine. There was a great effort put into weaving the culprits into the storyline who were behind the disappearances, showing that they were out for their own gain in plotting something larger than just porting.

Similarly to Phoenix Rising, the steampunk element is not to be missed, from lococycles to automatons, ornithopters and cyborgs with firearms hidden in prosthetics. I did feel the shift from focusing on the character more towards the vivid world in which the story took place, this might have been due to the build-up of the characters in the first book which allowed both authors to explore the world more to its rights. The ending is again a bit closed, all well ends well ending but Dr. Sounds does have a new task which I hope will prove again a jolly ride for our daring heroes. The Janus Affair is truly a most shocking and electrifying ride through Victorian London.

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