Monday, April 11, 2011

Phoenix Rising by Philippa Ballantine

Originally posted here.

I received Phoenix Rising as an Advanced Readers Copy to review.

My Rating: ★★

I made it almost a third of the way through before I had to stop reading it. I didn't hate it, I just couldn't get into it. It read like an action movie, fighting and an over-the-top protagonist, but no character development. At the part that I quit, the plot was thin and did not engage me at all. There was no urgency to it.


The writing sounded authentic for the time period and setting. At the beginning of each chapter there is a blurb that goes like this, "Chapter xxx: In which our hero...". It added a nostalgic feel to the writing. The setting and details drew you into that era.


Flat characters. As noted above, one of the protagonists (the female agent) could have been pulled straight from an action movie. She's an expert in weapons and combat, loves to get into trouble, does things her way (read: blows things up, or lets her pistols/fists fly) and, all in all, completely unbelievable. She has no depth, no explanation as to why she has all these skills. By the time I stopped reading, I knew about as much about her as I did in the first chapter. Oh, and she's rich. I was left wondering how/why a well-to-do lady around the Victorian era would be like her? The other main character was more believable, acting like a gentleman of that time period, but still there is very little of his motivations revealed. Neither did any of the few side characters stand out in any way.

The authors tried for a smart-ass, wise cracking heroine. But she came off as mean, bitchy and self-centered. There's a fine line between sarcastic-funny and sarcastic-annoying.

The vocabulary, while authentic sounding, also confused me in several spots. Perhaps the authors are English, and they used words we don't hear in the States, or maybe they assumed that anyone reading steampunk would know those terms, but I had problems following what was happening. I had to re-read several sections, which was very frustrating.

Along with the confusing vocabulary, the writing was disjointed in several scenes. For example, the female agent would raise her weapon, and her target dies. However, at no point do we see her firing the weapon. That lead to more re-reading on my part. Again, frustrating.

I'm not sure who to recommend this book for. If they can get past the frustrating writing, action movie fans might enjoy this. Just don't expect much depth.

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