Review: The Janus Affair (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #2) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

August 20, 2012 Review 8

The Janus Affair (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #2)

The Janus Affair

(Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #2)
by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Genre: Steampunk | Excerpt: Yes
Book Trailer:  Yes
Reviewed by: Julia | Source: Publisher

  • Mass Market Paperback:432 pages
  • Publisher:Harper Voyager; May 29, 2012
  • ISBN-10:006204978X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062049780


Good – A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

Sexual Content

Kissing, references to sex.


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.


A classic steampunk novel, THE JANUS AFFAIR faithfully combines the aesthetic and social mores of Victorian England with advanced technologies in their nascent form. The period elements of this story didn’t always work for me, so prospective readers may want to read an excerpt first to assess the style.  And though PHOENIX RISING dragged for me, I am so glad I picked up book two.  I found THE JANUS AFFAIR to be a fun, satisfying story that developed Books’s and Braun’s partnership in wonderful ways.

My love for this series main characters is both an asset and a downfall for the series. On one hand, the hints about Wellington’s “less civilized side” had me eager for an explosion of super spy prowess that would cause Eliza’s heart to explode with unbridled admiration. On the other hand, waiting, waiting, waiting for that damnable Victorian reticence to get out of the way so these two partners could high-five their palpable awesomeness was painful. Even worse than waiting for them to acknowledge how much their working relationship means to them, the hints of sexual tension drove me to distraction. The needle barely moved on either front in PHOENIX RISING, but luckily, by book’s end THE JANUS AFFAIR had things moving in a good direction.

Of course, any sudden baring of souls (or flesh), would go against the authentic steampunk tone of the story. And it was just those elements that I really struggled with. The droll habit of calling Eliza a “colonial pepperpot”  was funny the first time, but by book two I was more than ready for that type of humor to give way to new wit or a deeper appreciation for Eliza’s character. THE JANUS AFFAIR at least addresses the crushing chauvinism Eliza deals with every day, but reading along as she secretly solves cases in the face of condescension and incompetence on the part of so many of her male peers was frustrating. Books himself often looks down upon her and censures her behavior, which is not entirely balanced by the instances where he comes to appreciate Eliza’s take no prisoners abilities.  Of course, Books too is continually underestimated by field officers, including Eliza herself, so I suppose they’re about even on that score.

Despite my struggles with PHOENIX RISING, THE JANUS AFFAIR delivered a lot more focus on the partners themselves, though the steampunk elements were still more of a distraction than an asset for me.  By book’s end, Wellington and Eliza are poised to escape the bureaucratic bonds that I can’t stand and explore a new dynamic to their partnership, and both of those developments promise that the next The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences book may just be the best one yet.

Titles in Series

  1. Phoenix Rising

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8 Responses to “Review: The Janus Affair (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #2) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris”

  1. Andra

    excellent review! I’m struggling because I want to write my reviews on this series now but I’m trying to wait for my Steampunk event in february! Idk if I’ll be able to wait that long!

  2. Bob @ Beauty in Ruins

    While I didn’t find the plot nearly as strong as that of their first adventure, I still thought this was an overall better read. Definitely curious to see what direction a third book might take.

  3. Julia

    I had the opposite experience, the mystery side of things really dragged for me in book one. I was invested in the disappearing Suffragists, though I wanted to skip all the Maestro/Sophia/Campbell stuff.

  4. Barbara Elness

    I have Phoenix Rising but haven’t read it yet. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed The Janus Affair, because I haven’t picked it up yet, but I will make sure I do now.

  5. Julia

    PHOENIX RISING was totally worth it to set up THE JANUS AFFAIR for me, and as noted above, some prefered it to THE JANUS AFFAIR all together. I hope you enjoy both!

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