Operation: Endgame by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Operation: EndgameOperation: Endgame

by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #6

Kindle Edition, 370 pg.
Imagine That! Studios, 2017

Read: January 2 – 3, 2017


Eliza and Wellington continue their pursuit of Jekyll. They start things off with the most exciting opening to one of these novels since we first met the duo in Phoenix Rising. From there, they get in a little official trouble, and get sent packing. They’re brought off of their suspension because Jekyll is leaving a path of corpses throughout Europe to draw them in. Yeah, it’s terrible, but it’s a fun story. While on the hunt, the couple make a new friend who I’d enjoy getting a book/series of her own, frankly — but first she’s a whole lot of fun to read and helps Eliza and Wellington out a bit, too. About halfway through the book (maybe a little longer), this story takes the turn it needs to and fully explores what Jekyll and Father Books were up to. This takes everything up a notch and really helps sell this finale. I can’t go further without ruining the book — but from here out this is the best thing that Ballantine and Morris have done yet.

Meanwhile, we continue the subplot of Agents Bruce Campbell and Brandon Hill chasing the House of Usher around trying to find out more/stop Operation: Ragnorak. Following their exploits in Russia last time, they’re primarily in the US and Italy for this book. They cross paths a few times with the always entertaining (for the reader, not the Ministry’s agents) Sophia del Morte. This was probably my favorite use for these two agents yet (although, I really did like the Russia stuff), and I thoroughly enjoyed everything but the very end of this storyline. I found the conclusion to this particular storyline disappointing — and maybe I’m supposed to, maybe we’re going to see the actual conclusion to it in the spin-off series (or in one that hasn’t started yet). I’m not saying that there wasn’t an ending to this, but it felt off somehow, like there’s more to be said.

This installment probably did a better job of tying the entire series together than the previous books did — not that there were continuity problems (at least not that I noticed), but books 2-5 built on each other and little else. Operation: Endgame helps you see the way that book 1 led to something in 3 and 6, etc. Which is probably easier to do when you know that you’re bringing everything to a close. The other two main stories (particularly the Books and Braun) also had a sense around them that this was it — do or die time, and no, “Oh, rats, they got away! I guess we know what we’re doing in the next novel!” It gave a heightened urgency, a heightened sense of import to everything that happened — or maybe it was the other way around. Or maybe it’s just me, because I knew it was the last book so that. I don’t think so — I think I’m going to credit Ballantine and Morris for writing that way.

A minor gripe: this really could’ve used one more copy-edit pass — there were too many sentences missing a word, and that kind of thing.

Operation: Endgame did everything it needed to do: it told a compelling story and it brought a series to a satisfying end. Not every series finale can do both, so it’s always a relief when one does (especially when it’s a series you really enjoy). I enjoyed the book on its own merits — a fun chase through, well, most of Western Civilization for Books and Braun; some nice stuff for Campbell and Hill — some chuckles, a little romance, a lot of excitement, some goofy Steampunk tech. The kind of thing that these Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences books have been delivering for years. I also enjoyed the book as a finale — the story of these two agents is over, but it’s not done in such a way that there’s nothing more to be done in this world. The door’s open for more adventures for the surviving characters, the Ministry as a whole, etc. but there’s no need for it — which is a nice bonus. I’ve got the first novel in the spin-off series (and hope to get to it soon), so I know we don’t have to say goodbye to everyone, just Eliza and Wellington (which is bad enough). If you haven’t read any of this series, I really do recommend it from start to finish.

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4 Stars

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Dawn’s Early Light by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Dawn's Early Light (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #3)Dawn’s Early Light

by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #3

Mass-Market Paperback, 374 pg.
Ace, 2014

Read: April 23 – May 1

Agents Braun and Books are back in action — this time in the U.S. of A. Teamed up with a pair of agents from the Office of the Supernatural and the Metaphysical, they set out to investigate a rash of missing ships (of both the air and sea varieties) along the Eastern Seaboard. While full enough of the requisite peril and adventure, this particular investigation is wrapped up quickly — but in doing so, the four agents uncover a plot that’s far more hazardous to both nations. The Pinkertons, the House of Usher, the British Royal Family, and a couple of notable scientists/inventors from the era soon are involved in twist-filled machination to wreak havoc.

This leads the agents chasing their suspects across the continent — with stops in Detroit, Flagstaff, and San Francisco. As fun as it is to see Ballantine and Morris show us around a Steampunk Victorian England, a tour of the States is a nice change (also, nice to see a Steampunk U. S. not filled with Priest’s Rotters). Books latest invention (not to mention the toys that the team at the Ministry give them) are perfect — just the kind of things secret agents need (and could even use today), “science”-y in a suspended disbelief manner, and outlandish enough to have to be fictional.

There are two storylines that only relate to the main plot at the end of the book — one involving the House of Usher attempting to kidnap a Ministry agent, and one involving the assassin Sophia del Morte and the Prince of Wales. I could’ve easily taken another fifty pages or more with both of these. Hope to see all these characters again soon. Speaking of characters to see again soon — the scientists/inventors I mentioned earlier? Yeah, we need more of them.

Of course, the Ministry’s missions (even those not actually condoned by the Ministry) are only part of what makes these books page turners. There’s the whole Will They or Won’t They thing with Books and Braun — scratch that. There’s never been a Won’t They, just a When Will They? That’s been obvious from the get-go, honestly. It’s merely a question of what obstacles will be in the way. This time, the obstacles are the American agents — clearly set-up to be stumbling blocks on their road to romance, the fetching librarian and the gun-slinger each with enough common ground and personality to match our heroes. It was a little too heavy-handed for me, and as much as I liked the Americans as characters, I really disliked them in their role as hindrances. Sure, our authors make those storylines pay off nicely — but I didn’t enjoy the ride.

Nothing against the book, it was a fun read with a couple of characters that I enjoy spending time with, but it wasn’t as good (on the whole) as the previous two (see above paragraph) — but the last two chapters, as they revealed exactly what stakes are involved, earned it the extra half star. A fun read, but mostly one that moved pieces into place for the next book or so while tying up a couple of loose ends from the previous books. I’m really looking forward to what’s next. It’ll be great.

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3.5 Stars

Dusted Off: The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris

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

by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #2

Mass Market Paperback, 432 pg.
Harper Voyager, 2012

This was just fun. Rollicking steampunk adventure told with just a touch of whimsy (well, maybe more than a touch when it comes to chapter titles).

This time out, our intrepid secret agents investigate the inexplicable disappearances of several leading British suffragists. Pasts come back to haunt, secrets are exposed, romances are kindled, clockwork doohickeys do all sorts of strange and wonderful things–all you can want.

I really enjoyed this first installment of this series, and this first sequel is a lot more fun–I’d be more than happy if these came out more frequently.

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4 Stars

Dusted Off: Phoenix Rising by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris

Phoenix Rising (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #1)Phoenix Rising

by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris
Series: Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, #1

Mass Market Paperback, 402 pg.
Harper Voyage, 2011

I’ve been curious about Steampunk fiction, but wasn’t sure where to start amongst all the choices out there–so I just dove in and grabbed one. If Phoenix Rising is any indicator of what the sub-genre offers, I’ll be coming back to it again and again.

Most of the ingredients of this book–the characters, the secret organizations, the conspiracies on top of conspiracies, the chemistry between the protagonists–would make for a decent read if set in contemporary England. But throw them into an alternate history of Victorian England, with advanced technology and it’s a sure winner.

I can’t think of anything really to say that doesn’t get into spoiler territory, so I’ll cut this short–as a great spy thriller with a twist, Phoenix Rising is a good, pulpy read and great introduction to what will likely be a great series.

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4 Stars