The Janus Affair is the second installment of the six-part The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series of Steampunk Fiction by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris. In this book, agents Books & Braun have to determine why and who is kidnapped suffragists via a steampunk transporting device. Sophia Del Morte and the Ministry Seven are back to make their contributions, and we now have the mysterious Maestro.
I had the opportunity to hear Pip and Tee talk during a panel session at the annual James River Writers conference. Learning more of the background and context of the stories and characters, I was intrigued and picked up the first three books in the series.
Before I get too far along, even if you only kind of liked the first book, you’ll want to read this one. Though there are items that interrupt the flow of reading, I put them aside as minor inconveniences. I like the premise of the story and think Pip & Tee do a good job moving it forward. I particularly liked the role of the Ministry Seven and a new character Diamond Dottie, which could easily be pulled out and made a whole other story. But you can’t have this story without them.
As with the first installment, this one suffers from editing issues: misspelled words, misplaced words, missing words, using the wrong word, etc. There are certain parts of the books that feel drawn out and could be cut without losing any punch to the plot. I also point out that parts of the internal dialog are disconnected. It’s as if the complete conversation in the author’s heads didn’t make it to the paper.
We learn more about the respective pasts of Books & Braun. While this insight fills in some gaps from the first book, the information is tightly woven into supporting the plot. The trust level between the agents improves, but much of the story relies on their struggling relationship. They’re not quite sure what to do with each other.
I understand what the authors are doing with the sexual tension between the agents, but it still doesn’t work for me. It feels forced and stunted. I think containing the tension to flirting would be much better than leading readers to conclude the agents will end up in bed.
Now, off to the third installment.