Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dawn's Early Light, by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Today I'm looking at the third in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurences series, Dawn's Early Light. I know that in my review of the last book, The Janus Affair, I said that the plot kind of felt like a jumbled mess more than anything else to me. However, since I can get some of these books for free from the library, I figured I could just truck on with the third book and see if it got any better. I'm happy to say that yes, the third book actually does get much more coherent and I feel that the plot flowed a lot better in this book than it had in previous ones. We also get some explanations about the villains behind the various plots the Ministry has foiled, although there's more that remains to be revealed in later books. Also, Wellington and Eliza are now a couple, although I suspect something will inevitably come up in the next book to strain their relationship.

Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are sent by the Ministry's director on a mission to America, to help the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical investigate a series of mysterious disappearances off the coast of North Carolina. This region has the reputation of being the Graveyard of the Atlantic (Which is true in real life), but the disappearances of air and water vessels, especially around lighthouses, has gone well beyond the normal average. Teaming up with the Americans ''Wild Bill'' Wheatley and Felicity Lovelace, Books and Braun discover that the mysterious House of Usher, as well as Thomas Edison, have formed an unlikely alliance and appear to be behind the disappearances.

I think what I appreciated the most was that I finally got an explanation of what the House of Usher was. They were briefly involved in the first book where they had kidnapped Wellington, requiring his rescue by Eliza, but had disappeared from focus. I had jokingly asked if they were just really big Edgar Allen Poe fans and apparently yes, yes they are since their emblem is a raven and their overall goal seems to be...anarchy? The characters expressed some doubt about why the House of Usher is interested in sowing as much chaos and disorder as they are, whether they intend to establish a new order afterwards or just let everything burn down, but they definitely seem to be Poe fans.

We also find out more about the Maestro and while his goals still seem fairly opaque, at least to me, beyond some sort of power grab within the British Empire, we have significantly more information than we had before. And it's clear that the Maestro does not share goals with the House of Usher but is willing to use them to further his own agenda.

The other main plot is the romance between Wellington and Eliza, which is stymied by their inability to talk to each other and the attempts of Felicity Lovelace to woo Wellington, much to Eliza's frustration. I feel like this is a pretty classic case of: relationship drama exists because they're unable or unwilling to talk to each other like adults about it until circumstances force them to. And honestly, that's just not a plot I enjoy. I know there are plenty of people out there who enjoy those sorts of stories because obviously they're wildly successful, but it's just not my thing. I've come to like both Wellington and Eliza as characters, but I did wish they'd just talk instead of dragging it out. Now that that particular drama has been resolved, I do suspect that something may happen in the next book to derail their budding romance.

Overall, I'd say this book was an improvement, if a little dry at times. We're getting a better idea of what the bad guys are trying to accomplish, but there's still room to explore and uncover. It is a little heavy on the relationship drama side, but some people like that so who am I to judge?

- Kalpar

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