Book Review: Dawn’s Early Light

Dawn's Early Lightawn’s Early Light is the latest release in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series. If you’re not familiar with this series…well, you should be. Have you seen the show Warehouse 13? Well, it’s basically the steampunk version of Warehouse 13. I love this series. It’s got all of the necessary elements for awesomeness.

  • Strong, smart, brave heroine who doesn’t need a man to validate her, save her, or complete her
  • Smart, slightly bookish, geeky man who has hidden and deadly skills and complements the heroine’s skills so well that if she does need saving, he’s there
  • Gadgets!
  • Suitably evil bad guys and gals, including a sexy Italian assassin with her own smarts, brawn, and motives
  • Historical touches throughout the story that provide an alternate view of how history could have happened in the time of steampunk
  • Great writing and description
  • Did I mention the gadgets?

Let’s summarize just a bit of the story thus far. Eliza D. Braun is the colonial pepperpot (basically, a spirited red-head) who works for the Ministry. She was a field agent who in the first chapter of the first book, rescues Wellington Books, an archivist (think librarian for gadgets and files), who got himself in a spot of trouble. Eliza has a problem with authority and gets herself assigned to the archives as punishment for her lack of adherence to orders. She and Books form an uneasy truce. Neither really knows how to deal with the other. Wellington thinks Eliza is too reckless. Eliza thinks Wellington is too careful and afraid. Over the course of the first two books, their friendship grows and <spoiler for books 1 and 2> they share a passionate kiss at the end of the second book. </spoiler>

And that’s where we are today.

Dawn’s Early Light finds our intrepid Ministry agents in America. They’ve been shipped off on a mission that is designed to keep them out of the way after their last very high profile mission. When they get to America, they meet up with two American agents from the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical: Bill and Felicity. Bill is wild, reckless, and irreverent. He’s really the male version of Eliza D. Braun. Felicity is a librarian and is very much Wellington Books in a dress with significantly less real-world experience in the field. Airships are disappearing off the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The mystery surrounding these disappearances is quite well crafted and the agents find themselves in all sorts of trouble throughout the book.

I loved this story. Like every other Ministry book, the ins and outs of the mystery are supremely well crafted. What I love the most about this alternate world history is that there are so many little hints and nods to real historical events. At one point in the story, Sophia del Morte finds herself on a beach at Kitty Hawk. There are two inventors there testing some odd sort of machine. One of them is named Orville. Yes. The Wright brothers. It’s the little details like this that show a true love of the story and of history. Along the way we meet Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Henry Ford. There’s also a rocking good time (all right, maybe not good) in San Francisco…oh say in the year 1906?

The villains are suitably evil in Ministry books. They are logical, smart, and dedicated to their causes. I really dislike stupid villains in stories. Of course, our intrepid heroes need to be smarter, but a dumb villain is just no fun at all. We finally learn a secret about one of the long standing villains in this series and…well…I’m usually pretty good at reading between the lines and I didn’t see it coming. Well done. The gadgets are well designed, well explained, and expertly used. Wellington’s car is brilliant-even Eliza has to agree.

The dialog is witty and sharp. Both Eliza and Wellington dance around their feelings with the quick steps of a master. I admit, I got a little tired of the number of missed opportunities that our two heroes had to actually talk about their feelings, but when they finally do, it is well worth it. The ending of the book is a whirlwind of sights, sounds, and danger. The last few chapters leave plenty open for another Ministry book and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

5 out of 5 stars for this rollicking steampunk adventure. I never regret picking up a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences book. I don’t think you will either.


Photo by J.R. Blackwell (

Photo by J.R. Blackwell (

New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the Books of the Order and the Shifted World series. She is also the co-author, with her husband Tee Morris, of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. Her awards include an Airship, a Parsec, and a Sir Julius Vogel. Morris is the author of Morevi: The Chronicles of Rafe and Askana and the co-author of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels. In addition to his work as a fantasist, he is also a social media pioneer and the author of Podcasting for Dummies and All a Twitter.


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
Signed Abney Park Poster
Signed Abney Park CD Ancient World
Signed coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus Affair
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
The Extraordinary Contraptions CD
Signed cover flat of Phoenix Rising


Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences


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