Hype is coing hard and fast for Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris‘s latest installment of the Minstery of Peculiar Occurences series, entitled Dawn’s Early Light. I’m pleased to announce that I have an excerpt from the novel to share with you all, to whet your appetites for the book!
Getting a summons to appear before Her Majesty the Queen was something that Doctor Basil Sound had not been expecting. Not today. Not even this week. In fact, when the message had arrived through the pneumatic delivery system and Miss Shillingworth presented it to him in his office, the Director of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences had quite lost his appetite. He’d pushed away the ham sandwich he’d just been ready to devour, and read the note with growing trepidation.
Despite the stack of papers on his desk, and a full afternoon of meetings scheduled with his agents, he’d risen quickly from his work, told Shillingworth to cancel all of his appointments, and caught a hansom cab to Buckingham Palace.
His mind was whirring as he went, his thoughts not even scattered by the rumbling of the occasional motorcars. Perhaps signs of technological progress like that would have held his attention, but unannounced summonses such as this rarely, if ever, meant good news. Though he always maintained as jovial an exterior as possible when dealing with his Ministrystaff, that always melted away the closer he drew to the heart of the British Empire. Once he had an ally in the Crown; but according to the clockwork model in his office and calculations from the Restricted Area, the Queen’s favours were nearing an end.
Sound adjusted his gloves and watched out the window as his hansom approached the broad façade of Buckingham, its smooth white edifice with the new east wing presenting a strong, indeed stern, face to the great, unwashed masses. It conveyed all of the majesty of the Empire, but none of its humanity. A commentary, he mused as they rolled up to the gates, on the state of Britannia.
Reluctantly surrendering his place in the cab, he stepped down, and presented the message to the Royal Guard on duty. He in turn fed the message to the tiny cryptoregister that sat in his station. The device gobbled up the paper, and in the process read the almost invisible series of indentations on the paper itself. If it did not match the code for that day, or indeed had none at all, things could get intimate between Doctor Sound and the fixed bayonet on the end of the Guard’s rifle.
Sound passed through a warren of passages and entry halls, and through additional screening processes where his likeness was examined in every detail. With each additional layer of security—far many more in place than on his last visit—the whisper of suspicion in his head grew louder.
The Queen had only just recently returned to Buckingham Palace, having spent more than thirty years in various states of seclusion at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, or at Windsor Castle. Many said her return was too late to salvage the public’s perception of her. Sound could not decisively conclude if that opinion were true, but she was without question not the woman she had been before the death of her husband in ’61. In her early years Victoria had been quite the wonder— a veritable force of nature, determined to lead her country to greatness. It was one of the great sorrows of Director Sound’s life that he had not been able to save her from a life of widowhood.
Such melancholy and fruitless thoughts were diverted how- ever, when Manning, the Queen’s manservant, finally opened the door to the Marble Hall, and walked smartly over to Sound. That their meeting was taking place in the more intimate surroundings of these less formal apartments, the director chose to take as a good sign.
He got to his feet, dusted off his trousers, and followed Manning into the Centre Room. It was not a simple room by any standards, but remarkably intimate by royal ones. It was painted a deep red that reminded Sound immediately of blood—another change from the last time he’d visited. Every light fitting, piece of furniture, and the whole ceiling was covered in gilt. It looked rather like a bordello he had found an unfortunate need to visit in Marseille. It was a fraction off- putting to be visiting one’s aging monarch in such a setting.
So, the director was momentarily distracted when he found the veiled Queen seated at a modest desk close to a lit hearth, and at her right hand…
“Ah, Basil, old man, looking fit and confident, as always,” spoke the Duke of Sussex, Peter Lawson. “I was just talking about you.”
Doctor Sound tightened his jaw for a moment, but then forced himself to relax. “Favourably, I hope.”
Lord Sussex merely smiled in reply. “I am just heading out on holiday to Europe with my family, but before parting I needed a moment of Her Majesty’s time.” Sussex turned back to Victoria and bowed low. “Thank you for that most precious commodity, I now depart with a light heart.”
“Your loyalty in this matter is appreciated,” the woman in black spoke gently. “Please give my regards to your lovely wife.” He straightened to his full height and made to leave, but paused on reaching the director. “Your agents, Sound, do live dangerously, don’t they?”
“We serve at the behest of Her Majesty,” he replied.
“But of course you do.”
Sound gave a slow nod to him. “Bon voyage, m’lord.”
“Merci,” Sussex returned.
The door closed behind him, but the director found no comfort whatsoever with the departure of Lord Sussex. In fact, Sound felt as if the heaviness of the room were threatening to suffocate him.
There you have it! Fans of the series, does this excerpt make you wish you could get your hands on this novel? Well, you might just get your wish, because the good people at Ace books have arranged an amazing giveaway that you can enter!
Giveaway info. These giveaways are open to both U.S. and Canadian readers. At the end of the tour (March 21), there will be three winners chosen from this one Rafflecopter (shared between all blogs on the tour).PRIZE ONEThree paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar OccurrencesSigned Abney Park PosterSigned Abney Park CD Ancient WorldSigned coverflats of Phoenix Rising and the Janus AffairPRIZE TWOThree paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar OccurrencesThe Extraordinary Contraptions CDSigned cover flat of Phoenix Rising
Three paperback set (signed) of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences
To enter, please visit this link on Rafflecopter.
Sorry for not being able to have the widget conveniently located, but it doesn’t seem to be compatible with this blog, for whatever reason. But you can still enter by clicking the link and visiting the site directly.
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. (Photo by J.R. Blackwell)