Early Review: Prosperity

Prosperity_Alexis Hall

Amazon link          Goodreads link

Blurb

A breathtaking tale of passion and adventure in the untamed skies!

Prosperity, 1863: a lawless skytown where varlets, chancers, and ne’er-do-wells risk everything to chase a fortune in the clouds, and where a Gaslight guttersnipe named Piccadilly is about to cheat the wrong man. This mistake will endanger his life . . . and his heart.

Thrill! As our hero battles dreadful kraken above Prosperity. Gasp! As the miracles of clockwork engineering allow a dead man to wreak his vengeance upon the living. Marvel! At the aerial escapades of the aethership, Shadowless.

Beware! The licentious and unchristian example set by the opium-addled navigatress, Miss Grey. Disapprove Strongly! Of the utter moral iniquity of the dastardly crime prince, Milord. Swoon! At the dashing skycaptain, Byron Kae. Swoon Again! At the tormented clergyman, Ruben Crowe.

This volume (available in print, and for the first time on mechanical book-reading devices) contains the complete original text of Piccadilly’s memoirs as first serialised in All the Year Round. Some passages may prove unsettling to unmarried gentlemen of a sensitive disposition.

Review

First things first: right now, before you read any farther, go to Amazon and wish-list this book. Even better, pre-order it. Then go to Goodreads and add it to your “want to read” shelf.  Because seriously, it’s that good. Here are the links again:

Amazon link          Goodreads link

It doesn’t come out until October 27th, but I got a sneak peek at a copy from Netgalley, and it flat-out blew me away.

“Y’know, not everything has to be about everything. Sometimes it’s just about now.” (Piccadilly to Ruben, on the difference between love and sex.)

The story is told from the point of view of Piccadilly, an “urchin with a heart of gold”. He’s a petty thief from the Stews of Gaslight who’s traveled to the sky town of Prosperity with simple goals: acquire enough cash to eat and sleep, and if there’s someone to warm his bed, all the better, regardless of the bits under their clothing.

Piccadilly runs a successful caper, which gets him in the cross-hairs of Milord, an evil and amoral and absolutely honest crimelord. Instead of ending up dead at Milord’s hands, however, Piccadilly gets adopted by the crew of the Shadowless. Over the course of his adventures, he loses some things and gains others, though in the end, his biggest achievement may be finding a place he belongs.

Here’s what I loved about it…

The perfect language and cadence.  For this post, I was half tempted to just compile my favorites out of all of Mr. Hall’s fantastic sentences, and while I did include a few, I figured it would be more informative if I included my thoughts as well.

So here’s my most prominent thought: Piccadilly’s voice rocks. It’s a consistently creative mash-up of periods, like a British Steampunk version of Huckleberry Finn. There were a few bits of modern slang, but the whole thing was such a patchwork I found them entertaining rather than annoying. Beyond the voice, I found the descriptions were colorful and surprising, and the rhythm kept me humming along with pleasure. (And I’m not even exaggerating. This is the kind of book where I’d read a sentence, then re-read it just because it was fun.)

Piccadilly’s surprising wisdom. 

‘Tis often the way, I find, when the job is done. Cos I keep thinking sommat’s waiting on the other side. I dunno what, but I’m sure it’s there, just out of reach… But there’s nowt. There’s only silence. And the things you filch ain’t ever the things you want, and I reckon living itself is a filched business. (Piccadilly, on the consequences of living life as a thief.)

Because of his creative grammar and self-professed inability to make letters behave, Picadilly’s observations always came as a bit of a surprise. He’s a deep and wise and charming soul, and his thoughts on life will stay with me.

The absolute boldness of the story. Prosperity is a Steampunk fantasy with romantic elements, and those romantic elements are almost exclusively same-sex. I’m putting that out there because, while I’ve been reading a lot of queer romance, not everybody’s been hanging out in my head. The romance was part of the story, not the point of the exercise.

More interesting to me was the character of Byron Kae, captain of the Shadowless, and the best gender-ambiguous character I’ve read in a long time, possibly since Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. I didn’t mind the use of the plural pronouns when referring to Byron Kae, possibly because my kids are growing up in a world where asking a new friend which pronouns they prefer is considered good manners. Byron Kae was beautiful and mysterious and I hope they star in one of Mr. Hall’s upcoming novels.

There. I’ve compared Prosperity to Huckleberry Finn & The Left Hand of Darkness. That’s bold. That’s ambitious. That’s a whole ‘nother playing field from most of what I’ve been reading lately.

Any concerns? The denseness of the language. While it’s gorgeous and amazing and entertaining as all hell, it took me a while to learn it. On my first read, I moved slowly through the opening chapters, intrigued, fascinated, but a little confused. The more I read, the easier it got, though in all honesty I felt a greater emotional impact on my second read-through, even though I already knew what would happen next.  I was more fluent in the language, and the critical scenes near the end tore me up.

I give this book five stars, simply because it reaches higher than anything I’ve read in a long time. I’m in awe of the author’s ability to create vibrant characters and to weave thoughtful commentary about real life throughout a wonderful fantasy. And you know the best part? There are four more books in this world scheduled for release in January! I hope you look for Prosperity on it’s release in a couple weeks. It’s a truly amazing ride.

Peace,
Liv

She was black, with fittings of silver, except ’twas a kinda black beyond the everyday, as though it’d swallowed down all the other colours in the world and they was swimming about inside it like rainbow fish. (Piccadilly, describing the airship Shadowless.)

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7 thoughts on “Early Review: Prosperity

  1. Welllll… that’s certainly a rave review. But I confess I’m a little cautious about a book with SUCH a strong narrative dialect. I fear it would drive me crazy! I will ponder… 🙂

    1. livrancourt

      Once you get into the swing of it, Ellen, it’s really quite brilliant – although I admit it wasn’t an instant thing.

  2. Pingback: Should writers write reviews? | Spellbound Scribes

  3. Great review of what is one of my very favorite books of 2014. I’m a huge fan of Alexis Hall, one word: GLITTERLAND and Prosperity went way beyond my expectations. Hall is a very good writer and what he does with language in Prosperity is so wonderful–it’s really kind of Magic. I got into the language very quickly and easily by reading his twitter feed before the book came out – he did a Cant of the Day which was quite nice and really, I felt you mind kind of figures it out in a nice organic musical way. Byron Kae is a fabulous character, but Hall made me all the FEELZ for Milord!

    1. livrancourt

      Milord did kind of break my heart, too. Last night I picked up Glitterland for a re-read, and omg but Ash is a grumpy ol’ f*ck, isn’t he?
      Thanks for checking out my review. I’m glad you liked it!

  4. I’m beyond crazy about Prosperity & this review ❤ Everything you said, yes, yes. Except the denseness of the language. I did that for about the first page or so, then it just became natural to me. If you relax & stop obsessing about "omg, word I don't know" & just go with the flow, you realize you can pick up most of the meaning of unknown words right from the context. I think I've always tended to do that with unfamiliar words anyway. It reminds me of reading books when I was a kid, particularly those written in the 19th century, and/or that included dialect. (Little Women, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre) None of that ever stopped me from loving those books 😉

    I loved Milord, but Byron Kae, the most wonderful character <3. I was just crazy about them from the moment they appeared in the story & I agree, I have never felt more comfortable with the "they" pronoun for a character, it felt so intrinsically right.

    1. livrancourt

      Thanks so much, Pam. Milord fascinated me, and I’m all admiration for Alexis’ ability to make an unappealing character so sympathetic (ahem, Ash from Glitterland, ahem). There’s a lot more mystery to Byron Kae, though, which is why I think I’ll look forward to his story more.

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