More please, sir, and thank you…
Author: Alexis Hall
Cover Artist: Simoné
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
For the delight and edification of discerning readers, we present diverse stories concerning the lives, histories, and adventures of the crew of the aethership Shadowless.
Lament! as an upstanding clergyman falls into the villainous clutches of a notorious criminal mastermind.
Question your sanity! as a dissolute governess confronts blasphemies from beyond creation.
Wonder! at the journey of the dashing skycaptain Byron Kae across sapphire oceans, through smog-choked streets, and to the depths of the sky itself.
Gasp! at an entirely true and accurately rendered tale of pirates, cavalrymen, aethermancers, scientists, and a power to unmake the world.
Plus, hitherto unseen extracts from the meticulous and illuminating journals of Mrs. Miranda Lovelace, rogue scientist and first of the aethermancers.
This is Ruben and Milord’s origin story. YES. It really is. Can you believe it?! We get this!
Ok, ahem, now then…
Once you’ve read the book that start all of this, Prosperity, the opening pages of Shackles will have your heart beating faster at the possibilities, the anticipation of what you may learn about Ruben and… well, those he knew in the beginning.
New favorite word alert: iniquitous.
I could squee and rave and shout and dance about the major fantasticalness of this story. It would be and is all true.
Here’s the thing, learning what we did about Ruben and Milord at the end of Prosperity lends this story emotional weight it may not have otherwise provided, ne, forced upon me. It’s a gift I treasure. For Ruben and Milord, I was desperate to gloriously suffer through… them.
- ~ * delicately faints onto the chesterfield * ~ *
I did. And I’m grinning. Oh and here’s a more straight forward example of the things that made me snort with glee:
Ruben had never been introduced to ordnance before. He was not particularly enjoying the experience.
Hee! (yes, I just “hee’d”)
Ruben is one of the big huge giant keys to this Prosperity universe. His passion and seemingly unquenchable thirst to get to the true heart of a person are two of the gears that make this realm turn and grind and fly.
And let us not give short shrift to Milord. Yes, he’s a dastardly bastard, but try as he might, he cannot hide from Ruben. His usual defenses are useless, abandoning him, leaving him open and wanting.
I want to read Prosperity again.
Squamous With a Chance of Rain
This. Is. FUN. My literary heart was joyfully singing and swinging. The word play in Hall’s writing is superb. Superbly humorous. Superbly direct. Superbly sublime. Smartly swirled within is that earthy reality to which all of us human types fall prey. Our own hang-ups, need for vindication, and the inability to ignore the nonsensical, imperfect path – it’s just too irresistible.
Also? The love for The Sound of Music. I share that bone deep adoration, sir.
My adoration for sarcasm is just as mighty. Jane, my dearest, you sing my song.
If she thought to menace me, she misjudged the matter seriously, as I have always rather appreciated being underestimated. It allows one to relax.
The deeper and deeper into this story, the more and more it read like poetry. Wonderful, desperate, mysterious poetry. What in the world is going on at Vanstone Hall? With Jane? And Vanstone? Diane? The children?
This is a fantastically built story, a steady climb further into tentacled horror. I freakin’ loved it. It captivated me from the sarcastic beginning, through the creepy grossness and right on to the perfection that is the ending. Is it really, though? The end? Jane, I know you have too much more up your bustle to abandon us now.
The manner in which this story is told is so well executed.
From the Journal of Mrs. Miranda Lovelace
Alexis Hall has created and can write female characters that represent the hodgepodge of traits we all share at differing levels: aptitude, intelligence, humor, a million interests, strength, vulnerability, the unending variety that is us.
This journal of Miranda’s is so cool. She’s a scientist, curiosity and method swirling around together in chaotic beauty and discovery. Holy crap, this is awesome. That’s as simple as I can make it. And I’m covetous. Of this story, and Miranda, and that’s all there is to it.
I want more. I need more. I’m a’gonna get me more.
*** a momentary break in the action ***
I just noticed how much “swirling” and “turning” and “flying” I’ve got here. That’s what Hall’s storytelling is, always in motion, even in those incredibly intimate, quiet moments, everything is moving. Such a difficult thing to accomplish, to get across to a reader. This here be success.
*** back to our regularly scheduled jibber jabber ***
Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies
- ~ * breath hitches * ~ *
- ~ * quill point scratches across paper * ~ *
My Dearest Byron,
My heart cracks and splits and crumbles in learning of your history, but then you heal it all, putting me back together again with your endless kindness, strength and love. I hate for you, my heartbeat increasing and my anger rising against those who failed to see you, who simply failed you, and hurt you. I hate that you hurt.
For all of your strength and knowledge and experience, you still recognize the precious nature of life, of Dil. What he is, he’s the sky you can now see, the life that travels beside you, with you, instead of only glimpsing it over the wall and beyond the railing. He’s everything you don’t yet know.
That makes Ruben the one who helped you see the you that was already there, waiting to start the real ride in that sky.
Oh, and before I forget, thank Dil for me. He makes me giggle, especially when he teases you, for it’s usually based on truth. 😉 Which is the other thing, he sees the true you. He sees you and embraces you, knowing what you want and why. Precious.
I wish for you the life you’ve dreamed and more.
Yours in gratitude,
I don’t have a review, per se, of this part of the story. I will tell you that it’s fun as hell. It’s a sort of behind the scenes, backstory roly poly’d in alongside. It’s like the Prosperity case files got cracked open and we’re the lucky ones to have been in the right place at the right time, to leaf through, peruse and soak up at will.
And Dil gets the last word, as it should be. 😉
Suggested Reading Order: I would go with the order in which every story in this universe was published.
Then There Will Be Phlogiston (still FREE!)
And within this Collection:
From the Journal of Mrs. Miranda Lovelace
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Every so often a style of writing will appeal to you so much that you will read everything you can by the author. Sometimes a fantasy world, or a particular group of characters draw you to a series or group of novels. In Alexis Hall and his work I have found all these things. He is an author who can write many styles from contemporary romance to female vampire detectives, pure fantasy to steampunk and he does it all with panache and enviable literary skill.
In Liberty and Other Stories he revisits the steampunk universe we met first in the novel ‘Prosperity’. Prosperity was a challenge for some as it was written in the cant spoken by the narrator one ‘Piccadilly of Gaslight’, or Dil. The stories which form this collection are written in the language required of the narrator, but the author has changed Dil’s spoken language slightly to reflect the character’s growing education and close associations. This is just one of the myriad details that I admire about this author and these stories.
To coin the author’s vernacular the stories can be covered in order by the words, Swoon – Gasp – Sigh and Cheer.
I found this story so romantic, which considering the protagonists and the settings seems unlikely, but I did. From the first chapter I began highlighting phrases I felt were so evocative and often very beautiful’
Ruben received the bishop in the Citrine Drawing Room and served him Darjeeling first flush tea in translucent bone china.
This is an intense short story about lust/obsession maybe love, but definitely desire involving a ‘good man’ looking for redemptive qualities in a very bad one, and tea. The setting is the condemned cell of Milord the criminal overlord of ‘Prosperity’. Ruben is the unorthodox priest visiting him to hear his confession, remorse and contrition for his sins. However, Ruben becomes desperate to find good in Milord for additional reasons, as his feelings for him grow. Milord’s reactions to Ruben are complex and beautifully written, this passage reveals the ‘Shackles’ of the title.
‘Wanting is weakness, Ruben.’… ‘The greatest weakness of the human heart. It shackles you far more surely than these chains of mine.’ An odd, almost dreamy softness crept into his voice, brought light into his eyes. ‘I have built my life on the wantings of others. It has given me such power.’
A very absorbing read I loved it and the ending was perfect.
Squamous with a Chance of Rain
I thought the first story would be my favourite and then I began this one with so much laughter I couldn’t keep reading at one point. I would love to include so many hilarious passages with this review but it simply would be too long. Here we meet Jane and like the previous story it is set before the adventures in ‘Prosperity’. However, the links that start to form through this story to Prosperity, and the other stories, are so involved I wonder how the author could keep track, but it is written in such a way that the reader does. I would keep poking my other half saying ‘Oh that’s why… and that’s so and so…’ to which he would usually reply ‘..very nice dear, but I have no idea what you are talking about.’
Jane is an impoverished gentlewoman with a lusty lesbian libido and I adored her. This is a story written in an epistolary form, initially sent from Jane residing at ‘Mrs Miggle’s Boarding House for the Genteelly Impoverished’ to a friend, Miriam, from her boarding school days. Jane’s letters are full of such sarcasm and wit that I would have read them without the story they contain! Jane is given a job as governess at Vanstone Hall in Cornwall. Oh god I want to include quotes….not knowing whether to pack a glamorous organdie gown for the wilds of Cornwall she writes,
I suppose I must take care lest I am set upon and brutally ravished by a wild-eyed, wild-haired skypirate in tall boots and scarlet petticoats. That would be simply dreadful. I had best take the organdie. Just in case.
At Vanstone Hall she encounters mystery upon mystery and a sky Captain we hear more about in the next stories. Into her life comes almost the dashing skypirate of her dreams in the form of Diana, well named as she hunts things paranormal. This is a wonderful romp of a story with dreadfully serious uses of tentacles. Jane is a wonder and as far as you could get from traditional heroine of Victorian romances. Oh and I was singing ‘I am sixteen going on seventeen’ for a part of this story 😉
Cloudy Climes and Starry Skies
Oh beautiful Byron Kae and adorable Dil…as a way of marking their precious time together Byron Kae, Aethermancer and Captain of Shadowless reminds Dil of the night Byron related their life story to him. The story is sad and gently adventurous, describes their birth origins and the origins of Shadowless, told by Byron Kae without bitterness and with such incite. I particularly loved how they describe their love of tall ships,
The thing about airships is that we build them to lift weights and carry cargo, but tall ships we build to chase our dreams. To put the winds at our backs and make the stars our companions and the whole world our tomorrow…
Every so often Dil interrupts and slips in words and humour, the softness of the tone he uses with Byron reveals his feelings for the beautiful, exotic skycaptain,
Why am I getting the sense you have a low opinion of my capacity for felonious behaviour?
‘Cos you ain’t got no capacity. ‘Tis one of the reasons I l-like you so much.
Byron’s story could only have been called ‘Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies’ a deliberate misquote of Lord Byron at his most romantic and a description of the world they inhabit with Dil. I’ll never be a teenager again but I sighed like one when I read this story. Is it too odd to say I think I’ve fallen a little in love with Byron Kae?
Before Byron’s story we are introduced to Dr Miranda Lovelace another extraordinary character creation of Alexis Hall. Her brevity of speech and focussed scientific brain when mixed with being aether touched gives us a character of such depth and interest. We meet her again in ‘Liberty’ but she deserves her own story.
Set initially in the 1950’s, the story of Liberty is told in epistolary form of sorts, through the medium of wax cylinders and an Edison type phonograph, it relates the transcripts of a trial held in 1866. The trial is of Captain George England and is a story of spies…aethermancers…explosions…skytowns built on petrified krakens and the madness of power and empires. This is where I snorted my coffee’
The previous transcriber also insisted that when he played this section of the cylinder backwards it instructed him to build a mighty tower of stone and to stand atop it calling out to the blind God-King who dwells in a seething furnace at the heart of the universe…
We meet all the characters from Prosperity again as we hear their testimonies in their voices, concerning the destruction of the skyships around the skytown of ‘Liberty’. I’d say this was a character driven story, but the plot is intriguing as well, and the action absorbing. Alexis Hall writes such wonderful characters each with a unique voice and personality. Dil provides examples of comic timing in written form,
I got some experience with climbing walls from my legitimate exploits as [here the witness paused for some time] an itinerant roofing inspector.
Jane keeps up good English stereotypes,
His accent was French and his belligerence of manner likewise.
I considered simply shooting him.
But the last laugh must go to the husband of Mrs Doolittle…
Sorry, he says it’s just I sometimes feel that when you was granted access to limitless power beyond the lot of mortal man, you changed.
I once told Alexis Hall that I could always recognise his work by his authorial voice. I was wrong it is his style, narrative confidence and panache I recognise. His characters are all unique and their voices all sound very different in my head; male, female, educated, uneducated, gentle or cruel they all have such reality. I will miss them.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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