Review: Liberty and Other Stories by Alexis Hall00:00
Starting the New Year wtih a bang! I finished Liberty and Other Stories in the end of last year but all the celebrations I'm just now coming around to write my review. As usual, I'm having the hardest time writing my thoughts on books that I loved the most but I'm still trying my best.
Title: Liberty and Other Stories (Prosperity)
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre: Steampunk, queer romance, novellas
Release Date: 5 Jan 2015
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My rating: 5 Stars
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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 collection includes:
- Shackles (A Prosperity Story)
- Squamous with a Chance of Rain
- Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies
This a collection of 4 short stories/novellas some of which are prequels, some - sequels to Prosperity but they all add more to the stories of our beloved characters from the first book.
Shackles is about Ruben and Milord. It's told from Ruben's POV but it reveals a lot about both Ruben and Milord. To say that I absolutely enjoyed it would be an understatement. Milord is the unrepentant villain we know from Prosperity and Ruben is the same iirresistibleupstanding man but their meeting and coming together really impacts them both deeply. They have their weaknesses and dark sides but I feel, all the stories in this collection are mostly about acceptance and loving someone (oneself) unconditionally. Ruben's voice is quite different style than Piccadilly's in Prosperity and that makes his tale easier to read in terms of language.
Squamous with a Chance of Rain tells the story of Lady Jane. She is my least favourite character of the lot and I don't mean that I dislike, I just love the rest of them much more. Still, her story was rather intriguing - an epistolary tale with of Gothic horror and somewhat reminiscent of Jane Eyre. This story mixes the mundane and the mythical and has more steampunk elements than the previous one. Lady Jane is a rather unreliable narrator which makes her story all the more mysterious and scary.
Cloudy Climes and Starry Skies is all about Byron Kae and the story I liked the best. Byron Kae was the most unusual character for me in Prosperity. They were an amazing human being, yet I had somewhat difficult time picturing them in my head. Their story here completely won me over. I have no words to properly describe what it made me feel. It's beautiful and painful and full of love and longing and pain and isolation. It presents brilliantly the universal desire of the human being to be accepted, to be valued for who they are. The story is heart-breaking and gut wrenching, yet ultimately full of love and tenderness. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Mr. Hall's short story Sand and Gold and Ruin, another allegorical tale of love and pain.
The final story, Liberty, was not at all what I was expecting and it was amazing still the same. It's full of adventure and action and drama and multiple POVs. It's a sequel to Prosperity where we see Dil and Byron Kae and Lady Jane back together. Told through different documents - personal letters, official documents, some classified government correspondence, etc - it's an action story where the author skilfully plays with historical fact and fiction to create an emotional tale of power and ambition and love and forgiveness. And we meet Captain George England, yet another fantastic character created by Mr. Hall. I hope that we will have the chance to read his story at some point in the future.
These are beautifully written steampunk/fantasy stories exploring the human soul in all its beauty and ugliness. It takes the readers on a magical journey and it leaves them wanting so much more. A highly recommended read!
A side note: It's easier to read in terms of language, but just as beautifully and masterfully written. If you gave up on Prosperity because you found the slang too difficult, I'd suggest that you read these first and then go back to Prosperity. Or you can try There Will be Phlogiston - a free short story (m/m/f) set in the same world where the heroine is half-sister to Byron Kae.
My reviews of other books by Alexis Hall: