It seems fitting that the penultimate post on this blog will be a book review, finally.
Hopefully either just before, or just after Christmas I will be involved in a new review site so it will be all about books, no more meandering about plays and gin; although of course I will continue to enjoy both of these, often simultaneously.
This is however a kind of review of Prosperity by Alexis Hall, and as Iron and Velvet was practically my first review there is a kind of completeness about it.
I was quite resistant to reading Prosperity, as Alexis is one of my favourite authors, and I’d heard that it was written in cant, which is a type of private language. It sounded scary.
My grandparents were once part of a circus, and they spoke the circus language- Parlari, especially when they didn’t want us to know what they were saying. A lot of the words have drifted into ‘normal’ English as well, such as bevvy, karsi (toilet) kushti (good) and I’ve been hearing it all my life, so really the language, that was a bit of a smokescreen.
I was actually worried that I wouldn’t like it, I really enjoyed his previous books, but this just seemed a little too different, then I started seeing the reviews:
i am nearly deranged with the happy.
whores! and pirates! and yet more whores!
people of earth: i tell you it’s bloody wonderful.
crackling with energy and humour so sharp and sweet i cackled like a witch over a cauldron.
This story is gorgeous in places and fun in others. It’s told from the first person point of view of one Piccadilly, who is sort of irrepressible and sweet in spite of not spending much time on the right side of the law.
it uses the pulp*-iest and funnest of settings and concepts to say real important things. I love everything about the Prosperity world and I can’t recommend this and the linked books highly enough.
*Pulp is my highest form of art, just so we’re clear.
It’s not an easy book, but it’s one of the best I’ve ever read, in or out of the romance genre. I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series.
There is a lot of humour along with the philosophical messages. The characters are all unique and you get invested in them despite or rather, because of their flaws and failings. They all seem the have hidden inside them hearts of gold,
These should have made me feel better, but in fact I felt worse. These were all comments from people I liked, and who’s views on books I admired, and usually agreed with. My mood at this stage was moving from apprehensive to a mild state of panic, so despite having begged for an advance copy of the book I decided to NOT read it at all.
And life returned to normal.
I then mentioned to ‘someone’ about the whole stupid panic thing, and she said, as if speaking to an idiot, which is very slowly – ‘I enjoyed it so much, I’ll read it again with you’ what was I supposed to do? It’s not as if its Kujo, the worse that could happen was I wouldn’t like it, and I could lie and day it was amazing – or I could do something I’ve done once before, read the reviews, summarise them – and not actually read the book. Don’t judge me.
I did neither, with some hand holding I read it, and it was amazing.
One of my books of the year in fact.
The language, both in terms of the cant and the descriptive voice is wonderful. The storyteller, Piccadilly is of the street, he’s sharp, funny and hungry, he wants; to learn, to grow to be loved, and he’s a thief. So he uses the language that a 19th century thief would. And it works, it’s not difficult to understand at all.
I’m not a big Steampunk reader, but the idea of the alternative universe, that has enough of history in it to be real, combined with the creativity of inventing new things is ridiculously heady to read, and you become immersed in the world. I would drop random words and phrases, usually insults, into my conversation for weeks afterwards.
Other than Piccadilly the cast includes : a crime lord, an ex-missionary, an opium soused navigator and my particular favourite the petticoat and boot wearing pirate captain who is at one with his ship, who teaches Dill to read.
The comment by KJ Charles hits the nail on the head though, it’s great fun to read, and it’s exciting and funny and poignant and at the same time is about love, honesty, friendship and acceptance.
Thank you to Alexis for writing it, to all those who allowed me to nick bits of their reviews, and to Kat for holding my hand.
The good news is that there is free short out on Monday 8th Dec, and a whole volumes of shorts on in January.
My song choice is Mecca by Wild Beasts, which fittingly is one of my songs of the year, the lyrics are very apt.