Oct 25 2014 1:00pm

First Look: Alexis Hall’s Prosperity (October 27, 2014)

Prosperity by Alexis HallAlexis Hall
Riptide / October 27, 2014 / $16.99 print, $6.99 digital

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.

The above book description, which I will forever deeply regret not being the one to have written, gives you a pretty good idea what to expect from Alexis Hall’s wildly entertaining new novel Prosperity. When the marketing team behind Prosperity’s promotional activities informs us that “some passages may prove unsettling to [whatever] of a sensitive disposition,” well, you can consider that fair warning. Part heart-pounding adventure story, part coming-of-age tale, and part unconventional romance, Prosperity is what the loquacious narrator, Piccadilly (aka Dil), might call a “ripping good yarn.” In other words, you really need to read this.

The story begins in the grimy alleyways of Gaslight in Prosperity, an aerial outpost of an alternate England. The year is 1863, and Dil lives in the streets and makes his living by his wits. One fateful night, he attempts to cheat a surly, foppish sort who styles himself “Milord” at cards. Milord doesn’t care for this, informing Dil “The next time I see you, Piccadilly, and believe me, there will be a next time, I shall inscribe an object lesson on the folly of irritating me into your flesh.” And indeed, a very short time later, Milord makes his displeasure known…with his gun.

Dil is rescued by Milord’s companions, the motley crew of the magnificent aethership Shadowless, and taken on board to recover from his shoulder wound and, eventually, serve as a sort of hired hand. In addition to Milord, the crew includes fey Miss Grey, whose rare talents will soon prove invaluable; the strange, androgynous aethermancer (sort of a captain whose unique bond with the ship keeps it aloft), Byron Kae; and above all, Ruben Crowe, a defrocked priest of whom Dil notes:

…There was sommat about him I liked a good deal more than anything I’d ever liked before. Being a sharper and all, I hadn’t had had much truck with truth – fact was, I was nowt but moonshine and clankers from nose to toes – but, oh, Ruben was full of true things. Like he was some ol’ knight in some ol’ tale…

Their objective is to mine Milord’s skyclaim for a dangerously unstable but quite valuable substance called phlogiston. They could all fly out of this adventure as wealthy people —- if they can survive the perils of the sky, outlaws with deadly grudges, madmen with delusions of grandeur, and the insistent urges of their own willful hearts.

There is a lot going on in this book, and some terrific action sequences – the battles between Shadowless and the vicious sky-kraken are alone worth the price of the book – but what I particularly appreciated was the whole coming-of-age aspect. Dil goes from ignorant, uneducated guttersnipe to fearless and loyal hero in a wholly believable way, thanks to his dealings with his new friends. His attraction to Ruben is palpable, and eventually he gets his shot:

And Ruben kissed me and touched me til I’d drunk down all his breaths and given all of mine and replaced them all with heated sighs and heart-shivering gasps. Til my panter was thudding against his and I was starting to twist and twine myself against him like a climbing rose. Til damn near everything had turned all hot and silksome and the image of Ruben was burned like sunglare behind my desire-hazed eyes.

And oh Ruben, Ruben. But Ruben is…well, it’s complicated. (I won’t spoil it.) And Dil realizes – with touching maturity and grace – that maybe, just maybe, what he wants isn’t actually what he needs. And I have to mention the language. Dil writes in a specific Victorian-esque cant that would, in lesser hands, be annoying, but here manages to be both evocative and colorful – poetic, even. Who wouldn’t want to be with a man who is “full of true things?”

Confession: while I didn’t come to Prosperity as a complete m/m newbie, I was probably the next closest thing to it. (The lone piece of m/m fiction in my past did nothing for me besides confirm that I’d be perfectly happy never again to read about anyone’s “tight, sweet little asshole.”) But if Prosperity is in any way representative of the highly specialized queer steampunk subgenre, it may just be time for me to broaden my literary horizons. Most specifically, I want to know what happens next to Dil and his companions! To quote another guttersnipe whose story the enigmatic Byron Kae uses when teaching Dil to read, “Please, sir, I want some more.”


Learn more about or order a copy of Prosperity by Alexis Hall, available October 27, 2014:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N



Kate Nagy contributes to Geek Speak Magazine and blogs at

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Pam/Peejakers
Oh, what a great review! If I didn't already have this book in my hot little hands to read already (courtesy of pre-ordering) this review would have me running to grab it, posthaste ;-)
Megan Frampton
2. MFrampton
I have this on preorder also--I love his writing, and his world-building.
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