My dearest Dil,
I fear our lifestyle does not lend itself well to the marking of dates or rites of passage, but I cherish the night on which I first told you my story. Of my birth in Canton and my life in England, and how—at last—I escaped from it to the skies. Of my father’s attempts to make me his, and my struggle to make myself my own. Of airship and auroras, the flying pirate city of Liberty, and how I became who I am.
I’ve tried to write it all down for you as best I can, so you may share it with me again whenever you wish.
Steampunk, M/M, GLBT+
73 e-book pages
Series, boo 4
January 10, 2016
Ratings are 1 to 5 stars and based mostly on GoodReads standards.
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It’s not usually in me to write a lengthy review for a short story. But I gots lots to say.
Ya might say this touched a nerve.
You know that ticklish little tingle you get in the bridge of your nose when there’s the distinct possibility you might cry? Your eyes haven’t quite caught on yet, so the tear ducts are clueless. Your throat is equally unaware. It’s just that weird tingle.
The only thing keeping it at bay is a little grin because there’s something happy there too.
This is their story.
And it is wondrous.
Their story is painful.
There is beauty that comes from their pain and it’s woven in with delicate strands of a sparkling sky. It has a powerful grace and boundless love.
This story is so full of moments of wonder that I could only smile a little smile while my nose tingled its threat of tears.
Byron Kae has the purest heart, an inherent wisdom, and sweet, shy innocence.
We also get a bit more of our dear Piccadilly. We get to see that he’s growing into his own and becoming even more lovely, hilarious, and adorable.
Everything, everything, everything about this was more than I could have hoped.
And here’s where I step off the rails for a bit…
My very first favorite poem was Lord Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.” It was the first non-nursery rhyme poem I ever worked to commit to memory. I was around eleven when I discovered it. There aren’t many poems or literary quotes I carry around in my noggin…but this is one of them.
I hated studying this poem in high school—and again in college. Teachers, professors, and textbooks want to dictate what literature and art are supposed to mean. I have a hard time with that. Sure, point us in a general direction, teach us what other scholars thought, but then…then let us give it a whirl.
I failed a paper in high school because I dared to whirl and write about what this poem meant to me at a time when I was most awkward and didn’t fit in. My paper came back ravaged and bloodied from the teacher’s pen. I challenged her. She rolled her goddamn eyes at me and said, “No. You’re wrong.”
Fuck her. I’m pretty sure I muttered that in my head as I stood, cowed and deflated more than I thought possible, on the other side of her desk.
She was a feckless bitch two years from retirement sneering at me in sadistic glee, wielding her scepter disguised as a chewed up red BIC pen, and ruling my fate and GPA from the other side of that ugly, uneven institutional desk.
God, how I hated her in that moment.
It had only been the year before when the best English teacher I’d ever had taught us to question everything without fear. Dissect, dig deeper, tear words apart—line by line, letter by letter if you must. Sometimes a rose is just a rose, sometimes it’s not. He taught us e.e. cummings, Thoreau, and Walt Whitman that way, among others. Meaning to one person can be entirely different to another—but you’ll never know unless you ask questions of yourself and the world around you. He said there’s nothing real about symbolism. It’s all made up, all subjective, and all changing—according to the “all is flux” philosophy of Heraclitus.
But none of that mattered anymore. New teacher, new classroom, new rules. Lesson fucking learned. I played her classroom games to pass exams, and I kept my mouth shut because clearly the opinions of a seventeen-year-old girl didn’t matter.
In college, I took the cowards way out when I had to write a similar paper for the same poem—and for every other piece of literature I studied in those four years. It was all a game. Winning meant writing what they wanted to read, which was a regurgitation of their lectures using bigger words, maybe throw in a lil’ somthin’ extra to impress—but only if it’s a quote by someone impressive.
That’s what $45,000 a year in tuition taught me.
Oh, and parallel parking.
I’m sad to admit, but that’s a lesson I carried with me for a long, long time. My opinions didn’t matter. Only tell people what they want to hear. Twenty-five years later and I’m still working on breaking free.
By the way, I aced that paper in college.
“All is flux” sometimes sucks, though.
The poem was tarnished for me. I still know it. It still means what it means—even if I was wrong.
Yet it was never, could never ever, be the same. Because being told what you think or feel is wrong…that shit sticks.
But then, all these years later, Alexis Hall comes along. He has this short little story that’s part of a series, a small part of a greater whole. It’s nestled in somewhere around the middle of all these other weird stories. The cover is fanciful. The title is catchy.
That title…it makes my nose tingle.
It’s not the same. But it kind of is.
Kind of..maybe, a little bit close to a poem I love.
Then the story.
Twists and turns, lightness and dark, stars and clouds, whirls and twirls, unimaginable and unassumed beauty and courage found in unlikely ways.
Good Lord Byron Kae!
Alexis Hall gave me back my favorite poem.
This review also posted on GoodReads and (partially) on Amazon.