My rating: 4.5 / 5
Flash Gold is a steampunk novella by Lindsay Buroker. Set in the Klondike during the gold rush, it tells the story of 18-year-old Kali McAlister, who has inherited her father's alchemical invention, flash gold. She's using it to create some fantastic inventions, but there are gangsters and pirates who will do anything to get it from her.
She builds a steam-powered "dogless sled" and enters a race, hoping to win enough money to escape Moose Hollow (by building an airship, of course). A potential ally comes along in the form of Cedar, a tall, mysterious stranger who hires on as her assistant. She doesn't trust him, not even close, even when he helps her out of some tough scrapes. Her distrust is not without reason. He's got secrets.
All in all this is a hugely fun, entertaining story. There are cool elements, from pirates in an airship to Kali's weaponized gadgets. There is action galore, all of it in a setting quite refreshing for a steampunk story. The characters have depth and nuance, and secrets too. They're also really fun to read about. Kali's spunky and full of bravado, with a bunch of vulnerability kept hidden under the surface. Cedar is mysterious and dangerous, with a tongue nearly as dangerous as his sword.
Some of the dialogue is a delight to read. Kali and Cedar are quite intelligent, and their dialogue reflects this. There is some excellent witty banter, and the chemistry between them is handled very well. Even as they save each other's lives they exchange insults and keep secrets. It's a real pleasure to read.
From time to time, though, the dialogue gets a little too erudite. It starts to sound like something you would write, but not something you would ever say out loud. That's as close as I've got to a complaint.
At 18,000 words it's a fairly short tale, but the length is appropriate for the story being told. There are two sequels, each one longer than the one before. I'll be checking those out for sure.
Check out Flash Gold for steampunk gadgets, high adventure, and a thoroughly enjoyable story. Best of all, it's free.
Get it at Smashwords.
Get it at Amazon.