Monday, September 2, 2013

Flash Gold (Lindsay Buroker)

Flash Gold
(The Flash Gold Chronicles, Book 1)
Lindsay Buroker
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Kali McAllister may only be eighteen, but she already has a reputation. Her mother was a mad native medicine woman, her father a famed inventor pursuing a powerful substance known as flash gold. Around Moose Hollow in the wild Yukon frontier, she's considered a witch, albeit a useful one; there isn't a weapon she can't modify for the right price. Still, people whisper and mutter about her late father's experiments and her mother's madness. Did he learn the secret of flash gold before he died? Does Kali know it, too?
To get out of the backwater town of Moose Hollow, Kali needs money. To that end, she built a steam-powered "dogless sled," to enter a local race and take the thousand dollars in prize money. The last thing she needs is a partner holding her down. Then Cedar turns up. Tall, rugged, and mysterious, he offers his services as a bodyguard for a share of the prize... services she doesn't think she needs, until a band of thugs attacks her in her own workshop. Her father's reputation has spread far from the Yukon, attracting a host of unsavory attention. Just winning the race in an untested invention is no longer the problem - it's staying alive to reach the finish line.
An eBook-exclusive title.

REVIEW: A fast-reading tale of daring, adventure, steampunk, and a hint of magic, this novella sets up some wonderful ideas and - for the most part - lives up to them. Kali makes a strong but not flawless heroine, a clever engineer who doesn't want to admit that she may be in over her head. Cedar isn't exactly a knight in shining armor, himself, especially when his true motivations for joining up with Kali come to light. Nevertheless, the two make a well-balanced team, squaring off against surly Moose Hollow locals and ruthless out-of-town killers intent on dragging the secrets of flash gold from Kali by any means necessary. Out on the frontier, the usual staples of steampunk (the dark factories, the cities, and so forth) rarely come into play; aside from Kali's gadgetry and the obligatory airship, the technology level's mostly rooted in the late 1800's. Magic is teased, but stays mostly on the sidelines. It ultimately reads like a pilot for a series, bringing its story to a reasonable conclusion while leaving enough potential for future installments. I enjoyed it, and might even be convinced to track down the second book, assuming it's priced right.

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