“Eighteen-year-old Kali McAlister enters her steam-powered “dogless sled” in a race, intending to win the thousand-dollar prize and escape remote Moose Hollow forever. The problem? Fortune seekers and airship pirates are after her for the secret to flash gold, her late father’s alchemical masterpiece.
With her modified rifle and a pocketful of home-made smoke bombs, Kali wouldn’t normally hide from a confrontation, but taking on a whole airship single-handedly is a daunting task. Unfortunately, the other racers won’t assist her–they’re too busy scheming ways to sabotage her unorthodox sled.
When a sword-slinging stranger shows up, wanting to hire on as her protector, she’s sure he has ulterior motives, but he’s the only one interested in helping her. The question is…why?
An 18,000-word (80 page) novella” My review follows:I quickly found myself enamored with the protagonist, Kali: she’s a smart, scrappy young woman left on her own after the death of her scientist father. The townsfolk don’t trust her, some don’t like her much. Buroker manages to meld the tough exterior Kali has had to develop with the vulnerability she feels without coming across as sappy. This really is a wonderful accomplishment.
Cedar appears out of nowhere and signs on as Kali’s helper in a race. Neither trusts the other fully, but they must depend on each other to stay alive: her competitors want her out of the race and air pirates want her father’s secrets. The relationship between these two is peppered with good natured banter, and repressed suspicions. There is a… let’s call it a hormonal tension, between them that will probably blossom into a romantic entanglement eventually. But for now, this too gets repressed by the suspicions.
The pacing of the story is excellent. Ms. Buroker manages to slip in enough backstory to flesh out the characters quite well enough that we care about them, yet never falls into an expository quagmire. Secrets are revealed, characters grow, the intrigue builds as the story progresses.
This is a steampunk novella, but it is a gentle steampunk story; it takes place in the Yukon around (probably) the late 1800’s and the story involves a steam powered dog sled, a few amazing inventions and an airship full of pirates, but none of this is presented in such a way as to jar you from the scene of a Yukon mining town. It all flows very well and is expertly presented.
Flash Gold ends with an obvious open door to the next book, but this story is satisfactorily concluded; no cliff hanger here. I dislike endings that say to me, “If you want to know what happens you have to buy the next book.” Flash Gold promised more adventures between Kali and Cedar, but ties up all the loose ends first. A very satisfying read.