Flash Gold by Lindsay Buroker – 4 stars
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?
This short story is an introduction to a steampunk series starring a female lead and her male protector sidekick. I assume there will be romance in the rest of the series, as this story sets the relationship up with that as the obvious outcome. The writing is good, the characters are fun, and the action is entertaining.
The story is so logical it’s predictable, and the flash gold of the title is a fantastical element (literally and figuratively) that seemed a little bit of a stretch to me. Given more story to flesh the concept out, I think it’d be brilliant.
As a setup for more, the story works fine and it was well worth the time I spent reading it. I recommend this for anyone who enjoys Wild West steampunk, and it would probably appeal to fans of Weird West as well, as there are hints of such things to come from the series.