This is a short, but very snappy introduction to a new steam-punk universe. Set in the rough-housing, snow smothered Yukon, this reads like a steampunk twist on classic Jack London. This is a good thing. I really enjoyed the pace of this novella, wasting little time in regular introductions, it kicks the story along and world opens up naturally while we tag along for the ride. The tale hinges on a sled race, which inventor Kali badly wants to win. She’s courting controversy as she’s using a steam powered sled, which is also attracting the wrong sort of element to her workshop. The townsfolk are hostile to her and highly superstitious about her technological abilities. She’s just getting over a major betrayal, and when potential support arrives she’s justifiably very suspicious. Against everyone’s better judgement she determines to go ahead with the race, her aim being to win enough cash to leave her old life behind. That is, if she doesn’t end up dead before it ends.
The tension and the race really propel the story along. I immediately took to the freezing, soot-filled atmosphere and vividly sketched characters. Kali is very engaging, resourceful and sympathetic. I look forward to learning if she lives up to her destructive namesake in later novels! She has trouble knowing who to trust, and the mysterious nature of Cedar, Kali’s aptly named new bodyguard, doesn’t make it any easier for her to decide. I loved Cedar too. He’s a intimidating but perhaps benevolent presence, a man you’d really want to have at your back in a fight, and I look forward to learning much more about him, too.
Although at first I thought I’d wandered into Kali’s story halfway through, as we’re quickly told of a betrayal that destroyed her trust in anyone new, it soon became clear that we’re really entering this tale during a crucial change in Kali’s life, one that will set up the books to come. The intriguing powers of ‘flash gold’ are just waiting to be fully revealed and there’s definitely more to Kali than meets the eye. I’m eagerly anticipating the next ‘Flash Gold Chronicle’, as this first taste is very compelling. The novella bristles with deftly-described action and the Yukon sky looms with lethal airships. Loved every word. Highly recommended.