(Flash Gold Chronicles, Book 1)
Genre: Alternate History, Steampunk
Format: eBook, 56 Pages
Date: 27th March 2011
A GIRL’S GOTTA DO WHAT A GIRL’S GOTTA DO
A plucky young woman gets more than she bargained for when entering a cross-country sled race to win the prize money needed to leave her old life behind. But the timely arrival of a mysterious stranger may pave the way for her to overcome the obstacles both in front of her and behind her. Though his intentions are unclear, she must take the risk of trusting this unknown man, even if he may pose as great a threat as the sky pirates heading her way.
Kali McAlister is a precocious young inventor whose innovations seem far too good to be true, causing some of the inhabitants of Moose Hollow to view her as a witch. The epithet may not be accurate, but Kali is in possession of a secret bequeathed to her by her father that not only enhances her inventions, but also holds the key to obtaining the riches that will allow her to escape the life of drudgery she lives in the town. But little does she know that the secret of “flash gold” makes her a target for people who will stop at nothing to obtain it from her. If she is to realise her dream, Kali will need all her resourcefulness to thwart the machinations of her adversaries, and maybe even the help of a mysterious stranger, to win a three day cross-country sled race.
Though quicker and easier to write, shorter fiction is much harder to get right. The limited opportunity for character development, world building and the telling of a story that feels complete requires the careful consideration of what compromises to make, and how much. Flash Gold is the perfect example of a writer successfully negotiating this dilemma without sacrificing too much of any elements that make for an engaging story. The limited number of words to play with hasn’t prevented author, Lindsay Buroker, from producing a riveting novella that doesn’t scrimp on the development of her main character, nor the setting of the story, nor the completeness of the narrative. It’s really commendable how much she is able to cram into just 18k words; the story feels longer than it actually is, making it a very satisfactory read.
There are a number of positives that can be pointed to for contributing to making Flash Gold such an enjoyable book, the most significant of which is the depiction of the protagonist. Kali McAlister is a genuinely compelling character who is easy to like and root for. From the outset she is clearly a resourceful young woman, and the author frequently shows the ingenuity Kali is capable of without resorting to telling the reader how ingenious the character is. And given how little Buroker tells the reader about her protagonist it’s all the more impressive how much insight into Kali’s personality she is able to convey with the things she does impart, revealing the influence Kali’s father had upon her, the aspirations she is holding on to, as well as the trust issues she has developed on account of a past betrayal.
In addition to the strong characterisation of the young heroine, the other notable positive Flash Gold has going for it is the pacing of the narrative. It is a consistently fast moving story that never loses momentum, guaranteed to keep readers turning the page to find out what happens next. This is very much an action driven novella with obvious appeal to readers looking for an action packed steampunk adventure. And while most steampunk books seem to favour Victorian era England as a setting, Buroker’s decision to opt for a Wild West setting during the Klondike gold rush era not only sets Flash Gold apart from those books, it also provides a great location for the story to unfold in.
Buroker certainly knows how to keep readers engaged and invested. There are no grounds for anyone to claim boredom while reading this book; the author doesn’t give that opportunity. Rest assured, Flash Gold is an unrelenting thrill ride, brimming with action, adventure, mystery and danger, featuring a plucky young heroine that is sure to leave you wanting more. And fortunately, there is more to come. Flash Gold is just the first instalment of a novella series that currently spans five books, so be sure to offer thanks to Ms. Buroker, because more Kali McAlister can only be a good thing.