Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
As a provision inspector below the Chilkoot Pass during the Klondike Gold Rush, Constable Paul Benson of the North-West Mounted Police has seen it all. The monotony, the fights, starvation and even death that has come with the miners rushing to make their fortune in gold. But even as the masses of humanity crowd into camps, Paul has been able to keep himself emotionally separated from the madness and madmen around him. Until the arrival of Joseph Starling in his life.
Joseph Starling appears in camp, practically dead. Joseph and his two brothers had been among those mining gold up north but there the brothers met a familiar fate. They were robbed, one brother killed and the youngest still in the clutches of the men who attacked them. Now Joseph is on his way to find his brother and bring him safely home.
It’s to Paul that Joseph is brought to and its Paul’s plan Joseph will use to catch up to the robbers. Only Paul never counted on going with Joseph on a journey that will change them both in ways they never expected. From eight-legged mechs with minds of their own to crash-prone airships, this is a trip with no guarantees, for success and even coming out alive.
Just the cover and the title alone is enough to recall the wonderful steampunk universe L.A. Witt has created for this remarkable series. The first novel, Noble Metals, firmly established a steampunk world where the Klondike Gold Rush includes steam driven 8-legged brass mechs, mechanical beasts of burden instead of horses or sleds, where the North-West Mounted Police patroled the borders and camps instead of the Royal Canadian Mounties, but the human frailties, greed, and despair remain firmly entrenched by the pursuit of gold. I loved that story. It was inventive, believable, and a terrific romance to boot.
Now comes Precious Metals and that treacherous, amazing world comes alive once more. Using the same format of alternating points of view, L.A. Witt takes the reader from perspective to perspective easily without jumbling her narrative. The story opens with Paul Benson looking over the teeming mass of miners gathered to get permits and head north into the Yukon. Immediately we realize that being a Mountie is not the passion for Paul that one would think, an aspect of this story both unusual and telling. Into his line of vision comes a tattered group of miners walking beside a worn mech, lying on top is Joseph. From the minute Joseph wakes up in the make shift infirmary, his heartbreaking portion of the story unfolds and Precious Metals takes flight.
Joseph Starling stole my heart immediately. There are so many facets to this character, loving and loyal brother, ingenious engineer, and courageous, intrepid explorer and that doesn’t even begin to cover it. There is another surprise in store for the readers concerning Joseph that the cover happily does not give away.But this element of Joseph’s character and its part in the story adds not only depth but heart to this amazing journey. It’s Paul that I had to warm up to. Paul Benson has his own decisions to make and he tends to need a lot of internal prodding to get moving forward. But once he does, then the reader is sure to embrace his character as much as we do Joseph’s.
Oh, the descriptions of the arduous trail north that L. A. Witt treats us to! Heavy snowfalls, avalanches, bone chilling, death causing temperatures, and always, always something worse waiting to happen just around the bend. And the vivid, wonderful passages make us feel every exhausting, frozen, torturous inch of the trail north. And did I mention that there are airships afloat as unreliable and crash prone as the mechs themselves? By the end of the story I found it hard to believe that the journey itself only unfolds in a short time frame because we were in the trenches with Paul and Joseph, For them, as well as us, the heightened danger and close proximity brings an understanding, though not love, that feels as real as the journey itself.
For unlike the couple in Noble Metals, here the attachment forms quickly, yet realistically. Is it a case of instant love? I think not, but certainly a romance with a future if the men have any say. Yes, this is a HFN that is satisfying in a book that I loved perhaps more than the last. I highly recommend Precious Metals and its predessor, Noble Metals. Pick them both up today and begin your passage to Chilkoot Pass , the Klondike Gold Rush and the men who find themselves and love along the way!
Cover artist April Lee’s drawing is both lively and a little rough, a bluntness about it that adds to its charm in my opinion.
ebook, 150 pages
Published October 27th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titlePrecious Metals
Book in the Metals steampunk universe can be read as stand alone novels: