GENRES/ SUBJECTS: ALT HISTORY STEAMPUNK, NOVELLA, JAMAICAN MC, NATIVE SECONDARY CHARACTERS
Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.
Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.
Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.
Buffalo Soldier is difficult to describe. It’s sort of an Alternate History with steampunk elements? At first, I had a hard time placing the time-setting — pistols and sword canes, industrialists and a Western-style town had me thinking it was set in the past, and it wasn’t until I caught references to Regent Clinton’s dalliances and James Joyce that I realised it’s actually set a lot closer to our time period.
Its also a little difficult to rate. It’s short, a 176-page novella, but the premise is fascinating and the world-building is really detailed. I loved the little details like Desmond’s dapper sense of fashion and larger political conflicts at play. The description of the Seminoles’ city and their technology was amazing. However, as a result, although I liked Desmond, I felt like I never really got to know him or Lij, and struggled to really ‘feel’ the stakes. The unique premise and clever world-building are of a level I’d expect of a 400+ page book, and I think if Buffalo Soldier were longer, everything could have been better developed and I’d have enjoyed the book more.
That said, I think Buffalo Soldier is well worth a read. If you like mysterious strangers, political intrigue, steampunk with a touch of old Western films and a story full of strong women and PoC — you should definitely pick it up.