This is a collection of three short steampunk novellas. I got an ebook in exchange for an honest review. The main character Maliha is a biracial woman and she needs a walking stick.

Format: ebook
Page count: 258

The year for the stories isn’t clearly stated until in the third novella. They take place during the reign of Edward II but in an alternate world where anti-gravity machines, called Faraday devices, have been invented and are used by the British Empire. Also, it seems that the British have gone to Venus and Mars which have at least plants.

Alice Maliha Anderson is the daughter of a high-born Indian lady and a Scottish engineer. Her family lives in India but Maliha has been sent to a boarding school in Britain. Unfortunately, the other girls made her life very unpleasant and her leg was also permanently injured during her school years so that she needs a cane to walk around. She’s a determined lady who has learned not to let anyone or anything stand in her way. But she’s keenly aware that she isn’t white enough to be British or dark enough to be Indian. She’s also very used to nobody wanting to even talk to her and keeping all people at an arm’s length. She’s a very proper Victorian woman with regards to personal relationships.

“Murder out of Blue” is the first novella where Maliha is finally returning home to India to her family via Ceylon. She travels by a flying ship which uses a Faraday device. That lessens the effects of gravity and allows her to walk without the cane. She travels in first class with a colorful company. At first, she’s keenly aware that everyone keeps an eye out on her but then she makes a few friends. However, then the body of one of the passengers is found murdered and much to her surprise, Maliha finds out that she’s also a suspect.

Another passenger urges Maliha to investigate; it seems that Maliha had solved another case earlier. Inspector Forsyth from Ceylon police department doesn’t want a woman messing in his case but he quickly realizes that she’s exceptionally perceptive. Maliha also meets Mr. William Crier who doesn’t appear to be intimidated by a strong woman.

The second novella, “Blood Sky at Night”, is set in Ceylon. A woman who Maliha knew at the boarding school is in trouble and she intends to contact Maliha for help. But before she can do so, she’s murdered. The woman’s pupil contacts Maliha instead. The pupil is a princess from a Bali royal line and the only survivor of a recent massacre. This time Inspector Forsyth and his deputy Detective Constable Choudhary can’t avoid Maliha getting involved in the case.

“Halo Around the Moon” is the third novella and it’s set mostly on Ceylon. One of Mr. Crier’s distant friends has died seemingly in a riding accident and he travels to the mainland of India for the funeral. He invites Maliha along because he wants to be sure that his young friend really died from an accident and because he wants to spend more time with the aloof and proper woman.

The novellas are entertaining and each novella gets better (and longer). None of them end in a cliffhanger and the first two can be read as a stand-alones. The short length means that the stories don’t have much space for red herrings, tough. They have romance only as a possible undercurrent, until the third novella. The stories have some non-hetero people and they also deal with racism and colonialism. The one thing the stories lack is humor. Maliha is always earnest and serious.

I enjoyed the stories even though sometimes the sentence structures are awkward (for example “The horse had leapt the fallen tree trunk without a problem and although there had been no pace adjustment but something had gone wrong.” “Both raised their hats as drew closer.”) and I would have liked to get more descriptions of people and places. Maliha is a delightful protagonist and the stories have a historical feel.

The next story, Wind in the East, seems to be a full-length novel.

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