I read Buffalo Soldier back in May when I was recovering from acute appendicitis, and it did exactly what I needed: took me far away, into imaginary lands where people had thrilling adventures full of reversals and narrow escapes. The circumstances of my reading mean that I have not retained details as well as I would like, and that I will not be able to write about it as well as it deserves.
Broaddus gives readers a steampunk world in which Jamaica is a major power in the Western hemisphere, the United States of Albion run into the Tejas border somewhere around the Sabine River, and many things are not what they seem. His protagonist is Desmond Coke, a former espionage agent for Jamaica who is fleeing his former superiors to give a chance of freedom to an extraordinary boy, Lij Tafari. Everyone wants to get their hands on Lij, not just the ones who know his origin but possibly even more those who don’t. What does he want? That’s just one of the mysteries of Buffalo Soldier.
One of the advantages of transporting steampunk to Tejas is that the author can use the stock characters and settings of nineteenth-century America while adding as many twists as they like. Broaddus does it with relish. There are card games, plush frontier hotels, local potentates, fast-talking dames with a past, and more. It’s fast-paced and good fun, with Coke and Lij constantly trying to catch a break and get a breather, and usually not quite succeeding.
Like Huck Finn, they light out for the territory. Do they succeed? That would be telling.
I see that Broaddus has written an Arthurian trilogy set in the rougher streets of Indianapolis and a different steampunk tale called Pimp My Airship. I want to read them all. And maybe by the time I am done Broaddus will have more about Jamaica and Albion and Tejas.