There are a handful of stand-out stories that I think make this collection worth checking out from the library, but overall I was disappointed. Too many of the stories were just plain badly written--and badly edited. A firmer editorial hand could easily have bumped most of the stories up to at least tolerable, and I think the authors were poorly served by its lack. (A better proofreader would have been welcomed, too; the random line breaks, misspellings, and underlined punctuation are distracting.)
The Effluent Engine, by N.K. Jemisin. Starts the collection off with a bang! Really nice alt-history, here, marred only (as others have noted) by the final two paragraphs, which seem out of character for both protagonists. Four stars.
Brilliant, by Georgina Bruce. A nicely sketched vignette with intriguing characters but not a lot else going for it; the steampunk setting feels like a paper backdrop and there's less plot than I like in my fiction. Two stars.
Owl Song, by D.L. MacInnes. Marred more than most of the collection by the poor proofreading job, but not really my thing beyond that. Unpleasant things happen to an unpleasant person. Yay? Two stars.
Where the Ocean Meets the Sky, by Sara M. Harvey. Another one where I wanted more plot and less romance. The setting's not bad, but given the lack of anything happening it drags on too long. Why start your story right after
the daring and dangerous mission? Two stars.
Suffer Water, by Beth Wodzinski. That's more like it. Short and to the point, with writing that really evokes a dusty, Western setting. The science is handwavy even for steampunk, and I think this story might have been even better if it hadn't had to fit within a themed collection and could have gone straight fantasy. Three stars.
Steel Rider, by Rachel Manija Brown. This story pretty much does
abandon any pretense at steampunk, and I love the result. I would read a novel set in this world, or at least more short stories. Four stars.
Truth and Life, by Shira Lipkin. A graceful, lyrical take on a theme I'm unfortunately tired of reading about. Three stars.
The Hands That Feed, by Matthew Kressel. You know what my life needs? More tragic lesbians who lack agency and don't even seem to particularly know or care about each other. Oh, wait, no, it doesn't. Your life will be better for skipping this story. One star.
Love in the Time of Airships, by Meredith Holmes. There might be a good story in here, but it's buried under the worst writing I've seen in professionally published fiction in quite some time. And the worst sex scene. Dear lord. One star.
[If you surmised I almost gave up on the collection here, you're right.]
Under the Dome, by Teresa Wymore. This is basically erotica, and I wish it had embraced that aspect of itself and skipped some of the clunkier worldbuilding/exposition, because as erotica it's not bad. Two stars.
Clockwork and Music, by Tara Sommers. Someone else here noted that you get lots of stories about women wrongfully thrown into asylums to silence them, but not a lot of stories about institutionalized Victorian women who are actually mentally ill. They were right, and they were right that this story does a good job filling the gap. I like its many shades of gray, and the romance was one of the sweeter ones in the book. Three stars.
Copper for Trickster, by Mikki Kendall. Women oppressed by Evil men who have no goal or purpose other than oppressing women. You know they're Evil, because they torture and rape children for fun! The over-the-top descriptions of depravity made me roll my eyes at the beginning and robbed the end of any impact. One star.
Sleepless, Burning Life, by Mike Allen. I think this would have made a better short film than a short story, but I have to give it props for uniqueness. Three stars.
The Padishah Begum's Reflections, by Shweta Narayan. A well-written, sweet romance mixed with politics and interesting worldbuilding. I could have done with more of the politics, but I suppose it's already pretty long for a story. Three stars.
To Follow the Waves, by Amal El-Mohtar. This is another world where I'd be interested in a novel or other expansion; the characters' prickly relationship at the end intrigues me, and I'd love to see where it goes. A nice, solid end to the collection. Four stars.
That averages to 2.53, which I suppose means I should round the collection as a whole to 3, but the low points were so low that I'm loathe to do so. I may feel compelled to pick up the sequel, since it has a story by Zen Cho and I am always up for Zen Cho stories, but I'm giving myself permission in advance to skip any story that doesn't grab me by page two.