4 out of 4 stars
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The Engine Woman's Light, written by Laurel Anne Hill, is a fantasy/sci-fi novel and takes place in an alternate, steampunk type version of 19th century California. This story follows the path of 15-year-old mystic Juanita Elise Jame-Navarro. Juanita lives in the sleepy settlement of Promise with her mother who has taken ill with liver disease, and her strict father, who isn't the biggest fan of his daughter being chosen to be a mystic. Unfortunately for her father, Juanita soon learns from the spirit world that she has been chosen for a life-altering task. Her first mission ever takes her to the Cave of Light where she meets the spirit of Billy, one of her ancestors. He tells her that the spirits have been informed of a nefarious plan. The new superintendent at the Asylum and Workhouse plans to overdose the expendable residents with sleeping powder, and there is only one way to stop it. Juanita and the residents of Promise must derail an empty train on its way to pick up passengers at the Asylum. With all of the media attention a train crash will bring, the superintendent won't be able to quietly kill off the weakest residents. Should they fail, not only will countless innocent lives be lost at the Asylum, but Billy warns Juanita that all inhabitants in the village of Promise will perish as punishment. Juanita will have to rely on all of her mystic training and the heavy guidance of her ancestor's spirits if she is to succeed and survive the journey that lies ahead.
This book was a thrill-packed adventure from start to finish. The story spans several years of Juanita's late teenage years, and the author did a great job with the pacing of the story. Juanita was a fun, engaging young woman, who despite being constantly harassed by her ancestor's spirits, was still was very relatable to me. Her main goal throughout the story was on the health and happiness of others before herself. Her tenacity and refusal to quit, even when all seems hopeless was my favorite part of this book. Another great aspect of this book for me was all of the descriptive detail the author used to describe certain scenes, like when Juanita was dancing around the fire during a spiritual ceremony. It was so wonderfully narrated, it was easy to imagine that I was there dancing with Juanita in my mind's eye.
My least favorite parts of this book were the action scenes or scenes of high intensity. They seemed hastily written, and a lot of details were thrown out so fast it was hard to keep up. I often found myself going back and rereading paragraphs in order to comprehend what was happening in the scene, which slowed me down.
My rating for The Engine Woman's Light is 4 out of 4 stars. This book is beautifully written, and clearly professionally edited, as I only encountered a few errors. I was hooked from start to finish, desperate to know the fate of Juanita and the poor people of the Asylum. Adding in the help of the ancestor's spirits was a nice touch, and injected quite a bit of humor to the story at the appropriate times. I really could not find anything negative in this book to reduce my rating, it really is that good.
This book does have a couple of scenes of sexual and physical assault, and there is a lot of death discussed and seen. I do not recommend this one to children or young teens for these reasons. The author handled these scenes with great sensitivity and respect, but you are still aware of the severity of the situation, so please take heed.
I recommend this book to those who love a strong heroine sent on a life-altering quest, those who are interested in Mexican culture, as this book deals with some of those topics, or anyone looking for a good steampunk adventure. You will fall in love with Juanita in The Engine Woman's Light!
The Engine Woman's Light
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