3 out of 4 stars
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Abandoned at birth, Juanita was destined for the South California asylum, a place where all unwanted people go. Saved from a life of horror, Juanita is rescued from the train destined for the asylum by her great grandmother. She begins a new life in the village Promise, as their mystic traveler. A person who is able to commune with their ancestors beyond the grave and ask for their help in the living world. One day, Juanita is given a vision by Moses. A man will begin killing patients in the asylum if the people of Promise do not stop the trains. But everyone in the village must help her, or else Promise will cease to exist. As Juanita sets out to save the future of not only her village but those in the asylum, she will have to overcome many challenges. Juanita will learn that nothing comes without a price, and she must be willing to pay it.
Set in the 1890s, The Engine Woman's Light reads like a western sci-fi, filled with train heists, saloons, and gun battles. You will travel on horseback from rough towns that are reminiscent of the wild west, to sprawling estates of crime families. However, while the setting of each area is well detailed and rich in culture, it is hard to tell how close to reality these places actually are. For someone growing up in the 1890s it would be easy to tell fact from fiction, but those of a younger generation need more details. It was hard to grasp the politics of the world and understand why there were different nationalities claiming territory in California. The south and north are clearly divided for this novel, even going so far as to name Northern California as the Yankee North, but why?
Certain details were also missing from characters. The Mendoza family is labeled as ruthless. A family that the characters are better off not interacting with. However, there is little told to the reader about their history. Later on in the story, when Antonio Mendoza is introduced, I wasn't sure what to expect of him. What would be his evil? There should have been a better set up to allow the reader to understand him more as a character. As it was his brutality seemed overboard and only for shock value.
Laurel Anne Hill has written a novel with a well planned out and developed plot. There is no skipping around, and Juanita goes through a great amount of character development. Unfortunately, if you are a reader that enjoys faster-paced novels, this will not be the book for you. Majority of the novel is slow, taking time to build up to the crucial moments toward the end. But once the action starts, it doesn't stop. The last section of the book flew by as Juanita and her group hopped trains and battled against their enemies. Fans of westerns will surely enjoy this novel.
All together I rate The Engine Women's Light 3 out of 4 stars. It is a well edited and well-written novel. I found no errors. It was lacking some details to better understand the world and its characters, but the story was well developed and kept my interest.
The Engine Woman's Light
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