3 out of 4 stars
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The Engine Woman’s Light by Laurel Anne Hill is a science fiction adventure set in a steampunk version of the late 1800’s. Juanita Elise Jame-Navarro is a mystic traveler of the village of Promise in North California. She can communicate with the spirits of the Shadow World. Outside of Promise, the world is full of suffering. Juanita receives a mission to end some of that suffering.
Juanita’s mission begins when she experiences a vision from Moses. Unwanted people are being sent to an asylum in California. The spirits warn her of a plan to murder the asylum’s inmates. She needs to save them before it’s too late. Juanita must convince the others to join her on this dangerous mission even though it would mean the end of Promise as they know it. To save lives, they must risk lives. But Juanita has no idea what this mission will cost her, or just how much more the spirits will demand of her.
I liked a number of aspects about this book. I found the plot to be well-executed and unique in multiple ways. On the one hand, it’s a classic tale of a girl on a quest. On the other hand, she is aided by the spirits of her ancestors. She navigates relationships with friends and foes, one often turning into the other. All of the characters in this book have a dark side, some of them very, very dark. For everything you expect in this story, there is something you don’t expect. Even what you predict might not happen in the way you predicted.
There were also a number of aspects I didn’t like about this book. Some parts seemed long and dry, descriptions of places or people that were unnecessary. Some of the information on trains also seemed long or unnecessary. To not give anything away, I’ll be vague when I say there is at least one major event in Juanita’s life that I feel was unnecessary. It doesn’t add to the plot, and it doesn’t add any development to her character. Taking it out of the book changes nothing. Moreover, the way the event is treated leaves me confused as to what the author’s intention is. Whether she intended it or not, I don’t agree with the message that comes across.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. It’s well-written and worth the read. It’s entertaining, but looking deeper, it didn’t sit well with me. I was left with a number of questions when it was over, and I like a book to feel more finished than that. Be warned there are mature aspects in this book such as rape. If mysticism or shamanism offends you, don’t read this book. I recommend it to mature audiences only.
The Engine Woman's Light
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