4 out of 4 stars
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The Engine Woman’s Light by Laurel Anne Hill is a dystopian young adult novel set in an alternate version of California.
The village of Promise in North California has long helped passengers from a nearby train line that carries the unwanted to a workhouse/asylum in British South California. Juanita Elise Jame-Navarro was one of those rescued when she was a baby; now 15, she is becoming a “mystical traveler” for her tribe. From the Shadow World, she gets a mission to sabotage one of those trains to save her people. The villagers know that once they have completed this mission, their village will no longer be safe for them, so they plan to migrate to Mexico after they stop the train. Juanita has spirit guides to help her, such as her ancestor Billy, a locomotive engineer who calls her “Little Engine Woman”.
The plan is set and the villagers all head out to sabotage the train. Something goes terribly wrong, killing a lot of the Promise villagers. Juanita is badly injured and rescued by Pilgrims that take her to their village. Feeling betrayed by the Shadow World and heartbroken over the deaths of those closest to her, Juanita bides her time. Two years later, her ancestor Billy is back, again to insist she partakes on a perilous mission to sabotage not only a train but the lines. The goal is to stop the trains and force a powerful, unscrupulous family, the Mendoza’s, to either shut down or clean up the asylum. During her new mission, Juanita learns truths about her family history and about her own strengths.
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would from the title, cover and the small description of the story when I selected it. The story seems to be about the tasks that Juanita is directed to perform but it is so much more. It is more about a young woman’s maturing understanding of herself, her history, the Shadow World, and relationships in both worlds.
The story is more a book about people, their choices and their consequences and not the inventions. However, the author has done her homework with researching about trains and their operations and describes this well throughout the story. She even adds in the steampunk influence with some people wearing top hats and goggles. There is also a clockwork man and a mystical tin airship.
There are a few things that Juanita and others in the story go through that I would have preferred not having to read but the author does a great job of getting into what happens without too many details which I appreciated.
I rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. The book appears to have been professionally edited since I did not find any errors. I would recommend this book to readers that enjoy a coming-of-age story but also to those that enjoy the mystical genre mixed with a little adventure.
The Engine Woman's Light
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