One of the authors featured in Clockwork Wonderland is Laurel Anne Hill. Laurel Anne’s story is called Gone a’ Hunting and is about a girl who goes on a rabbit hunt and gets caught in a place where she has plenty of time to think about what she has done. Laurel Anne Hill has been featured on the horroraddicts podcast a few times, being voted most wicked in 2011 for her steampunk/horror podcast: “Flight of Destiny. She has also been published in several anthologies and recently released her second novel, The Engine Woman’s Light. To learn more about her visit her website: http://laurelannehill.com/ and keep reading for my review of The Engine Woman’s Light.
Jaunita has had an interesting past, she was abandoned and left on a train going to an asylum for the poor. Luckily she was saved by her great grandma Zetta and the ghost of Zetta’s husband, Javiar. She ends up in a small village where at the age of fifteen she has a mystical vision of a dead captain in an airship. She is told that it is her mission to put a stop to trains carrying California’s unwanted masses to an asylum where they will live and work until they die. A plan is in place to murder part of the asylum’s inmates to bring the asylum’s population down and Jaunita may have to murder people to put a stop to it.
Jaunita will not be alone though, she will have the help of her ghost ancestors and will meet other characters with complicated pasts. Jaunita will learn that her family has a dark side and she herself will have to do some horrible things to fulfill her mission. Jaunita is on a path that will change history along with her life, the question being can she live with the new person she will become? Jaunita lives in an alternative nineteenth-century steampunk world where spirits communicate with the living and our loved ones never really leave our sides.
If I was to use one word to describe Laurel Anne Hill’s The Engine Woman’s Light I would use “different.” Laurel Anne has created the world that made me think of an old western with steampunk elements and spiritualism thrown in for good measure. The way the settings are described really bring everything to life and you can see yourself living in this world with its vivid descriptions. Since I haven’t read too many westerns or much steampunk, this book was like entering a new world, which was easy to get hooked on. Right away you are invested in Jaunita’s story since she was a baby she defied all odds. After being abandoned and saved, she is forced into a lifechanging mission that she has to accomplish whether she wants to or not.
One thing I like about this story is that all the characters are shades of gray. Some characters here can be considered good, but sometimes they do bad things. There is a theme of redemption that runs through this book for a couple of the characters and even Jaunita wants to be redeemed for some of the actions she is forced to suffer through. The spirits in Jaunita’s family have done bad things in the past and are looking to get redemption through Jaunita and some of their actions have a bad effect on her.
Another theme in this book I liked was the idea that the people you love or have a connection to, are never far away. Jaunita’s ancestors still talk to her, even though they are dead. Even Jaunita’s dead mother who she never met is always close to her. At one point we discover that two of the men in her life have a connection to her going way back. While reading this I felt that Laurel Anne Hill wanted to get the idea across that we are all connected whether we think it or not and even when someone is gone, they are never really gone.
One of my favorite scenes in The Engine Woman’s Light is when Juanita is starting to have feelings for the man she calls Guide. When Guide reveals who he really is and what he has done in the past, Jaunita’s heart is broken, but they stay together to continue their mission and their relationship changes. Everlasting love is also a theme in this book as well as accepting someone for the good and bad they did in life. If you like books that transport you to a different time and place, then check this one out.