This is the first novel I read by Engdahl, and she quickly became my favorite sci-fi author. I love the blend of fantasy and sci-fi. I love how rational the books is - despite the fantastical elements. This is the book that really changed my mind about space travel. Before, I didn't really understand why we should hurry and move forward in that direction. But, the book sold me on why it's important for humans to expand beyond this planet. On top of that, the plot is fantastic and engaging. I love, love the heroine as well. Great book!
I wasn't aware when I ordered this book that it was a YA selection... now, I pretty often read books that have been marketed toward teens - but I have this perception of two types of teen books (or childrens' books, for that matter.) One type is where the author had a story to tell, and told it, and then the publisher decided, for what ever reason, that the story would sell more to young people... and then the second sort is where the author says, "I feel like imparting a Valuable Message to Young People Today, so I will write an Instructive Book."
Unfortunately, I feel that 'Enchantress From the Stars' is firmly in the second category.
The protagonist, Alana, is a young woman from an advanced human culture, much like Ursula LeGuin's Ekumen - they travel the stars, studying, mostly keeping their nose out of more primitive planets' affairs (Prime Directive?) but anonymously interfering in the case of potential disaster.
In this case, a primitive planet has been invaded by a colonizing team from a more technologically advanced and violent culture. The locals see the machines and gear of the invaders in the context of dragons and spells. Alana, although not yet a sworn member of the team, stows away on her father's ship, and is forced to become a full-fledged member of the team when one team member abruptly dies. Although unprepared, she must play the role of an 'enchantress' to the locals, who live in a culture similar to that seen in Western fairy tales.
The plan is to convince the colonists that the locals possess 'magic' or psychic powers, in order to scare them into leaving. In doing so, Alana gains some experience and maturity, falls in love (sorta), and learns respect for those from less-advanced societies.
I didn't really buy that this whole 'plan' would work at all - the way the invading culture was presented, I'm sure they would be much more interested in studying a primitive race with psychic powers, rather than just running away, no questions asked.
My other problem with it is that the book is written in the format of a letter from Alana to a cousin (whom we never meet). However, the narrative spends a LOT of time explaining things about the society and culture that Alana lives in that she would never feel the need to state explicitly to a relative living in the same milieu. This sort of thing is one of my big pet peeves in literature...
Wonderful SF novel that can be enjoyed by teens or adults seeking a well written book without graphic elements.