Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com
Sixteen-year-old Dovella is a promising engineering apprentice, with a surprising gift for healing. Torn between being an engineering apprentice or a healing apprentice, Dovella chooses engineering partly because the Master Healer doesn't believe that women should be healers, and she would never be fully accepted as long as he were in charge. So, now she is an apprentice to her mother, the Master Engineer, and helps with her father's healing work in her free time.
Engineering work is a precise ritual. Dovella has almost a sixth sense for the machine. Not that she gets any special treatment for it. It often seems as if the Master Engineer is particularly hard on her daughter. Perhaps she doesn't want to seem to be babying her daughter, or perhaps this is her way of encouraging the talent she sees in her. Either way, Dovella has an impressive ability, and a genuine appreciation for the work. It doesn't hurt that one of the other apprentices, Jael, is nice to look at. Dovella has acquired a bit of a crush on him.
Dovella has a true and amazing gift as a healer as well. Her father has never seen anyone heal quite the way she does. It's instinctual, and something she has always done. It's almost too good. Given the Master Healer's feelings about women, it's safer if Dovella keep her true gift a secret. She can still practice, but only in the presence of her father and the few other people who know. It's almost time for Dovella to take the Rites of the Healer. Thankfully being an apprentice healer is not a requirement. She's not sure how she will be able to simultaneously hide her ability as well as use it, but she'll figure that out when the time comes.
Now, more than ever, it is important that Dovella be well-trained in both her chosen fields. For many years the village has relied on the machine to provide water. For the first time in anyone's memory it hasn't been working properly. Soon the village will run out of water and food if the problem can't be solved. As if that weren't bad enough, the village is being torn in half over beliefs. A new group is gaining followers, many in high places. Their beliefs challenge the right to knowledge by all people. If this group were to gain power, they would determine who was allowed to know what, as well as dictate how that knowledge is interpreted and used. And they are using the breakdown of the machine as evidence of the current systems failure. Dovella's parents, and some of their friends, find the timing of these two events a little bit too coincidental. But no one seems to know what to do. The source of the water and the machine is unknown. Even if someone could find it, it would be an incredibly dangerous trip -- the odds that they could locate the problem, much less fix it, are very slim. It's becoming obvious that it's a chance that must be taken. And it seems like Dovella is the only one who can do it.
Dovella has very little time to accomplish the impossible, while being in mortal danger. It also means that she will miss the Rites, and there's no way the Master Healer will make an exception for her. She doesn't really seem to have much of a choice, though.
As the violence in the village escalates, Dovella begins her journey. It's a journey that will make Dovella question everything she's been taught, and everything she believes. It will test her strength, her willpower, and both of her gifts. Maybe, just maybe, she'll save the village, and make it home alive. If the village doesn't destroy itself while she's gone.
I loved this book! It is a good storyline that is beautifully drawn out. Suspenseful and adventurous, as well as empowering, Dovella is a fantastic heroine. She's scared at times, often unsure and somewhat unwilling. She has long-held, strong beliefs about some things, and is slowly discovering that some of those might be wrong. I like that there is no easy answer, and no simple change in beliefs. The story takes its time with the events and characters, so that they are both allowed to grow and progress naturally. Their is no easy answer in life, and we aren't forced one in this story. Dovella is flawed, and that makes her more real. The whole book has an underlying feeling of realism, which often gets missed in a lot of fantasy novels. It also makes you question your beliefs, and gives an outside look at prejudice, without being preachy.
This book was such a pleasant surprise, I can only hope there are more like this on the way.