The Witch Owl Parliament (Clockwork Curandera #1)
By School Library Connection
This book combines a steampunk aesthetic with a slightly alternate universe Mexico in 1865. With Cristina, a Mexican curandera (a traditional healer/shaman figure), acting as the heroine with a band of friends, one of whom is a shape-shifter, to back her up, the story follows her quest to save her people using all the knowledge and power she has. The story starts with an attack on a train by owl shape-shifters that seem to specifically target Cristina. She is resurrected from death by her brother, Enrique, a believer in alchemy and engineering. Operating out of a small mission run by nuns who raised the siblings after they were orphaned, Cristina and Enrique set out to destroy the owl witches and find out who or what is behind their resurgence of power. Along the way Enrique's friend, a shape-shifting wolf named Mateo, joins their fight. Flashbacks reveal Enrique's backstory and explain his disenchantment with the Church—as a gay man, he was expelled for pursuing a relationship as well as studying Islamic knowledge and practicing alchemy. This volume ends with a scene that leaves open the door for the next episode. The artwork is done in a bold, dark, slashing style that emphasizes the tension of the action and emotions taking place. Terms written in Indigenous Mexican languages (Nahuatl and several Coahuiltecan languages) are defined immediately following the panels in which they appear, allowing readers to seamlessly maintain their understanding of the text. A short prequel episode, presented purely in text form, is included at the end. A blend of tradition and history combined with steampunk-esque technology lend a new twist to this traditional story about resistance against imperialism in the homeland. Recommended.