The Boxcar Baby by J.L. Mulvihill (Steel Roots; 1)


The Synopsis:

Born in a boxcar on a train bound for Georgia.

At least that is what Papa Steel always told AB’Gale. But now, fifteen years later, the man who adopted and raised her as his own is missing and it’s up to AB’Gale to find him. Aided only by a motley gang of friends, AB’Gale train hops her way across the United States in a desperate attempt to find her papa and put her life and family back the way it was. Her only guide is a map given to her by a mysterious hobo, with hand written clues she found hidden in her papa’s spyglass.
Here is the Great American Adventure in an alternate steampunk dystopian world, where fifteen-year-old AB’Gale Steel learns that nothing is as it seems, but instead is shrouded in secrets and mysteries … and that monsters come in all shapes and forms.

The Boxcar Baby is the first book of the Steel Roots series.

I received this book from the author via TCM Blog Tours for the purpose of this review. All comments and opinions are entirely my own.




The Boxcar Baby is a steampunk adventure with a touch of fantasy that will tug at your heart strings.

AB’Gale is a sweet but fiery character who desperately wants to find her adopted father. Everything in her normal life is ripped apart when he goes missing and it’s up to her to find him and put it back together.

This book took me a while to get into. I wasn’t taken with the writing style right off (it desperately needs an editor….), and a lot of the story confused me in the first several chapters. But as it picked up, I started to like Abby much more and the story became easier to follow; that is, until it turned fantasy.

I really enjoy fantasy don’t get me wrong, but during the first three quarters of the book, the story world felt like a steampunk/ Dystopian tale. With nothing to give me the idea that it was actually fantasy. Then all the sudden, one character asks another if she believes in vampires and werewolves and everything gets very weird from there. I wouldn’t have been taken so off guard if maybe a legend or scary story of some fantasy creature had been told at the beginning of the book, but as it is, it seemed to completely change genres suddenly. I feel like the author was going for the element of surprise, but I think there is such thing as too much surprise!

I adore the characters though! And the storyline itself is very intriguing. There is a lot of action, mystery, problem solving, and who doesn’t love a mysterious map to follow? And looking back at the story, I really feel like I enjoyed it after the initial shock of genre changing, so I’m very likely to finish the series.

It does have some mild cursing, several mentions of brothels as well as Abby herself explaining to younger girls what a brothel is, encounters with men who attempt to “have their way” with the young girls (not succeeding), and the action is shocking and borderline gory, though I didn’t think it crossed the line into horror. I definitely recommend it for older teens even though our main character is only 15, because of its dark themes.

Overall, I’m inclined to give The Boxcar Baby 3 stars out of 5, though now I know what to expect out of the story, the rest of the series may receive a higher rating.

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About the J.L Mulvihill:


Born in Hollywood and raised in San Diego, CA, J.L. Mulvihill has made Mississippi her home for the past fifteen years. Her debut novel was the young adult title The Lost Daughter of Easa, an engaging fantasy novel bordering on science-fiction with a dash of steampunk, published through Kerlak Publishing.
J.L. also has several short fiction pieces in publication, among them “Chilled Meat“, a steampunk thriller found in the Dreams of Steam II-Of Bolts and Brass, anthology (Kerlak Publishing) and “The Leprechaun’s Story“, a steampunk urban Fantasy found in the anthology, Clockwork, Spells, & Magical Bells (Kerlak Publishing).
J.L. is very active with the writing community, and is the events coordinator for the Mississippi Chapter of Imagicopter known as the Magnolia-Tower. She is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA), The Mississippi Writers Guild (MWG), as well as the Arts Council of Clinton, and the Clinton Ink-Slingers Writing Group.

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