Plague of Flies

Revolt of the Spirits, 1846

Young Adult - Fantasy - General
252 Pages
Reviewed on 01/24/2022
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Author Biography

Laurel Anne Hill—author and former underground storage tank operator—grew up in San Francisco with more dreams of adventure than good sense or money. Her close brushes with death, love of family, respect for honor and belief in a higher power continue to influence her writing and her life. Laurel classifies her recently-published third novel, PLAGUE OF FLIES: REVOLT OF THE SPIRITS, 1846, as historical fantasy/magical realism. This book relates the gripping tale of a young Latina in Mexican Alta California during the early days of the Bear Flag Rebellion. Her second novel, THE ENGINE WOMAN’S LIGHT (a spirits-meet-steampunk adventure set in an alternate 19th Century California) has won a total of thirteen honors and awards, including a Kirkus Star. So far, PLAGUE OF FLIES has received four honorable mentions and some terrific reviews. Laurel is the author of over thirty published short stories and many short nonfiction pieces, including one scientific paper. She swears that the spirits of her beloved husband and her Mexican ancestors continue to inspire her writing. More information at

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Plague of Flies: Revolt of the Spirits, 1846 is a work of fiction in the historical, cultural, and fantasy subgenres. It is intended for the young adult reading audience and was penned by author Laurel Anne Hill. As the title suggests, we find ourselves in the mid-nineteenth century in this action-packed story, where protagonist Catalina Delgado dreams of what her future will hold in terms of marriage and life among the cattle ranchers of Alta California. But a curse hangs over the young woman’s head, a promise that the mysterious Spirit Man would take Catalina away someday. So when invaders from the United States threaten her family and her future, Catalina must face the harsh realities of her past, present, and future at all once.

It is rare to find a work of historical fiction that blends its spiritual and fantasy elements into the plot in such a way that they appear totally realistic, but author Laurel Anne Hill has achieved it in this emotionally charged novel. One of the features which I found particularly impressive about this piece was its visual quality, describing the historic features of what would someday be modern California, from the gritty way of life for the locals through to the vicious invaders ripping through the land to take whatever they lay claim to, without mercy. I also found the dialogue totally accessible for the intended YA audience, but it also gives a great sense of culture and history to the piece. Plague of Flies is a highly recommended read for fans of westerns and YA coming-of-age tales alike.

Tiffany Ferrell

The year is 1846 in Alta California when Catalina’s world was turned upside down. She finds out her mother isn’t her birth mom and that they were about to be invaded by a bunch of rowdy Americans known as the Bear Flaggers, who just declared war on Mexico. These men have killed and captured many people that she knows, the most recent being the boy that she is supposed to marry. There is a lot for a sixteen-year-old to be afraid of, but nothing terrifies her more than the spirit man who rides through the sky with his Andalusian horse, who visits her each night taking her and showing what she must do. Catalina risks her reputation to try to save the boy she loves, but is she too late? Is her betrothed among those murdered by the Bear Flaggers?

I thought Plague Of Flies was an interesting and amazing read. Being a huge history buff I always love historical fiction. I thought it was brilliant that the author used the Bear Flaggers Strike in which settlers of California declare themselves independent of Mexico. I haven’t come across a story that wove a tale around this event in history but I am here for it. Definitely worth the read! The characters are very relatable and so well thought out that I felt like I was reading a true tale told by a person who went through this ordeal. Needless to say, I really enjoyed Plague Of Flies and I cannot wait to read more of Laurel Anne Hill’s work.

Grant Leishman

Plague of Flies: Revolt of the Spirits, 1846 by Laurel Anne Hill is a historical fantasy adventure that takes us back to the California of the 1840s, which was still very much Mexican and, by extension, Spanish territory. Beautiful sixteen-year-old Californian Catalina Delgado didn’t want much from life, just to marry her beloved Angelo Ortega and continue to farm the land of her family. The problem was that the invaders from across the Sierra Nevada, the United States, the men they called the “Bear Flaggers,” were eyeing California with the intention of adding it to their relatively new nation and had declared war on Catalina’s beloved Mexico. When Catalina discovers she is not who she thinks she is, her perspective on everything is suddenly changed. When she is put to the test, she receives answers from the spirits and a strange spirit man who rides a black Andalusian stallion through the sky. Charged with hiding California’s most valuable resource from the greedy and determined Bear Flaggers, she will embark on an adventure that will challenge every aspect of her courage and determination.

Plague of Flies is a powerfully evocative novel that conjures up images of Mexican nobility and bravery that American history has frequently sought to play down and diminish. Author Laurel Anne Hill presents us with a wonderfully strong and sensitive girl who is deeply affected by her own romantic dreams and yet is able to find a depth and ability that few Mexican women were ever allowed to display or explore in what was a profoundly masculine society, where a woman’s chasteness and virtue was sacrosanct and valued above all other qualities or abilities. I particularly enjoyed that Catalina was not only able to hold her own in most circumstances but was also willing to buck tradition and expectations where it was needed. Her relationship with her Costanoan servant girl was one of the highlights of the story from my perspective. The friendship and trust were far more than one would ever expect between a servant and the daughter of a moderately wealthy Mexican family. The writing was highly descriptive and lyrical with the supernatural twist to the tale certainly adding to an adventure set in such a unique and challenging landscape. This was a fun read and one I’m sure will appeal to all romantics at heart, especially those with a supernatural bent.