Friday, June 17, 2011

Review: The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson


The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson
Published: Bantam Spectra, 2011
Series: sequel to The Native Star
The Book:
There are necessarily a few spoilers in this review of the first book in the series, The Native Star, so continue at your own risk!
Like it or not, Emily has fallen in love with Dreadnought Stanton, a New York Warlock as irresistible as he is insufferable. Newly engaged, she now must brave Dreadnought’s family and the magical elite of the nation’s wealthiest city. Not everyone is pleased with the impending nuptials, especially Emily’s future mother-in-law, a sociopathic socialite. But there are greater challenges still: confining couture, sinister Russian scientists, and a deathless Aztec goddess who dreams of plunging the world into apocalypse. With all they must confront, do Emily and Dreadnought have any hope of a happily-ever-after?” ~barnesandnoble.com
This is the sequel to The Native Star, M.K. Hobson’s Nebula-nominated first novel.  I was really impressed with The Native Star’s interesting historical-magical world, so I decided to follow the series.  The Hidden Goddess did not quite live up to its predecessor, in my opinion, but that could be due to my disinterest in romance. 
My Thoughts:
While The Native Star was a magical adventure with a dash of romance, The Hidden Goddess is a meandering magical tale of romantic love.  The story revolves around Emily and Stanton, the witch and warlock who fell in love in the previous novel.  Emily, a rural witch, was adopted under mysterious circumstances, and she has no memory of her biological family.  She fell in love with the haughty, high-class warlock Stanton.  She knew that he used to be a sangrimancer (blood magic practitioner), but she believed in his fundamental decency.  The core of the novel concerns Emily and Stanton learning much more about themselves and each other, and having to determine if their relationship (and their lives!) can make it through the challenges ahead.  There are other, more magical plots woven into this, such as the Russian scientists scheme to poison magic and the apocalypse of the obsidian goddess, but even these stories were linked in some way to the topic of romantic love. 
I think that anyone who wished The Native Star had focused more on the Emily and Stanton’s love will find The Hidden Goddess to be a welcome continuation of the story. I’m not much of a romance fan, but my existing interest in the lovers made it easier to be drawn into the story.  Even so, I was occasionally distracted by some of the more clich├ęd romance elements. There was Stanton’s evil ex, the whole ‘pretty country girl dragged into polite society’ bit, and various misunderstandings due to lack of communication.  It wasn’t enough to put me off the book entirely, though, since I had been looking forward to learning more about their histories and seeing their relationship develop.
While everything in the novel links back neatly to themes of romantic love, the explicit plot in The Hidden Goddess sometimes felt a little meandering.  The Native Star had a clear chase plot, and it was focused around the immediate concern of dealing with the “Native Star” magical artifact.  For the first part of The Hidden Goddess, Emily seems to spend a lot of time either trying to survive ‘high society’ or wandering around.  Her travels are certainly interesting, but her purpose is mostly to make herself scarce as Stanton deals with the aftermath of The Native Star.  The story does become more intense and exciting towards the end, but the novel, as a whole, ended up feeling a little uneven to me.
One minor character that really stole the show for me was Miss Jesczenka, Emily’s ‘social guide’ in New York. Much more than a simple etiquette advisor, Miss Jesczenka is the only female faculty member of the Credomantic (faith magic) Institute.  I was initially impressed that she was able to practice in the field at all, since credomancy is based on the belief of others in your power.  In Stanton’s society, women are treated with, at best, sneering condescension.  Though she was not the main character, her story of coping as a woman in a male-dominated field (and society) really struck a chord with me.
My Rating: 3.5/5
In The Hidden Goddess, featuring the continuing story of Emily Edwards and Dreadnought Stanton, the focus shifts towards romance. While there is a fair bit of magical adventure, including an impending apocalypse and the possible poisoning of all magic, everything ties back in some way to romantic love.   However, the emphasis on romance also led to a number of common romance clich├ęs, and it took quite a while for the magical plot to really take shape.  The first half of the book seemed a little aimless at times, as it followed Emily dealing with problems of etiquette and wandering around.  I don’t think that The Hidden Goddess was as strong of a novel overall as The Native Star, but it was still an entertaining addition to Emily and Stanton’s adventures. 

4 comments:

  1. I've recently finished "The Native Star" and did enjoy it. It's a book I've suggested my wife to read, and am happy to report she'll do so :-)

    However, it did not wow me to consider reading the sequel, or endear me enough to the characters to continue following their adventures. I did find the "limits" of magic laudable, and enjoyed the humor, particularly from the interactions between Dreadnought and Emily. Those felt very real.

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  2. I've heard she's going to write more, following Emily & Stanton's descendants through history. I'm not sure if I'm motivated to read past "The Hidden Goddess".

    I think that "The Native Star" is worth reading, though, with or without "The Hidden Goddess" afterward. I hope your wife enjoys "The Native Star"! :)

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  3. I'm attempting a different approach toward enticing her to venture into our genre of choice. I think, with respect, that romantic fanatasy is an easier "in" than giving her Gene Wolfe straightup :)

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  4. Yeah, I can see how "The Native Star" would be a fun "in" to the fantasy genre.

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