In 1876, fancy mail order magic is driving out homespun magic, the kind Emily Edwards practices. As her and her father's situation gets more and more desperate, she decides to snare a wealthy husband with a love spell. Her efforts, though meant well, completely backfire, and soon she finds herself racing across the country with Dreadnought Stanton, a snobbish warlock from New York City, on a frantic effort to reach the centre of the warlock's world before it's too late.
This was a great book in so many different ways. I love the setting - like other reviewers before me have said, it's that wild west meets magic that is surprisingly appealing. It reminds me of Firefly in a way, both set in a world full of cowboys but with added twists to make them fresh and new. Here we have not only magic but echoes of steampunk and a few other bits and pieces.
Hobson's ideas about magic are different from anything I've personally read, but the contrast is so apt for the time period when the mass catalogues started going out and people began to crave something other than homespun, homemade goods. This is a few years before that started to happen in real life, but it has that feel about it of the new pushing out the old, and the old struggling to survive in any way possible. The magic system develops very much along the course of the book, with new discoveries coming rapidly. It's obvious that Hobson has a lot of ideas and I'm really looking forward to her fleshing this version of our world out more. The end of the book hints at a sequel and I am crossing my fingers that this is true, because I would definitely like to spend more time here.
And then, of course, there is a fantastic romance, and I can't spoil that for anyone as it's right on the back cover. Plus, tension sparks between Emily and Dreadnought almost immediately, and I think it would be difficult to miss their eventual romance from the opening chapters of the book. It's a well done romance, too, without getting at all in the way of the plot. Instead it feels natural, inspired by the tension they're both experiencing and the chemistry that springs up between them. There are very few types of novels that I like better than a good fantasy with a side romance, so needless to say this book ticked all of those boxes for me.
The Native Star is a solid satisfying indulgence of a read, well worth the time for anyone who likes fantasy or romance. And it was a nominee for the Nebula award this year, which is a third-party agreement of this book's excellence.
on 5 July 2012
The goodreads and Amazon descriptions for The Native Star promise so many elements that it's hard to believe the novel could possibly deliver them all successfully: historical fiction, fantasy and magic, steampunk, western, and romance. And yet, this book is one of the rare cases when an idea that crosses so many genres and brings in many different aspects actually works well.
Emily Edwards is the local witch in a small town in California. The year is 1876, but this isn't quite the past that history books tell us about. Instead of being false accusations, it turns out that the witch trials were actually attempts to out real witches and warlocks, but in this alternate universe witchcraft has been legalized and magic is now an important part of the United States. However, not everyone is so accepting of it, and magic is also used illegally for criminal purposes or to manipulate people. Emily starts the story by deciding that the only way to save her and her father from their financial problems is to cast a love spell on a wealthy local man. Unfortunately, things don't go quite to plan, and before Emily can put things right she finds herself with a strange magic-absorbing stone embedded in her palm that prevents her from using magic and reversing the love spell.
Reluctantly teaming up with the insufferable warlock, Dreadnought Stanton, Emily must set out across the country to have the stone removed so she can eventually put things right again. However, the stone is far more valuable than Emily could have foreseen, and it turns out that just about everyone wants to get their hands on it. As Emily and Stanton flee for their lives, their relationship goes from barely tolerating one another to a begrudging friendship to something a little deeper. It's the kind of romance I enjoy reading, the kind that is built up slowly and steadily and had me caring about the characters first.
This is a really good fantasy historical steampunk western romance. The world Ms Hobson has created is vivid and easily imaginable. I like how she has cleverly woven magic into history and mixed it up with a touch of real life events and people - like President Grant - but kept it very fresh and exciting at the same time. The tone is mostly light-hearted and the pacing felt just right, I'm really really glad that I already have The Hidden Goddess waiting for me.
on 14 April 2013
This was an excellent steampunk western, and I'd fully recommend it to anyone who loves steampunk or just alternative history adventures.
M.K. Hobson blew me away with her world-building and sassy wonderful main characters. Both Emily and Stanton are a such contradiction as in they are polar opposite to each other it's pure fun to see them try and work together.
Emily is a young witch in a backwater country who can't even make a love spell without it going awry, and Dreadnaught is a stuffy young educated warlock who can't help but lament his exile away from civilised society of New York and point Emily's inadequacies to her.
Of course how it often happens, a magical mining explosion releases a horde of zombie-like creatures and unleashes a magical artifact that embeds itself in Emily's palm, and now the couple will have to travel to New York to help Emily to get rid of it.
However be wary of impending magical disaster, treachery among warlocks, a mounting movement of witch burning and political intrigues while they are at it. Add native American magic, cross-dressing, a villain with a flair, and an embarrassing growing attraction between Emily and Stanton, and you'd get an excellent, wonderful adventure!
on 11 September 2011
The Native Star combines the air of the old west with some traditional fantasy tropes, resulting in a story that's about equal parts historical fiction and magic. Emily Edwards is an intriguing heroine: stubborn and prone to making mistakes, she hates women's finery and has no intention of being a proper lady. She is brave and forthright and she refuses to be cowed by pompous warlock Dreadnought Stanton. The relationship between these two is well-drawn, and their dialogue often witty and amusing.
With clandestine magical societies, chilling government agencies, peculiar love charms, Native American shamans, possessions and dangerous "aberrancies", there's a great deal going on here to keep the reader entertained. There are also hints of steampunk about this novel, namely in the shape of a fantastically weird flying machine. I'll definitely be reading the sequel.