The Native Star by M.K. Hobson
Series: Veneficas Americana #1
Published on: August 31st 2010
Genres: Steampunk, Urban Fantasy
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The year is 1876. In the small Sierra Nevada settlement of Lost Pine, the town witch, Emily Edwards, is being run out of business by an influx of mail-order patent magics. Attempting to solve her problem with a love spell, Emily only makes things worse. But before she can undo the damage, an enchanted artifact falls into her possession—and suddenly Emily must flee for her life, pursued by evil warlocks who want the object for themselves.
The Native Heart pulses with oodles of creative juices. You will find so much of it in the names of items in this world such as Corpse Switches, Aberrancies, Mantic Anastomosis, and Basket of Secrets. I must say I am quite a sucker for the way these look on paper with their prominent capitals and foreignness to our everyday lives.
And in terms of foreignness, this steampunk world of post-Civil war America could not be more out-there. Certainly you will note the presence of Ulysses S. Grant somewhere in the background but the focus remains on magic and its varying levels.
Emily, an animancer, works with herbs and potions to heal and enspell the citizens of her Californian town. Of course, the Creed continues to be observed in this other world. Some things never change. Emily gradually gets caught up in this nationwide conspiracy, complete with four or five different groups all jarring for the power she has been unwillingly given. Some things never change. She will have to cross the nation. Some things do change.
Now with such a premise there is plenty of room for discovery, revealing to the reader all the keen imaginings that have trickled down from the author’s pen. I am happy to say that not only is the exotic nature well-deployed but it does not impair the movement of plot.
Probably the only complaint I can put forward is the rather brusque construction of the last eighty pages. Everything sort of crashes together and stays wrecked as the curtains fall.
I would have preferred a much more settled ending rather than this one which clearly points to a sequel. By no means does the ending leave me without a small pause so that I have a little time to pick up book two, but rather, contrary to my wishes, it is not stand-alone.
If you are keeping tabs as well on my fondness for book-in-book usage, I feel this one is pretty clever in that our protagonists deride trashy novels of the period for their hokey and predictable plot points when they, in fact, are subjects of a not so hokey or predictable but definitely trashy novel.
I should also mention this book seems to want to make a statement about environmentalism but thankfully the presence of wacky inventions and subtle romance sufficiently obscures it. It just does not feel right for something like this to try at the political realm. Let’s stick to the realm of plot where it so elegantly succeeds.