Author: M.K. Hobson
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk/Gaslamp, Speculative Fiction, Alternate History
Publication Date: April 2011
Paperback: 384 Pages
In a brilliant mix of magic, history, and romance, M. K. Hobson moves her feisty young Witch, Emily Edwards, from the Old West of 1876 to turn-of-the-nineteenth-century New York City, whose polished surfaces conceal as much danger as anything west of the Rockies.
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?
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Emily Edwards/Dreadnought Stanton Duology
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: I really, wholeheartedly enjoyed the first book in this series, The Native Star and was THRILLED to see that it was nominated for the Nebula Award this year! I loved the book so much that it made my notable reads of 2010 list, and The Hidden Goddess was automatically placed on my most highly anticipated reads of 2011 list (yes, I like lists!). I could not wait until this baby was released, so of course I nabbed it as soon as the ebook was available.
Emily Edwards – soon to become Emily Stanton – has survived being chased across the country, abberancies and power-crazed fanatics in tow, and has somehow emerged (mostly) unscathed. Though she’s lost the hand that once had the so-called Native Star rooted in her flesh and bone, Emily has gained one fiancee in the powerful Dreadnought Stanton. Life has settled down for Emily, and though she is no longer in constant mortal peril, Emily faces an entirely new set of formidable challenges as she struggles to fit in with Stanton’s high society family and his newfound status as both national hero and credomantic leader. The perils of New York society, however treacherous, are soon to become the least of Emily and Stanton’s worries as an awaking evil threatens to consume the world. With disturbing hidden secrets about Emily’s past coming to surface, it is once again up to Emily and Stanton to save the world from the clutches of a destructive blood Goddess and her followers.
As I said before, I loved The Native Star and was The Hidden Goddess was one of my most highly anticipated reads of this year. So, how does The Hidden Goddess stack up to it’s awesome predecessor? Well…though The Hidden Goddess is undeniably a solid good book, highly enjoyable and very readable, it doesn’t quite live up to the shine of The Native Star. There’s a shift in focus and tone in this second book, which I think accounted for the root of my disappointment. What I loved so much about book one was the breakneck action and chase-story, married to different magical systems in an alternate American Wild West sort of setting (with steampunkish elements!) – and though this is all present in book 2, the locus of the story seems to have shifted ever-so-slightly towards the more romantic tropes (perhaps in an attempt to garner a larger cross-genre audience). The Hidden Goddess basically kicks off by focusing on incorrigible Emily as she tries to stay afloat in society of rigid social etiquette, tight stays, and a busy/hero-worshipped fiancee – and while this was very pleasant and fun, it’s not really what I wanted to read about (and certainly not for the first half of the novel). There are also some exchanges between Dreadnought and Emily of the Amelia Peabody and Emerson Radcliffe variety – which is to say it’s witty and humorous with that underlying sexual angle, but it didn’t really feel…authentic. Perhaps this is because Emily and Dreadnought are in 19th century America and not England? I don’t know. It felt forced to me, and trying to capitalize on the number of Amelia Peabody-ish dialogue that a number of so-called “steampunk” books employ.1 And while I love Emily’s tenacity and her stubbornness just as I love Dreadnought’s wryness and secretive nature, I can’t help but wish that the actual exciting bits of the book started sooner, and that the focus of the novel remained on magic and Impending Doom (as opposed to the romance and Impending Nuptials).
That criticism aside, when The Hidden Goddess gets going, it really gets good. The revelations about both Dreadnought’s closely guarded secrets and Emily’s past and her family, and the closer look at the Sini Mira (those mysterious Russians with a vested interest in Emily and her mother for reasons unbeknownst to us in The Native Star) is fantastic stuff. The titular Goddess, an Aztec Goddess with a hunger for blood and destruction, and her loyal followers are also wonderfully detailed, and I liked this new slant on the already impressive world that Ms. Hobson created in The Native Star. Also, how cool is it that the magics in this series focus not just on western pantheons and the usual witches and wizardry, but also include Native American and Central American influences? Big props for that. And finally, the book ties together nicely, ending what turns out to have been a duology – although I sincerely hope there will be more, following different characters, in the future.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this book – fun, quick, and (eventually) full of the danger, magic, and juicy character revelations that I so loved from The Native Star. Although I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the more superfluous/fluffy elements, The Hidden Goddess is a solid read, and I hope that there are more books set in this world!
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
The Message in the Steam
Wednesday, June 18, 1876 New York City
Emily Edwards sat in her future mother-in-law’s front parlor, sweating in a stiff dress of lilac-colored taffeta and contemplating death.
Could one die from boredom, she wondered? From complete, oppressive, crushing, unmitigated boredom, the likes of which made all other boredom seem like ecstasy’s sweet thrilling embrace? And in such a case, if one happened to have a life insurance policy, would it pay?
The room was stifling. None of the windows were open, even though it was eighty degrees out and muggy as the inside of a dead badger. The room’s carved mahogany paneling sweated the sharp pungent smell of old lacquer. The wallpaper above it—a profusion of gilded leaves and obsessively wrought peonies in shades of plum and peach—seemed to glisten humidly. A pair of cherubs, frolicking blissfully naked atop a gilt mantel clock, were almost certainly laughing at her.
There were six women in the room, waiting for tea that would be served piping hot. It was herself, Mrs. Stanton, Mrs. Stanton’s three daughters (Euphemia, Ophidia, and Hortense), and Miss Jesczenka. They had decided it would be pleasant to read a selection from Wordsworth. Or rather, Mrs. Stanton had decided that it would be pleasant, and as seemed to be the case in all things pertaining to the precise ordering of Mrs. Stanton’s world, no one had dared contradict her.
This, apparently, was how people amused themselves in New York.
You can read the full excerpt online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: M.K. Hobson on the question of more books in this series (POSSIBLE SPOILERS!):
I have always envisioned THE NATIVE STAR and THE HIDDEN GODDESS as a duology that kicks off a much longer series. In fact, I even have a name for said series (Omnipotens Veneficus) but that hardly matters at the moment because you can’t have a series with just 2 books in it. So yeah, I need to write more books. I’ve envisioned the series as an extended family saga, progressing through American history in sets of duologies — so we have the first duology (THE NATIVE STAR and THE HIDDEN GODDESS) and then we skip forward 30 years (to 1910) for the next duology, which follows Emily & Dreadnought’s youngest son. Then we skip forward another unspecified amount of time for another duology, following one of Emily & Dreadnought’s grandchildren, and so on, through to the present day. Anyway, that’s the way I’ve imagined this working, but as we all know, the plans of mice and men gang aft alglay or however the hell that goes.
Anyway, the bottom line is that I intend to write at least 2 more books in the series, and hopefully many more.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
Reading Next: Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky
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- yes, I’m looking at you, Parasol Protectorate books and your shameless ripoff of Elizabeth Peters! ↩