M.K. Hobson’s The Native Star is positively saturated in personality and wit. Upon opening this book I was immediately charmed by Hobson’s style of writing. The Native Star takes place in 1876 and she has nailed both the time period and culture while simultaneously adding a layer of historical magic as if it had always existed just as she describes.
I adore the main character, Emily Stanton. She is a small, mountain-town witch who is full of spunk and pluck. By result of an accident, Emily finds herself bound, quite physically, to a magical rock that sucks in and neutralizes all of her magical ability, as well as any magic happening around her. She is therefore jobless and forced to rely on the slightly more educated, insufferable visiting warlock, Dreadnought Stanton, to help her get rid of the rock.
To make things infinitely worse, just before the accident Emily made the horrific mistake of putting a love spell on one of the most eligible young men in Lost Pine, Nevada. Apparently she didn’t quite mix the formula correctly because this young man is now completely going berserk. In a jealous rage over her spending time with Mr. Stanton, Emily’s beau runs the both of them out of town.
Emily and Mr. Stanton (which is less of a mouthful to both say and write than his given name of Dreadnought) travel around the country trying to get to the great Professor Mirabilis who should surely be able to help her situation. Perhaps the journey wouldn’t have been so bad if the rock didn’t turn out to be very powerful and very coveted. The two heroes are chased from one end of the country to the other by an evil sect of warlocks who use blood taken from the living in order to add power to their spells. They want the rock almost as much as Emily wants to get rid of it.
Time is constantly ticking for Emily. Every occasion the rock absorbs magic it becomes less stable. Inside is a sort of magical goo-like soul sucking void that once it absorbs enough power will burst from the rock and morph Emily into a crazed creature that will attack everything around her until she is caught and killed. That is certainly the worst-case scenario, but as the book progresses and friends become enemies and enemies become the only ones left to trust, the worst-case scenario seems like the most likely.
And to add to all this, Mr. Stanton is a very annoying travelling partner.
It has been a while since I’ve come across a book that just plain charmed the pants off of me. I think I was most impressed by the very distinct personalities of the main characters and how Hobson never slipped in her writing of them. The relationship between these two very distinct characters was predictable, yet never uninteresting. The romance was subtle and believable. In the case of Emily and Mr. Stanton, opposites attracting works quite well.
I have one criticism. Throughout this book there were all sorts of imaginative and unforeseen run-ins with magic. The only one that seemed out of place was the fact that working in the mines of Emily’s home town were zombies. It wasn’t the concept of un-dead, soulless workers that was odd. It was merely the fact that she had used the term “zombie,” which is a creature very defined in people’s heads. I think perhaps if she had used the same concept with a name of her own creation, their presence would have been less jolting.
Of course that is a minor point. It in no way detracts from my enthusiasm for this book. The Native Star absolutely deserves its Nebula Award nomination. Hobson is a short story writer turned novelist. I hope very much that we see many more novels from this new author in the future.