Add a pinch of Native American Indian magic, a dash of Wiccan Earth magic, a splash of paganism, a heaping of classic fantasy style magic and a side of warlocks. Place it all in the US late 1870’s and you have the perfect recipe for M.K. Hobson’s new book, The Native Star.
Hobson places her story in the historical California and New York, giving accurate descriptions, details, and references for the late 1800’s. She adds her fantastic tale of magic, in its various forms, both historical and fictional, intertwined with the early American struggles of the times. References to the Civil War, President Grant, and traveling the railroad are familiar, but don’t come off like a history lesson. Instead they immerse the reader in the struggles of the times and make the magic seem all the more real and possible.
Meet Emily Edwards, a witch who practices Earth magic by making salves, elixirs, hexes and charms in the California town of Lost Pines. Emily lives with her recently blinded, adoptive father (and his 20 or so cats!) up on Moody Ridge and learned all she knows from him. Emily and her father are struggling financially as the mail catalog company Baugh’s Paten Magicks takes more and more of their local magical business. In desperation, Emily performs bad magic by casting a love spell on the local well-to-do lumberman Dag Hansen. She hopes that he will marry her and alleviate the financial burden of her father’s care. At the dance following Dag’s barn raising, Emily’s spell is in full effect. As part of the entertainment, a once Sufi holy man named Besim performs a Cassandra (a type of predication) and in his trance accuses Emily of performing bad magic and warns of the Corpse Switch failing that will unleash the zombie miners from the Old China mine into Lost Pine. Since Emily knows Besim is right by casting her love spell, she also knows that he must be right about the Switch.
Also in Lost Pine is Dreadnought Stanton, a Warlock tenured there by the Marabilis Institute of Credomancy with the mission to enlighten the backwoods magic users. Hearing the Cassandra and recognizing the effects of Emily’s spell on Dag, Mr. Stanton follows Emily as she investigates the Corpse Switch up at the old mine. As the events unfold, the zombie mine workers are running amuck and escaping the mine. Emily falls, resulting in a clear blue crystal becoming embedded in her hand. The story unfolds as the crystal’s magic absorbing properties are revealed, and Emily must travel with Mr. Stanton to the Institute to have it removed so she can undo the love spell she cast on Dag. As the pair set off on this mission, more information is gleaned about the crystal, and they encounter several factions who wish to acquire it or control Emily to get it.
Hobson portrays Emily and Dreadnought at odds about magic theory and constantly butting heads. Emily is down to earth and Dreadnought comes off as stuck up, snooty and above those around him. One would think this would make him the bad guy in the story, but Hobson provides readers with plenty of enemy factions that make not only the characters learn to like and respect each other, but also cause readers to root for success in their mission to have the stone removed from Emily’s hand. Hobson provides several twists in the story so what may seem a predictable outcome, is not.
Readers who enjoy historical fiction or fantasy magic will feel right at home with this book. Hobson has done her homework, both in the area of US history and in the various spiritual and magical beliefs of modern and historical times. Her creativity shines as she combines this homework with the fantasy magic of her imagination. The Native Staris a stand alone novel but ends with the impression that we could see more of Emily and Dreadnought in the future. Readers who are looking for a break from the standard fantasy of Dwarves, Elves, and Gnomes should check out The Native Star. They will be pleasantly surprised at this creative addition to the fantasy genre.