7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson

Title: The Hidden Goddess

Author: M.K. Hobson

Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk/Gaslamp, Speculative Fiction, Alternate History

Publisher: Spectra
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.

Review:

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

 

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle, nook, kobo, and sony

  1. yes, I’m looking at you, Parasol Protectorate books and your shameless ripoff of Elizabeth Peters!

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5 Comments

  • Estelle
    May 6, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    I’m so glad to see you’ve posted this review! I finished this book a few days ago and really liked but not as much as The Native Star.

    What I loved so much about TNS is what you describe about the world building, the chase and how it all ties down together. Steampunk in the Wild West? Brilliant.

    I didn’t get that “Wow” feeling about the world building when I was reading THG but then things where more static travel-wise.

    Where our opinions differ is that I loved that the book had more romantic elements than the first. I’m a romance reader first and foremost and I was glad to see more of Emily and Stanton’s relationship.

    What bothered me a bit is Stanton’s storyline. WARNING HUGE SPOILERS
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    The whole 13th reincarnation of a goddess’ lover + evil ex-mistress (that second one is a romance trope I don’t much care for) thing was way too over-the-top for me. I thought that there was enough material with his past as a sangrimancer to provide internal and external conflicts (ie: the fact that he killed people was a problem but it was dealt with too swiftly and easily for my taste). I think the story could have remained much the same without the reincarnation bit which didn’t really serve much purpose IMO. I liked Stanton better as a pompous credomancer with a shady sangrimancer past. No need to add a connection to the goddess as well. Plus it made his decision to be with Emily even more puzzling and selfish. Deciding to start a relationship while knowing you might have only 10 years to live is something. Deciding to start a relationship when you know that you’ll have to burn yourself to a crisp pretty soon to eradicate an evil goddess is quite another.

    END SPOILERS

    And now I feel like re-reading the two books back to back. When reading THG, I realized that I’d forgotten many details from TNS. I love that these books are dense detail-wise and carefully crafted (I LOVE M K Hobson’s voice) but that makes it harder to remember everything when it’s been a while since you’ve read the first book.

  • Deirdre
    May 8, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Estelle, I agree with you. I just finished reading this book and while I really liked it, I thought it wasn’t as good as Native Star.

    *SPOILERS*
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    I too felt that the whole evil ex thing was an an unneccesary way to ratchet up the tension between Emily and Stanton and create a possible obstecle to their relationship. It’s so overdone, especially when the author makes the ex so vampy and overly-the-top evil into the bargain.

    Thea, I am not familiar with Amelia Peabody but I take your point about the banter between Stanton and Emily; in parts the repartee felt a bit…overdone, for lack of a better word.

    I still really liked this one, though Native Star had set the bar so high for me (it was one of my absolute favorites out of last year’s releases) that it would have been tough for The Hidden Goddess to meet or exceed the standards I had for it.

  • Gerre
    May 8, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    The Native Star was one of my favourite reads of 2010 so i have been waiting for The Hidden Goddess to be released (I noticed the release date on the review, wonder if it is out here in Australia??)

    by the sound of things The Hidden Goddess falls into the romance territory which i’m not really a fan of. im just not a fan of romance driven novels and i kind of feared that MK Hobson would take this route after The Native Star.
    I will look for the book in stores and hopefully its not as big of a disappointment as i suspect it will be…

    I also like how MK Hobson talks about multiple duologies following Emily/Dreadnought family bloodlines -that would be seriously awesome.

  • Thea
    May 9, 2011 at 9:40 am

    SPOILERS AHOY!

    Estelle and Dierdre – OMG YES. Yes, yes, yes, to everything you’ve both said. I didn’t want to mention any of this in the full review to avoid spoilers as much as possible but holy crap did those facets of the story (ESPECIALLY Stanton’s backstory) really annoy me. The Evil Ex was frustrating as hell too, and sort of…well, cheapened the experience for me. Know what I mean?

    And it is a shame because I loved The Native Star so much, but this second book seemed to want to capitalize on melodrama/romance – I suspect in order to try to tap into that Gail Carriger audience.

    (Dierdre – Amelia Peabody rules! Not SF at all, but historical mystery fiction with a light romantic twist, and a kick-ass heroine. Totally recommended!)

  • Estelle
    May 10, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I do know what you mean Thea! I’m an avid romace reader so the romance aspects were a plus for me but this part of the plot was a big no-no. It was simply unecessary and, yes, did cheapen my experience as well. A backstory such as Stanton’s would usually be a deal-breaker for me so it says a lot about how much I loved The Native Star and the world Hobson created that I still managed to enjoy THG as much as I did.

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