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First Novel--NATIVE STAR

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Yesterday was one of those spend-much-time-sitting-in-parking-lots days, but I didn't mind because I had M.K. Hobson's Native Star on hand, which I ripped through super fast, sneaking back to it every chance I could get.

Emily Edwards is a Witch, actually pretty much of a hedge witch, in a just-past-Civil War frontier town of Lone Pine, one universe over from our own. Desperate to save her old Pap and herself from starvation, she overcomes her better judgment to cast a love charm on a man who is decent, kind, successful, and strong. She doesn't happen to love him, but needs dictate.

But . . . right after she does it, an irritating Warlock named Dreadnought Stanton appears and scolds her for moral trespass. They are interrupted by news of zombies at the local mine, which Emily goes to investigate, and (unwanted) Stanton follows her. She ends up with a magic-sucking stone embedded in her hand, throwing her and Stanton on a wild cross-country trip to get rid of the thing before it can explode and turn her into a zombie, uncovering layers of secrets along the way--not only about how magic works, but about each other.

Hobson calls this "bustlepunk." What she gives the reader is a vivid, wisecracking style full of curiously nineteenth-century theory behind the magic, only it works. Further, there are ties to world mythologies, making it far more interesting.

I loved the period sense, and characters like Miss Pendennis, who ends up as Emily's union rep, in effect. I think the only moment I had trouble with was an exclamation by Emily that seemed wildly out of character for the period, and for a time I wondered if we were going to fall into the Evial Priests in Red syndrome (all Christians are stupid/evil), though either thing is unlikely to bother most readers.

There is a satisfactory resolution to this story, with threads firmly embedded for further adventures--making me glad, because I really want to read more about this world, and these characters, and this magic.

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( 48 comments — Comment? )
paragraphs
Sep. 1st, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
Buying that. Exactly the kind of book I am looking for these days. Thanks!
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Enjoy!
paragraphs
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
My list is way too long after going to Armadillocon, as I couldn't buy anything just yet (the joys of getting my son into his first semester of college broke me lol) but I have it added to my bursting wish-list. Love the description, and the nod to The Wild, Wild West (on amazon). I have that show on my wish-list too! LOL.
gwyneira
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, good -- I bought a copy of this today and am pleased to see another good review of it. :)
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Enjoy!
3seed
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:06 pm (UTC)
I just wanted to say thank you for the recommendation. This looks like something my partner would really enjoy, and I'll be picking up a copy for her.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
I hope she has as much fun reading it as I did!
3seed
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
I'm sure she will. She loves reading American historical fiction, and I've been introducing her to fantasy. This will be a nice intersection of the two. :-)
rachelmanija
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)
What was the exclamation?
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
Goddamnit.

I just don't see that being in a small town girl's vocab in the 1860s, one who sticks to Mr and Miss otherwise. And there is so much great period cussery, too! But like I said, one word bobble, and most won't notice or wouldn't agree.
mkhobson
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
Ah, just saw this, and point taken. ;-)
mkhobson
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
Yes, I want to know too! (And I am so glad you enjoyed it!) Not that I'm surprised that I let something like that slip through. There were a couple of times when I was thinking, "do I go for the good joke, or do I go for period accuracy?" Those who know me can probably guess which of the two I chose most often. ;-)

However, you will be glad to know my copyeditor made me take out a scene in Book 2 where Emily says something to Stanton in Pig Latin. Very Nick and Nora, but not 1870s at all. ;-)
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:28 pm (UTC)
lol! Yeah, Pig Latin feels pretty twentieth century, though I have no idea when kids began doing it.
supergee
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
The origins of Pig Latin are unknown. One early mention of the name was in Putnam's Magazine in May 1869: "I had plenty of ammunition in reserve, to say nothing, Tom, of our pig Latin. 'Hoggibus, piggibus et shotam damnabile grunto', and all that sort of thing", although the language cited is not modern Pig Latin, but rather what would be called today Dog Latin. The Atlantic January 1895 also included a mention of the subject: "They all spoke a queer jargon which they themselves had invented. It was something like the well-known 'pig Latin' that all sorts of children like to play with". Thomas Jefferson wrote letters to friends in pig Latin. (see Hailman in the references below)--Wikipedia
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
I thought I remembered early references, but it seemed to me (without looking it up) that older meanings of pig latin were for fake Latin or nonsense words, not the syllable game that we know.
anderyn
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:18 pm (UTC)
I just picked this up last night so I've been v. glad to see at least two reviews (yours and the one at Tor.com) that make it sound right up my alley. I'm looking forward to reading it.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
have fun!
aohdwyn
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
This book sounds great and I am definitely going to pick it up when my TBR stack gets a little shorter.
At first the zombies struck me as an odd element to include, but they seem to be the next "thing" up for replacing vampires (although don't get me started on the modern necessity for some fad to be always in vogue...although maybe it is not all THAT modern, the media fixation upon it seems to be so) and I like the idea as potential threat. Yeah becoming a vampire might have a TON of downsides, but not nearly as many downsides as becoming a zombie. In fact, I can't think of ANY upsides to being a zombie, whereas being a vampire, there IS that immortality thing for which theoretically you traded your soul for.
Oh man, I HATE the Evial Priests in Red in period books, and I am NOT (not not NOT not) a Christian. But anyone who reads fiction from that era or has any knowledge of the time period would know that Christianity is respected and upheld and expected of any decent person of class. For a man to be an atheist would be scandalous and a woman to profess an aversion for Christianity would cast her as a loose woman without morals.
I mean, look at Mansfield Park! Everything that drives modern readers crazy about the attitudes -- Fanny's priggish morality, Edmund's oh-so-sad superiority -- are represented as the most correct and decent way for a person of good character to think and behave.
And attitudes and mores only got stricter as they moved into the Victorian era. (I cringe now when I re-read Alcott's YA books and have to sludge through paragraphs of moralizing!) I can understand authors who don't really want to take this into account, especially when they have the tempting prospect of saying, "Well, it's AU, so it's okay!" but it definitely throws me out of the story in a big way.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
Yeah, paradigm can be an iffy thing, at times. Hobson does a great job with small town attitudes toward Native Americans, and there are so many other lovely touches.

Re Mansfield, while I agree with your overall point, I just don't find Fanny priggish. That is, my understanding of the word connotes moral superiority, which she never displays--if anything she tries to hide how she feels, unless positively pressed to the wall--but she does stand firm to her convictions, which Edmund doesn't.
aohdwyn
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Ouch, yes. In Little House on the Prairie the attitudes toward Native Americans disturbed me greatly, even when I was small. These kinds of prejudices can be painful and the modern urge to distance oneself from them is probably very strong, but written correctly I think one can be true to the realities of the era without endorsing them.

I may have been overly hyperbolic in regards to Fanny; I just recently finished a re-read, having not read it in years, and I still could not work up to liking her. Even when I was a teenager and astonishingly (in retrospect) similar to Fanny in many, many ways I couldn't manage to like her. ...Although maybe that was my problem. The irritation I feel for her is the same irritation I felt (feel?) for myself, at times. Stand up for yourself, woman! Goddamn! Go for what you want! But of course she couldn't; it wasn't proper and the mere idea of it probably would have made her swoon from the impropriety. Her strong belief system -- the one place where she will not and cannot even consider yielding -- is her defining characteristic, and it's not a bad one. Of the two more retiring and quiet of the Austen heroines, however, I definitely prefer Anne Elliot.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
Yeah--Fanny actually has more of a sense of humor than Fanny. I think the problem could be that we moderns sympathize with Anne's situation way more than we do with Fanny's (that is, Fanny with respect to the play, and to sticking to her schoolgirl crush on her cousin Edmund.)
aohdwyn
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
Yes! I like to think that given more adverse events, Fanny would have perhaps gained some perspective on it all as she got older.
She is certainly a most admirable character -- her courage in standing up for herself even when faced with what she feared and dreaded most (I mean, she definitely had some severe social anxiety) especially considering how timid she is usually ... There is just something lacking to make her likable. The villian of the novel is a more likable character than the heroine, for all his despicability. This is frustrating, especially when one thinks one should like her. I feel like it's some personal moral failing on my part! =P Which just means Jane Austen is way too good of an author.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC)
Actually, I think Jane blew the ending--that is, because of delicacy constraints, she pulls back and tells us what happens in the most crucial parts of the story, rather than showing us. Up until that last couple of chapters, when the narrator takes over and tells us what to think about everyone, it looked like she was showing us a beauty and the beast tale. That is a very emotionally compelling story form, and it could have been both ways, that is, Mary Crawford being "civilized" as well as Henry. But no, she sheered off, and opted for the safer ending, handing us stodgy Edmund, for whom we feel no spark of attraction whatsoever; not only is there the cousin thing, but consistently through the novel he never understands Fanny, just tells her what to do and think, in the most kindly way. So, yeah, when we are told at the end that he fell in love with her "at the right time" it's a pretty much of a narrative failure, all the more powerful when contrasted with the strength of the preceding.

Edited at 2010-09-01 10:57 pm (UTC)
aohdwyn
Sep. 1st, 2010 11:12 pm (UTC)
The potential of that could-have-been ending! It makes Henry Crawford the villian of the story twice over, for me, because while he acted despicably, his first noble, unselfish act was falling in love with Fanny, and if he could have been a tiny bit less of a vain toolbag, the ending would have been SO much better!
I despised Edmund on this re-read. He infuriated me with his every interaction with Fanny; ignoring her in favor of Mary Crawford except for when he couldn't be with her, and then leaning on Fanny as an emotional crutch without the slightest awareness of her emotional needs or state at all! His actions showed him to be blind and thoughtless and self-important, for all that he is supposed to be a kind, considerate, humble gentleman.

It never occurred to me to think of it that way, but it is absolutely a Beauty and the Beast tale. Except that Henry fails at the last test of fidelity and so is doomed to remain a Beast forever. Depressing.

Mary and Henry Crawford are so much more THERE than any of the other characters in Mansfield Park! The story doesn't really start moving forward at all until their arrival, and you can imagine that things would have continued in the same tired stasis if they had never arrived. You want them to win in love and be successful, because they're the brightest players in the room, and when they don't you feel cheated.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC)
Yep! So true.
tekalynn
Sep. 2nd, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
I will always love Mary Crawford for telling a sodomy joke at the dinner table and getting away with it.
sartorias
Sep. 2nd, 2010 12:43 pm (UTC)
And people say Austen was prim!
dichroic
Sep. 2nd, 2010 10:30 am (UTC)
I think being bothered by the cousin thing is only a modern attitude (cf. Alcott's Rose and Mac, also first cousins, and Mr. Darcy and Lady Catherine deBourgh's daughter, though I don't remember their degree of relation.
sartorias
Sep. 2nd, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
Definitely a modern thing.

Lady Catherine was sister to Darcy's mother.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 3rd, 2010 12:59 am (UTC)
I think the extreme aversion to cousin marriages is also an American thing, because in most European countries the aversion is not nearly so strong. Instead the attitude is more like "As long as they're consenting adults and get a genetic screening before having kids, why not?"

Though the BBC recently ran a documentary about too many cousin marriages in some immigrant communities leading to a rise of birth defects, so maybe attitudes are changing.

Cora
ethelmay
Sep. 3rd, 2010 04:18 am (UTC)
Actually Rose's uncle is quite down on cousins marrying, but at that point Alcott was locked into Rose marrying one of the cousins -- it would have seemed too weird for her to meet someone else at that point (though far more realistic). It's certainly not just a modern attitude; Charlotte Yonge speaks out against cousins marrying in _Womanhood_ thus:

"Let me add, that those tales which treat of the marriage of first-cousins as simple and unobjectionable do no kindness. It is not easy to put before young girls why it should not be, but it seems to me misplaced delicacy, which forbids them being told that though there is no doubt a proportion of healthy families born of first-cousins, yet that long experience has gone to show that hereditary diseases are intensified in the children, and that idiotcy, insanity, and defective organization are so often the result, that it is most undesirable, if not wrong, to run the risk of producing such offspring. To marry in the full knowledge of these facts is not trusting God, but tempting God. Fathers and mothers know them, and forbid. Young people cannot understand why, point to the instances among their friends, and those with which novels unfortunately provide them, and try to wear out opposition. It is very destructive of peace, for the intercourse between cousins is so pleasant, that it almost naturally leads to something warmer, and however much each side may be certain of the disapproval of the parents, the examples they see before them make them still hope on, till either there is a broken heart or an extorted sanction. They ought to be taught the real grounds of objection, and that where Heaven has entailed such consequences, His Will is manifest, and that their parents are therefore inexorable. This would not be a remedy in all cases, but it would be a preventive in a great many."
akirlu
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC)
If not priggish how about missish and overly prim? In any event, her ideas of proper behavior are the least comprehensible to a modern audience. The objections to the play in particular are alien to most contemporary readers, as you suggest.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
I don't think she's even all that prim. Anne Elliott is actually more prim. Fanny gets a secret kick out of her cousin Tom's antics, where Anne tended to be gently appalled at her in-laws' rusticities. We're told that with her brother, Fanny laughed and joked and swapped tales all the way to Portsmouth, and it's difficult to imagine Anne ever laughing and joking.

But Anne's actions are unassailable to a modern audience, and Fanny's aren't.
estara
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
I saw your review on Goodreads.com and have added it to my TBB list.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 09:42 pm (UTC)
Excellent!
cynthia1960
Sep. 1st, 2010 11:47 pm (UTC)
Nifty! Electrons diverted to my Kindle.
sartorias
Sep. 1st, 2010 11:55 pm (UTC)
Yay!
jorrie_spencer
Sep. 2nd, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
I'm keeping an eye out for this one!
sartorias
Sep. 2nd, 2010 12:53 am (UTC)
Enjoy!
madrobins
Sep. 2nd, 2010 01:30 am (UTC)
Isn't fun? I got a copy to blurb, and just ran right through it at speed, going Whheeeee!
sartorias
Sep. 2nd, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
YES!
mythusmage
Sep. 2nd, 2010 02:29 am (UTC)
I must ask, does the magic involve card tricks? (I just spaced the name of the RPG I'm referencing.)
sartorias
Sep. 2nd, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
No, but there are different types of magic, and schools of thought, as well as mythologies. It's pretty nifty.
smillaraaq
Sep. 2nd, 2010 03:35 am (UTC)
funwithrage
Sep. 2nd, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
Deadlands, I think. Which is a fantastic game.
oracne
Sep. 2nd, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
This sounds like a blast!
bummble
Sep. 5th, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendation!

I've put it on my wish list, and might well include it in my next Bookdepository order (since it's really quite cheap there).

I have at least two friends that I think will love this, also.
sartorias
Sep. 5th, 2010 01:46 pm (UTC)
Yay!
( 48 comments — Comment? )

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