Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Hidden Goddess, by M.K. Hobson

The Hidden Goddess, by M.K. Hobson.  Ballantine Books, 2011.  374 pp.  978-0-553-59266-5.

... in which Emily and Dreadnought continue their adventures by battling high society, Russians, and vengeful Aztec goddesses.

The Hidden Goddess continues the story that was started in The Native StarPicking up only a few weeks after the first book left off, we start the story by getting an idea of how much Emily and Dreadnought's lives have changed since the events in The Native Star.  Emily is trying to make the transition from rural small town witch to the world of high-society New York City ladies.  Her fiance, Dreadnought Stanton, is being groomed to take over the leadership of one of the most influential magical institutes in the world.  Unfortunately for the two of them, several mysterious rival factions have plans of their own.  A group of fanatics in South America are preparing to resurrect an Aztec goddess, and a group of fanatics from Russia are trying to prevent the goddess's resurrection by putting a stop to all magic.  Caught in the middle, and constrained by the rules of New York's elite socialites, Emily has to find a way to prevent both the Aztecs and the Russians from succeeding in their plans, but she also has to find a way to help Dreadnought keep his new institute from falling to pieces.

The best characteristic of The Native Star was its absolutely superb world-building, with its various forms of magic, steam-punk elements, zombies, an alternate US history, and very real-feeling politics.  The worst characteristic was the less-than-fantastic characterization of the two leads, and its extremely muddled ending.  In this sequel, I feel like the strengths and weaknesses of the first book are averaged out to make a nice, solid book.  Because the world is already established, The Hidden Goddess lacks the extraordinary detail of the first book, though the setting is the same.  I still really enjoyed the setting immensely, but there weren't many new elements added for this book.  The characterization of Emily improved dramatically... in the first book she was two-dimensional, but in this book she feels three-dimensional.  This is probably because we really only saw her fleeing for her life in the first novel, but now we see her in a variety of different situations.  I still don't really care for Dreadnought Stanton... he's still irritatingly arrogant for no apparent reason, and he still doesn't have a great deal of depth, but I have more sympathy for him in this book.  A series of events towards the end of the book give us a sense of why he is the way he is.

As for the plot, the overall storyline in this book is a little more complex than the story in The Native Star, but the ending is far more coherent.  I now see why the author introduced what felt like a million characters in five pages at the end of The Native Star, though I still feel the execution was lacking.  However, those characters all proved to be very important in this book, and added a nice level of complexity to the story.  The ending was satisfying, and definitely had the feel of a true ending, so I am assuming that this could very well be the ending of this story arc.

Recommended reading for fans of the first book.  The two books together would best be read back-to-back, and would be good vacation reads because they're fast, fairly lightweight reads.

4/5 stars.

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