Before I dive into this review, let me first reference a growing trend in science fiction, incidental zombies. This is particularly popular in the historical variety of science fiction novel. These are zombies that are part of the novel, but not really what the book is about. You can argue that last year’s Boneshaker had them. But there’s no question that they appear in this book.
It hasn’t become a problem yet. I’m just concerned by the trend, is all.
The Native Star, by M.K. Hobson, takes place in America in the late 18oos. The key difference being that this is a place suffused with magic. Magic is apparently quite popular these days. Emily Edwards is a witch, trained in the simple arts by the man who took her in after her mother died. She lives in a backwoods, rustic, mining and timber town in Northern California.
After a battle with some incidental zombies, Emily ends up with a strange, magic-absorbing crystal embedded in her hand. The only one who can help her get it out is Dreadnought Stanton, a classically trained warlock who has come to her town to try and help the simple people out of their backward ways. She depises him, but she has to follow him on a journey to the big city to find help.
There are quite a few twists and turns through the book and a fairly obvious love story that turns out to be endearing despite itself. The book also has an environmental parable; the misuse of magical energy causes monsters to roam the land. Hobson gets a little heavy handed in a lot of places, but she never gets tiresome.
This is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure novel. It seems to aspire to be more than that, but it never quite gets there. You’re caught up in the intrigues and emotionally attached to the characters, but it never quite rises up to be more than a tale of suspense and romance. Hobson has done a good job of creating a world and fleshing out her characters. But I’m not going to rush out for the sequel.