THE HIDDEN GODDESS by M.K. Hobson
Spectra, 2011, 374 pages, 978-0-553-59266-5, Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
M. K. Hobson’s second novel picks up a few months after her first, The Native Star. Emily Edwards returns to the scene, but this time, instead of braving the frontier, she’s learning how to navigate (and tolerate) New York high society. As her fiancé, Dreadnought Stanton, prepares to take over the credomancers’ Institute, Emily discovers what it will mean to be the wife of a Sophos. Meanwhile, the rest of the world begins to experience more and more disruption as Black Exunge erupts in California and other locations, causing destruction and panic.
Emily is soon drawn back into a series of mysteries, which she attempts to juggle alongside her social obligations. The Sini Mira is on her trail again, and Emily finds that not only is her own past integral to what’s happening, but Stanton’s is as well.
For the most part, I enjoyed The Hidden Goddess. Granted, the beginning was a little painful, not because I didn’t like it, but because I know exactly how I’d feel in Emily’s place if I were forced to dress and behave according to someone else’s standards. But she bears it well, and she certainly retains her rebellious streak, much to the dismay of her tutor. Still, the opening might be a little slow for those who cringe at the thought of in-laws and wedding plans, but you needn’t worry. It isn’t long before Emily is out there getting into trouble. Overall, the pacing of the book might be a bit slower than in The Native Star, but it doesn’t drag by any means.
Hobson takes a somewhat unexpected turn by demonstrating the perils of jumping into a marriage with someone whose background you barely know anything about. Instead of happily ever after, we see Emily struggling with legitimate relationship issues in addition to everything else she has to go through. One of her problems became a problem for me as well—we don’t see much of Stanton in this book, and when we do he’s barely the character we’ve come to know from the previous novel. This is because he’s struggling constantly with the troubles of the Institute. Unfortunately, most of this takes place where the reader can’t see it since Emily has been sent away to avoid distracting him.
I suppose this is all well and good since it gives Emily the chance to pursue a number of other things, including her family history. The mystery of her parents and of her connection to the Sini Mira becomes clear in this novel, and it’s one of my favorite aspects of the story. But it makes me wonder just how committed Stanton is to her when his preoccupation with the Institute forces her to face these things alone.
And right there, we hit my major contention with the story. We don’t see Stanton often, but when we do see him after his initial appearance with Emily in the park, his attitude leaves much to be desired. Over the course of the novel he is negligent, accusatory, controlling, and dismissive. I won’t list specific instances to avoid major spoilers, but all I can say is—it wouldn’t fly with me, my friend. Emily Edwards is a supremely forgiving woman if she can look past all of these mistakes. And I’m not talking about the overblown accusations made against him regarding his time as a sangrimancer. I’m talking only about his behavior toward Emily. I’m not sure I believe that someone in her position would be able to let those things go quite so quickly. I know I wouldn’t.
All the same, I thought throwing obstacles in their path was a fine turn for the story. It also gave Emily the opportunity to grow on her own. In fact, I would say that this novel was largely about that. By the end of the story, she has become far more powerful than a mere witch from Lost Pine. Not only that, but she in confident in that power, and it shows.
This is a well done, engaging story with characters I continue to enjoy. Despite one or two complaints, the good things far outweighed whatever quibbles I might have had. I definitely recommend this book along with The Native Star, and I look forward to seeing what else Hobson has planned for us in the future.