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The Hidden Goddess by M. K. Hobson

The Hidden Goddess

by M. K. Hobson

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1511079,164 (3.56)10



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Actual rating: 3.5 stars

This was a sold four stars until the last nine or ten (maybe twenty) pages. There's such a thing as too rosy of an ending. I wanted a happy ending, but not an unbelievably happy, contrived one that relies on a dues es machina (several, actually). Still, there were some neat twists in this one, a lot of fascinating details on credomancy (I think Emily's press conference near the end is my favorite scene in both books), lots of action and humor and period details (and surprisingly little romance), so I enjoyed it heartily.

Full review to come. Probably. ( )
  Crowinator | Sep 23, 2013 |
On the whole I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as "The Native Star", and at the end I was left feeling rather melancholy because the series seems wrapped up now. It's got a "happily ever after" feel to it, which for some reason I found oddly dissatisfying (even though I'd been rooting for Emily and Stanton to finally get to be together through the whole book). I liked this universe and was looking forward to getting to explore it over the course of 3 or 4 books, but instead it all wraps up in two. (edit: Upon visiting Hobson's website, I see that this isn't the end of the series, but rather is the end of the stories about Emily and Stanton. That makes me feel better, so I'm going to knock the rating up to 4 stars.)

It also seemed to take a really long time for anything substantial to start happening. The first third of the book is little more than setup and Emily and Stanton's romantic moments being constantly interrupted by people showing up (this was something I felt happened way too much in the book, to the point that as soon as they started getting cozy with each other, I knew someone was going to barge in and they were going to be put off yet again. And naturally it happened just like that. It got to be annoying after first two or three times.). The fact that I'd just finished reading the first book might have contributed to my impatience with how long it was taking for things to start happening too, since a lot of it was getting the reader up to speed with things that happened in the previous book, but when something substantial finally happened, I looked down at the progress bar on my Kindle and found that I was exactly 33% of the way in. So yes, slow starting.

Things really cook after that, and it's one exciting scene after another, along with multiple "Oh no!"'s. Emily's missing early years are finally revealed, as are Stanton's years training to be a sangrimancer. A lot of really fascinated and well-drawn characters come out over the course of the book, and things twist and turn and get all confusing, but eventually it all comes back to form cohesive sense. The big final battle was a little difficult to follow as it happened though.

One final thing I wanted to comment about, since I brought it up in the review of the previous book: the Aztec sangrimancers wanting to destroy the world angle. I was meh about it then, and though I think it worked in the context of this book, it did get me thinking about how sangrimancers were portrayed in this universe. It occurs to me that there isn't a single positive sangrimancer in either book. They seem to be the token "black hats" and this does kind of bother me. The credomancers come in all flavors, and you never really can tell what they're up to, but all sangrimancers are evil, vile creatures, no exceptions. When Stanton was one, he took absolute glee in murder and suffering. I can see this being a modern commentary on the evil of human sacrifice, and the use of Aztecs is an easy shorthand for human sacrifice=evil, but at the same time it's reinforcing narrow understanding of blood sacrifice in general (Christ died in blood sacrifice, of his own choosing, and Quetzalcoatl advocated for auto-sacrifice rather than the killing of others). Where are the sangrimancers that practice self-bloodletting to perform beneficial magic? Surely sangrimancy is as diverse a magical field as the other two. ( )
  TLMorganfield | Sep 4, 2013 |
This book had a pretty rocky start for me, mostly because I couldn't remember the first one very clearly but knew if I kept putting it off, I'd never get this one read. Fortunately, though, this book is fairly self-contained, so even though it references earlier events, I was able to follow it pretty easily without having to reread its predecessor, The Native Star.

Strangely enough, although the book repeatedly comes back to the concept of "true love" and whether or not it exists at all, our protagonist's fiance, Dreadnought Stanton, is absent for a good chunk of the first half of the novel. When we DO see him, well, you pretty much want to reach into the book and slap him, hard. Dreadnought is in the process of becoming Sophos, a powerful credomantic (that is, magic powered by belief) position that generally requires him to swan around in a large hat and be as patronizing as possible.

For example: Dreadnought attends what is basically the steampunk-equivalent of a business meeting at a strip club. Emily is not thrilled, and Dreadnought replies: "Why, Emily Edwards. You’re jealous! That’s adorable. Don’t worry, dearest, I didn’t have time to notice any pretty girls or their legs."

Not only that, but when Emily and Dreadnought have a fairly heated discussion later on, he actually USES HIS MAGIC to placate her. It was right about this point I started screaming at the book, "Leave him! Leave him NOW!"

There's an overall theme to the novel that I found myself really intrigued by, though. Credomancy, which plays a large part in the novel, can basically be summarized as magic powered by faith, not necessarily the religious kind. If the Sophos makes his followers believe everything is going well and the Institute is prosperous, then in turn, everything really is doing well and the Institute is prosperous.

This bothers Emily, our protagonist and narrator, because a.) she's a realist, a b.) this habit of lying-to-make-something true is overlapping with her relationship with Dreadnought. While Dreadnought wants to pretend everything is going fine (and gloss over inconvenient things like arguments with one's fiancee), Emily eventually realizes that she'd rather have an imperfect but REAL life than continue to believe in lies in an effort to make them true. (I know, that seems like a circular sentence.)

This brings us to a fairly ambitious attempt by the author to give us a complex look at relationships. Surrounded by books full of bad-boys-with-good-hearts and diamond-in-the-rough sort of love stories, Hobson creates a love interest that's genuinely flawed. At one point, when the couple is approached by a married woman who once had an affair with Dreadnought, Dreadnought evades Emily's questions about the woman and intentionally leads Emily to believe the woman was lying. As we learn later, she wasn't. It's also revealed that Dreadnought used to be a sangrimancer, a magician who works with blood, and actually MURDERED complete strangers to use their blood. Generally, murder is a deal-breaker for me in relationships, but that's just me.

As the book goes on, we do see that Dreadnought loves Emily a great deal, but it's left up to the reader to decide whether or not his love for Emily makes up for his imperfections. To be honest, even at the end of the novel I wasn't totally convinced that Emily shouldn't have dumped him, but I liked that the book (and Emily) never tried to justify his mistakes. He does good things and bad things, and one doesn't necessarily negate the other.

The male/female dynamic in this book is just really interesting, and I think feminist readers would really enjoy this novel. At the beginning, Emily is informed,"You need only be a pretty face in a pretty dress," and Emily struggles to fulfill this role. But by the end, both Emily and Dreadnought have made leaps and bounds in terms of personal growth. Hobson portrays a healthy relationship as being between two equals, and sums it up nicely at one point when Emily says, "Love is not enough. But it’s a start."

Hobson is easily becoming a favorite writer of mine. I was a little surprised to find out that the series will be continuing after this book (as I thought it had a pretty distinct ending), but I'll definitely be continuing the series.

( )
  Becky_Jean | Mar 31, 2013 |
I'm really enjoying this series, a sort of steampunk alternate history with witchcraft. In the first book, small-town witch Emily has adventures and falls in love with a warlock. In this book, she's figuring out the adult world, and goes to some much darker places. Emily is a true heroine, smart, down-to-earth, resilient, and brave as hell.
  mulliner | Apr 1, 2012 |
This is a sequel to The Native Star, which I read earlier this year. The first book had a lot to enjoy with its alternative post-Civil War history and mash-up of magic and light steampunk elements, but in a way it felt like too much crammed together. The sequel proved to be a fast read but didn't feel even to me for several reasons.

Summary from Amazon:
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?

The summary makes it seem like Dreadnought's family is the major obstacle in this book, but they really have a minor role. A lot of it comes down to the importance of credomancy, which is magic based on the belief of the people. It's an interesting element of these books, as the Institute utilizes fiction to develop a cult of belief in Dreadnought, and that belief manifests itself as real power. I really like how Emily explored her past and discovered information about the parents she never knew, though I wished that her grandparents could have had a greater role. However, my two biggest gripes in this came down to the romance and the bad guys. The romance felt... cliched. Emily and Dreadnought are driven apart. She doubts him. There are the possibilities of other liaisons for both of them. It made me gnash my teeth at a few points because it was so formulaic. Then at the end, all the drama is set aside as if it never happened.

Then there are the bad guys. I can understand the evil Aztec goddess and her motivations, but despite a prologue on the subject, I could never believe why the United States Army would think allying itself with such an entity is a good thing. It's stated that they believe the goddess will "remake" the world, not destroy it, but the reasoning still baffles me. It felt like a tenuous connection at best.

Despite a lot of fun elements, this set of books just didn't win me over. They aren't keepers for me. ( )
1 vote ladycato | Dec 1, 2011 |
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"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?"--Cover verso.… (more)

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