So, finally, The Warlock’s Curse!
But what’s inside? I reviewed M.K. Hobson’s second novel, The Hidden Goddess, for Tor.com back when it came out. And I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel ever since.
The thing about this book is: what do I say? I am a spoilerphobe and I try to write spoiler-free book write-ups; this is sooper-hooper tricky in the case of M.K. Hobson’s Veneficas Americana series, because The Warlock’s Curse is intimately tied to the events of the preceding two books. This means a discussion of this third novel requires tapdancing around the revelations from three full books.
But here goes: TWC is mostly the story of William Edwards, a sweet and remarkably gifted farmboy with a talent for Otherwhere engineering. Will’s not quite eighteen, he’s a tad dyslexic and he’s been accepted as a fellow at the Telsa Institute in Detroit. Sadly, his parents have categorically forbidden him to go.
Will is a good-hearted kid–a sweet one, really–but he’s in a huge power struggle with his father and this has made him snarky and more than a little desperate. Then a chance arises for him to run off by accepting some help from someone in a similar situation, his childhood pal Scuff, otherwise known as Jenny.
Jenny, like Will, has a streak of genius and parent troubles. Being a girl, she’s expected to sort out her issues, tighten her bustle and quietly enter into fruitful matrimony with some San Francisco society gentleman to be chosen later. Instead, she and Will embark on a partnership–they flee together to Detroit, where the Telsa folks are located, and pursue their separate agendas.
The only hitch? They have to get married to pull it off. Soon our teen heroes are on the run with a barely legitimate marriage certificate and more money than sense. Everyone is after them, and there’s also another problem they can’t appreciate: nearly everyone around Will has told him a lie or two over the years, Jenny included. And hidden behind his parents’ lies is a secret so awful it might destroy the two of them and a decent amount of U.S. real estate if things go awry.
It’s a novel. Things go awry.
TWC plays out against a backdrop of magic, politics, and plague. An evangelist preacher is taking steps to try eliminating all magical ability from the U.S. population. He has already managed to inoculate most of the younger generations, but he’s trying to wipe out the abilities of the privileged elder generation who grew up with magic.
It’s tricky, at times, that this book is so intimately tied to its precedessors. I can’t imagine reading it without having read The Native Star and The Hidden Goddess. A certain amount of the pleasure I derived from reading it came from knowing all the things William doesn’t. And as a second complaint, I will say it ends on a whopper of a suspenseful situation. Being obliged to put it down without having the next book ready and waiting was very sad. See how sad?
As for the novel itself: it has the usual grandeur of Hobson’s writing, the delightful characters and hilarious dialog, and the no-punches pulled savagery of a bare-knuckles brawl. In marrying and running off from people determined to protect them from everything including the truth, Will and Jenny dress themselves for the slaughter. And I do not use that word lightly. The little bit of responsibility they bear for getting themselves into trouble hardly rates against what happens to them.
Is Hobson saying we should meekly accept lying by authority figures for our own good? No, obviously not. But TWC is very much about displaced pride, the inability to ask for help and the inability of one person, however talented, to stand against massive corrupt organizations, be they political, corporate, or sorcerous in nature.
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