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I will start this review by pointing out I adore period pieces. I have a soft spot for urban fantasy. Urban fantasy set in a wonderfully rich historical setting? Sold.
The Native Star takes place in a slightly different late 1800’s America. Witches and Warlocks are standard fare and there are competing schools of magic. The schools themselves are amazingly well thought out and each have a fascinating culture of their own. Strong world building is what pulled me in to this novel, and a wonderful cast of characters kept me reading. Apart from the magical schools (credomancy being my favorite for the sheer brilliance of it’s design) there are the Aberrancies, creatures (and occasionally people) twisted by a dark matter the magical core of the earth exudes from time to time.
The protagonists are wonderfully human, with all the flaws and failings that implies, and the best of the villains are perfectly chilling. It is a love story worked very well into a grand tapestry of adventure, violence, and betrayal.
The book opens with a love charm gone terribly wrong, works its way through zombie miners that would kill to keep something buried, and the woman who unfortunately gets past them and winds up with an artifact of unprecedented power embedded in her hand.
And all of the competing magical schools would kill to have it in their possession.
What results is an excellent, fast-paced read that is very hard to put down.
There is something beautiful and utterly enthralling about this book. It is in the words, deftly woven together to paint such pictures as you have never imagined. It is in the characters, flawed in perfect ways and you cannot help but love them for it. Being interrupted while reading was like surfacing from a deep swim or a deep nap, and took time to reorient back into the world.
It is in the telling- there are is a fascinating mix of point of view characters, and the whole book reads like a diary, which in essence much of it is.
The beautiful and the grotesque walk hand and hand through this book, leaving a rich trail of prose that will keep the reader turning pages, both excited and dreading what will be revealed in the next paragraph, the next story.
The book is based on the legend of Prester John and the paradise he was supposed to have ruled, and a letter that started spreading around Europe that was supposedly from this legendary man. It takes all the magnificence and magic of the legend and suggests ‘what if it all were true…’
Part historical fantasy, part look into the human soul and the things we desperately want to believe in, The Habitation of the Blessed is a truly stunning work, and I cannot wait to read more.
I was trying to figure out a way to explain just what it was about this book that made it so glorious. Then I found it, hidden away at the bottom of page 372. “With wonder and a growing absence of fear she realized, I am more than I was an hour ago.”
That sensation really does sum it up. “I am more than I was an hour ago.” It is a feeling that is woven through every page, colors every event. It takes something so tragic, a story about a child taken from her family and sent to live in the leper colony on Moloka’i and all the death and pain that can and does result, and transforms it. This is a story about growing and evolving, about living.
The writing is beautiful. The first few times the marks of leprosy were described in an almost nonchalant fashion, the horror and vague nausea they inspired, quickly faded. This was the background, the catalyst but not the story.
Apart from a story of the experience of lepers at that time, the late 1800’s moving forward, it is also the story of a culture in upheaval. It is the transition of Hawaii into a United States possession and the movement from traditional religion to Christianity. Absolutely fascinating was reading about the events of Peal Harbor from the point of view of a colony of quarantined lepers. The first time they saw a moving picture. How excited they were to get electricity.
Leprosy sets the scene, but does not color the story. It is always there, as Rachel grows to an adult away from her family, gaining new family on Moloka’i, but it is more about the people than the disease.
A beautiful book. I think everyone should give it a read. I am more than I was before reading.