In an alternate Civil War America where magic not only exists, but is changing the world. Warlocks train as elite enforcers for the government, and there are all manner of glorious new inventions helped along by magic. Miss Emily Edwards is a witch living in rural Sierra Nevada, trying to compete against the shiny promises of mail order patent magics. Her adopted father, who taught her everything she knows, is now blind, and they’re facing starvation and possibly worse unless Emily comes up with something clever soon. In her desperation, she casts a love spell on the most prosperous settler in town, but it backfires badly, and when she finds herself with a magical stone embedded in her hand, she’s forced to leave town quickly before she’s driven out.
Reluctantly accepting the aid of the pompous and and condescending college-trained New York warlock Dreadnought Stanton (who was sent to Emily’s little town for unknown reasons), Emily finds herself pursued by several different factions of warlocks, all wanting the magical artifact she carries. They travel from San Francisco across the country, with their straits becoming more and more dire and their enemies more ruthless the closer they get to New York.
The Native Star by M.K. Hobson arrived on my front porch one chilly October day. It came from Amazon, lacking any sender information. The only thing in the box other than the book simply read “Happy All Hallows Read!” Now, I eventually determined who had sent the book (and by “eventually” I mean “almost immediately”—the list of folks who might send me fantasy novels out of the blue is tragically short), but the unexpected nature of its arrival is important because so much of the experience of reading it was a surprise. The Warlock’s Curse, Hobson’s third book and the third story from her unique alternate America, continued to surprise me at every turn.
The first two books in the series (called “Veneficas Americana”), The Native Star and Hidden Goddess, take place in the 1870s. The setting is softly steampunk (Hobson refers to it as “bustlepunk”), Gilded Age, and definitely magical. The Warlock’s Curse takes place in 1910. The bustles and steam have left the building but Thomas Edison and Nicola Tesla have waded into the fray. The heart of the first two books is rooted in magic. The Warlock’s Curse is rooted in science.