The Native Star - By M. K. Hobson

Praise for

The Native Star

“M. K. Hobson dazzles! The Native Star is an awesome mash-up of magic and steam-age technology—call it witchpunk. This debut novel puts a new shine on the Gilded Age.”


“Splendid! In The Native Star , M. K. Hobson gives us a Reconstruction-era America, beautifully drawn and filled with the energy of a young nation—and magic! Her heroine, Emily Edwards, is outspoken, brash, loving, and true; a delight to spend time with. Could there be a sequel, please?”


For Nora


A book is like a pearl. The author supplies the grit in the middle, but it is friends and colleagues who add the thin bright layers that make it shine.

(Following this metaphor through, one might suppose they do this because they find the author and her grit so damned irritating—but let’s leave such hobgoblinish consistency to littler minds, shall we?)

There are many writers who have given freely of their time (and nacre) to help me make this book smooth and fine, including Sara Mueller, David D. Levine, Sandi Gray, Robin Catesby, Jim Fiscus, Douglas Watson, John Bunnell, Denny Bershaw, Simone Cooper, Francine Taylor, George Walker, and the late Chris Bunch. To these comrades-in-arms, I offer my humble thanks.

Thanks as well to my fierce and fabulous agent, Ginger Clark, who contributed at least three layers of opalescence before she even took me on as a client. Thanks to the splendid Juliet Ulman (who picked up the book) and the creative team at Spectra (who ran with it): my brilliant editor, Anne Groell, copy editor Faren Bachelis, David Pomerico, and everyone else whose names I either don’t know, can’t spell, or am afraid to say three times out loud.

Additionally, I am deeply grateful to the kindred spirits who have bolstered my sanity or encouraged my insanity at critical moments: Douglas Lain, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Jessica Reisman, A. M. Dellamonica, Camille Alexa, Heidi Lampietti (and Kiri), Madeleine Robins, Nancy Jane Moore, Serge Maillioux, Karen Berry, and the entire graduating class of Clarion West 2005.

And finally, of course, thanks to my family: Dan and Nora, Mom and Dad, Rachel and Albert. It’s from them that I got the grit to begin with.



Title Page





Chapter One - Ashes of Amour

Chapter Two - The Corpse Switch

Chapter Three - The Rule of Three

Chapter Four - The Flight of the Guilty

Chapter Five - The Aberrancy

Chapter Six - Lawa

Chapter Seven - San Francisco

Chapter Eight - A Man Calls

Chapter Nine - Mason Street

Chapter Ten - Basket of Secrets

Chapter Eleven - The Wages of Sin

Chapter Twelve - Hemacolludinatious

Chapter Thirteen - Mother Roscoe’s Eye-Opener

Chapter Fourteen - The Aberrancy Hunters

Chapter Fifteen - Ososolyeh

Chapter Sixteen - Rose’s Thorns

Chapter Seventeen - The Cockatrice

Chapter Eighteen - The Cynic Mirror

Chapter Nineteen - Senator Stanton

Chapter Twenty - The Otherwhere Marble

Chapter Twenty-One - Hidden Knives

Chapter Twenty-Two - Cupid’s Bludgeon

Chapter Twenty-Three - The Skycladdische and the Sangrimancer

Chapter Twenty-Four - The Grand Symposium

Chapter Twenty-Five - Blood and Bile

Chapter Twenty-Six - Skycladdische’s Revenge

Chapter Twenty-Seven - Heavy Weather

Chapter Twenty-Eight - The Man Who Saved Magic



It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,

The holy time is quiet as a Nun

Breathless with adoration; the broad sun

Is sinking down in its tranquillity;

The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea:

Listen! the mighty Being is awake,

And doth with his eternal motion make

A sound like thunder—everlastingly.

Dear Child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,

If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,

Thy nature is not therefore less divine:

Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;

And worship’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,

God being with thee when we know it not.



Charleston, South Carolina

July 15, 1865

Five loud, hard, sharp crashes. Someone was knocking—no, not knocking, rather pounding—at the door of Mr. Everdene Baugh’s house on Church Street.

It was well past midnight. A violent tempest of bird-shot rain and screaming wind—the biggest storm to hit Charleston in a decade—was raging outside. Anarchy and insolence, Baugh fumed as he fumbled his way down the dark, narrow stairs, wool-stockinged feet sliding on bare wood. Every day he was unpleasantly surprised at how much closer to savagery the world had drifted.

Baugh threw open his door with the intention of telling the pounders to go to Hell and exactly how to get there. But when he saw that it was a detachment of Union soldiers on his doorstep, their rifles gleaming, the words froze in his mouth. Before the soldiers stood a hulking officer with dripping muttonchops, who seemed hardly to notice the rain sluicing down on him from the broken gutters above.

“Captain John Caul,” the man introduced himself curtly, not bothering to touch the brim of