Aren from the mountains

The Hob's Bargain - Patricia Briggs

This is one of Briggs’ earlier novels, before the Mercy Thompson series, and it’s a stand-alone. It’s a nice book with interesting characters, but I read it just after Moon Called, and the contrast was glaring. This book is much less mature. The heroes are less alive. The plot is less focused. The relationships are less realistic. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it but I would caution you: don’t read it back to back with Briggs’ later novels, either Mercy Thompson or Alpha & Omega.

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In this novel, wild magic of the land was bound by bloodmages centuries ago. Now, the bloodmages’ bonds are broken, and wild magic rushes back. And not all of it is benevolent to humans.

The protagonist Aren is a peasant girl from a remote little village in the mountains. Although Aren has some magical abilities, she hides them from her neighbors, lest a bloodmage should learn of her magic gift and kill her. Magic is forbidden to the peasant women in her world.

When wild magic returns to Aren’s land, it coincides with a horrible war somewhere, but the consequences of both calamities are devastating to Aren’s life. Her family are all killed by raiders – deserters from the war. Wild magic rolls through the land uncontrolled, reclaiming its own and threatening the entire village. And being a mage, as Aren is, is still considered illegal, punishable by death, even though it seems that all the bloodmages perished in the war.

Mourning her family and shunned by the other villagers because of her magic, Aren feels utterly alone. Despite her all-consuming grief, she knows she must do something to save her village. There is no one else, but her path won’t be easy or simple. And her magic only complicates matters.

I enjoyed this novel despite its sometimes-murky logic and holes in the plot. Aren’s personality, kind and courageous, more than made up for all the flaws of the book. Her unfolding love story was charming. And then there was the hob with his tail. Who would’ve guessed that a hob’s tail could be so sexy?