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#54 The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs

Aren is lives in a world where those with magic are given a choice: either they can agree to become a bloodmage, a dark magician, or they can die. As a result, Aren keeps her gift of the sight a secret from even those closest to her. Then her village is attacked by raiders, leaving her husband and family murdered. When old magic is released upon the land, Aren will have to step up and make her abilities known. To help bring her village back together, she strikes a deal with the mysterious Hob, but will her part of the bargain be too much for her to give?

I’m a big fan of Patricia Brigg’s paranormal books (The Mercy Thompson series, and The Alpha and Omega Series), but my first love is fantasy. So it was only natural that I would look to Briggs earlier works, which are all more traditional fantasy. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that The Hob’s Bargain was not nearly as satisfying as I hoped it to be. This is an early effort on Briggs' part, and at times it really shows.

Perhaps what was the most painful about this book was the fact that it showed so much potential. The protagonist of Aren is nice enough, and there’s certainly nothing about her that would get on most readers nerves. Unfortunately, she’s rather underdeveloped, making it very hard to connect to her emotionally. This is a flaw that is seen in most of the secondary characters as well, although Briggs does not fall into the trap of making the bad characters completely evil, and the good characters as pure as snow. The one exception is the Hob, who is the most enjoyable aspect of the book. He comes off as complex and interesting from the start, and the interaction between him and Aren is some of the best sections of the book. Still, the fact that there is only one satisfying character in this book is incredibly disappointing, given the strength of her instantly likeable protagonist Mercy Thompson, and the memorable cast of characters found in her paranormal works.

The story seems to be a little all over the place, lacking in focus for most of the book. There are a few nice scenes where the Hob is teaching Aren in magic, and the climax at the end with the Bloodmage was satisfying, but the rest of the book is pretty hard to get through. It feels as if Briggs is fighting against her first person POV at times, as the narrative suddenly breaks into third person at random to show more of the Hob’s perspective. These transitions are quite awkward. The beauty and the beast romantic storyline, is one thing that comes across quite nicely.

I’m ashamed to say that I had to push myself to finish this one. Normally, after reading a book like this, I would drop the author completely, but I think an exception can be made in this case. Patricia Brigg’s paranormal books, while at times flawed, have not let me down yet. Whether or not I will continue to read her fantasy books remains to be seen.

Rating: two and a half stars
Length: 281 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
TBR Pile: 144 books
Similar Books: If you’re looking for stories about discovering magic, I would more suggest Dawn Cook’s Truth series or Princess duo.
Other books I've read by this author: Moon Called, Blood Bound, Iron Kissed, Bone Crossed (my review), Cry Wolf. I’ve also read the novella Alpha and Omega.

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