Title: The Hob’s Bargain
Author: Patricia Briggs
Genre: Fantasy Fiction
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication date: 2001
Patricia Briggs is one of my favorite contemporary fantasy authors, so I thought I would dig into some of her early work. This standalone traditional fantasy was a really great read that brought a lot of great things into a genre that can get really tied up in its own tropes.
The Hobb’s Bargain is a twist on beauty and the beast, where beauty is a happily married 30 year-old with the second sight named Aren. She loses her family and her husband to raiders and then the village is plunged into peril when the blood magic that held the magic of the land is released and the very earth shifts. Aren’s occasional visions become true power. Another consequence is that wildlings, creatures of magic, are returning to the world. The combined threats of the raiders and the wildlings place the village in great peril and so she goes to the Hob and offers to make a bargain with him for his protection of the village.
I loved every single concept in this book.
I loved that it had a 30-year-old woman as the heroine discovering her powers and saving the day, I want more stories with women in their 30s. I loved that she was involved with and invested in her community. I loved that there was no weird much ado about sacrificing a virgin to the demons/dragon/Faries. I loved that she made the decision to make the bargain with the Hob.
I loved that there was disability representation in Kith, who was awesome and deserves everything. I loved that Aren and Kith had an honest to goodness friendship between a man and a woman and did not fall in love.
I loved that the traditional beauty and the beast twist did not have the traditional Stockholm Syndrome.
I loved that they made a deal with a magical creature and then were like wait, you have got to hold up your end for a year before we pay the price.
I loved that this was a book about courtship.
And I loved the Hob, he was fantastic, and a true “beast” as in this is no spoiled princeling turned monster, this is a wildling, it thinks like a wildling and it stays a wildling, and I loved his mischievous bent and his ability to love the heroine exactly as she was.
I loved the world and its fascinating details and myriad wildlings coming alive.
Yet somehow with all these lovely pieces together I was never in love with the story. I never disliked it. I made it all the way through quickly and easily, but I was never quite swept away by the story. I cannot quite answer why. I loved all the pieces separately, and having dissected the experience for a week I cannot pick out any one thing that I disliked. Except perhaps the assumed voice the narrator used for the MC Aren. I cannot suss out if my lack of enthusiasm for this book is due only to my mild irritation with the tone of the narrator or the story itself. If I ever have the chance to pick this up at my library I may give it another read and see if without the audio the book can successfully suck me in. If you love beauty and the beast re-tellings this book is certainly worth the read.