Cover: nice, but the Aren in the book wears trousers and boots, boy’s clothes.
Beauty and the Beast.
Hated and feared, magic was banished from the land. But now, freed from the spells of the wicked bloodmages, magic -- both good and evil -- returns. And Aren of Fallbrook feels her own power of Sight strengthen and grow...
Overcome by vision of mayhem and murder, Aren vows to save her village from the ruthless raiders who have descended upon it -- and killed her family. With the return of wildlings to the hills and forests, she strikes a bargain with the Hob, a magical, humanlike creature imbued with the power of the mountains. But the Hob is the last of his kind. And he will exact a heavy price to defend the village -- a price Aren herself must pay...
A long time ago, a powerful blood mage bound the natural earth magic with dark rites. The earth spirits and other creatures were slowly taking over the land, killing the humans who lived there and tried to make a living out of it. Ever since, the blood mage’s are the most powerful ones around, and they are highly priced by the kings they work for. When natural magic occurs in a human, he or she will have to die. The One God does not trust magic or magic users. A boy has a second choice though; he can become an apprentice to the blood mages, and turn evil, and insane like they all do.
And so, the old ways of the land have been forgotten, and magic is feared by all. Unfortunately for Aren and her family, magic runs high in their blood. It has already killed her brother, when a blood mage spotted him, and she has been hiding her own magic ever since.
But now, something very bad has happened, and the earth magic is set free once again. But not without a price: earthquakes and even the mountains themselves are toppling, blocking the known passages to other villages for those living in the remote village of Fallbrook. And just now that there is a large band of raiders in the area.
Aren has just lost her whole family and her husband of one day to their violence, and she does not know what to do with the visions that plague her. A lot of the villagers want her dead for her forbidden magic, but what she sees, might just save some of their lives. Aren is determined to stay alive and to extract some revenge on the raiders. She will seize being the dutiful woman her father wanted to be, she is free now. Free to dress in the clothes of her little brother-in-law, and to take up arms. But raiders are not all the danger the villagers are facing: the ancient creatures of the land are waking up again, and attacking. They will need help if they want to survive …
There are only two trained warriors in the village, the one armed Kith, a berserker created by Lord’s blood mage, and Wandel, who is more than the simple troubadour he is supposed to be. Aren is not afraid of Kith, she grew up with him, and she knows he will never harm her. But Kith knows he is living on borrowed time, as a one armed men he is useless to his Lord, and he will die in the spring. Their Lord may have died, but he is still not free of the blood mage, so he has to have survived the massacre …
Aren knows where to go for help. When she, Kith and Wandel went to find out what happened to the people in the village on the other side of the Hob’s mountain, she was attacked by one creature and saved by another. If she was saved by the Hob, perhaps he will help them again. The Hob agrees, but as he is the last of his species, he asks a high price for his help … but Aren and the city Elders agree to his bargain.
First though, he starts to teach Aren what she is, and how to control her powers, not to be a victim of random visions, but to control what she sees. And how to control the ghosts and spirits now roaming the land.
I am a big fan of Patricia Briggs’ urban fantasy werewolves, so when I came across this book, I had to snatch it up. And I certainly was not disappointed by it. The only thing I am sorry about, is that this is a stand alone novel, I would not mind reading about what happens next with Aren and her Hob. And what happens to the village now the magical creatures are once again set loose upon the land.
I quickly became invested in Aren, she lost everything in one day, her family and her husband of one day. The raiders almost got her as well, but she was in the cellar when they attacked her house and destroyed it, locking her accidentally in. She tried to warn the village Elders about what had happened, what she had seen in the visions that suddenly plagued her, and then she went back and grieved; a victim of even more visions. But after a few days, she got up, and took charge of her live again. Dressing in practical boy’s clothes, riding her husband’s horse and taking up arms. A lot of villagers are afraid of her, but that does not stop her from protecting them as best as she can, and even to sacrifice herself to the Hob.
I liked how she discovered her powers and all the different creepy creatures out there, some creatures I have learned about before in fairy tales, some are totally new. How there are Elementals awake again, and how the villagers will have to revert to their ancient ways, or their efforts will be for naught.
Aren does have some friends though, most of the Elders are grateful for her help and her warnings, and Kith is behind her as well. But it is the Hob that completely fascinates me. He has been asleep for so long, and now he is alive again, and doing the mountain’s bidding. He sees more than the villagers do, and after all that killing, he will reconcile the raiders and the villagers.
I enjoyed this book more than I expected to, and I will certainly re-read it someday.
© 2014 Reviews by Aurian