The Hob's Bargain by Patricia Briggs
LibraryThing tags, if I had put this on LibraryThing: Fantasy, Romance, Ghosts
This is one of the ones I'll have to be a little bit vague about, plot-wise -- there are spoilers right from the beginning. They're not hard to feel coming, but still. That's different than having them blurted out in a review. Then there are other things it seems safe to say since they aren't really surprises per se; given that they happen at the beginning and are intrinsic to the plot, I'll go for it.
The main character, Aren, has the sight in a world very hostile to magic. If people find out you're "mageborn," you might just be killed, or you might have a choice -- to die or to become a bloodmage -- which involves killing and torturing and eventually going insane and basically rotting from the inside out. Fun stuff.
So needless to say, Aren isn't too happy about having the sight, and she doesn't go around telling people about it. As she puts it early on in the book, "Not very useful. If I had to be stricken with magic, I would rather have had something like Gram's talent for healing, or my brother's knack for finding things--especially because the consequences of having magic were so deadly."
But then her world changes (quite literally), magic is unbound, and wild magical creatures who haven't roamed the land in hundreds (or thousands? I forget) of years are about again, and of course no one in her village knows how to deal with them. To protect her people (including those of the villagers who hate her guts) from them and other threats which emerged with the changing of the world (or, in fantasy epic terms, with The Breaking of the World, I suppose -- seems like the way they might term it, far enough in the future)... well, cue the adventures of the rest of the book. Of course a bargain with a hob is involved, since that's the title. She has plenty of her own fighting to do though, aside from any bargains.
I liked the way Patricia Briggs dealt with believers in a One God suddenly having to appease nature spirits and such -- unlike the way most fantasy would have treated it, it was quite respectful to monotheism. In her hands, the whole thing was actually quite amusing.
And, of course, I loved the characters. Because I always love Patricia Briggs' characters, particularly her heroines. Maybe they're all the same -- wounded but strong -- but I don't care. That's general enough, they're distinguished in every other aspect. And they're all wounded in different ways and with different personality strengths. She strikes just the right balance for perfect empathy, admiration, inspiration... yep. Never obnoxious, just... strong.
I was sad when I realized this one's a stand-alone. A lot of her older ones come in twos, and I thought I'd heard someone talk about this one and its sequel, but... guess not. Very disappointing. Oh, well. I guess that makes it a good choice to start with if you haven't read any of her books before. And I have a copy I can loan out.