Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1) by Laura Thalassa (2015)
Fiction | Romance | Urban Fantasy | (TV-MA)
“Callypso Lillis is a siren with a very big problem, one that stretches up her arm and far into her past. For the last seven years she’s been collecting a bracelet of black beads up her wrist, magical IOUs for favors she’s received. Only death or repayment will fulfill the obligations. Only then will the beads disappear.
Everyone knows that if you need a favor, you go to the Bargainer to make it happen. He’s a man who can get you anything you want… at a price. And everyone knows that sooner or later he always collects.
But for one of his clients, he’s never asked for repayment. Not until now. When Callie finds the fae king of the night in her room, a grin on his lips and a twinkle in his eye, she knows things are about to change. At first it’s just a chaste kiss—a single bead’s worth—and a promise for more.
For the Bargainer, it’s more than just a matter of rekindling an old romance. Something is happening in the Otherworld. Fae warriors are going missing one by one. Only the women are returned, each in a glass casket, a child clutched to their breast. And then there are the whispers among the slaves, whispers of an evil that’s been awoken.
If the Bargainer has any hope to save his people, he’ll need the help of the siren he spurned long ago. Only, his foe has a taste for exotic creatures, and Callie just happens to be one.”
pooled ink Review:
Okay before I start this review I just have to get one little teeny tiny thing off of my chest. Those French pastries? Yeah those little round colorful ones? Here I’ll post a picture for you to look at to visually confirm. Yeah those are MACARONS. They are not MACAROONS. Macaroons are a coconut cookie. Okay sorry just had to clear that up because every time they were mentioned in this book I mentally yelled “MACARON” hahaha. But to be fair it’s a super common mistake people make so no worries (I blame “The Great British Baking Show” for making me this way haha)
I started hearing about this book when I joined a Facebook fan group for Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series (A Court of Thorns and Roses). After the second book in the trilogy was released we were all dying for more and dying from the wait for the final installment in Feyre’s trilogy. This book started surfacing in my cybersphere and I immediately put it on my TBR list but never quite got around to committing to it because I was half sure that it was probably going to turn out to be some sort of disappointing paranormal mush (because unfortunately that’s what most paranormal/fantasy romances are).
HOWEVER it was offered for free as a Kindle download for a limited time and I went for it and holy snap I was so wrong. First of all I loathe reading books on my computer but I own a Nook so the only way to read this was on my computer and so even though my poor wilting eyes had to endure reading on a freaking computer *drum roll* I still LOVED it. In fact I read this entire book in one day. Me, the lame loser who falls asleep at 10:30pm stayed up until 3am devouring it!
The more I read the more I absolutely saw why people were recommending this book in the ACOTAR fan groups. Specifically I’d say it has some serious ACOMAF (A Court of Mist and Fury) vibes with Callie reminding me of a blend of Feyre and Nesta, and Des reminding me of Rhys. I mean not only does Des have wings and a flirtatious witty attitude, but he’s arguably the most powerful Fae King and happens to be the King of the Night. Sound familiar??? *cough* RHYS *cough*
Now look, I had to mention the similarities (although I refuse to give you more details because that would just spoil this book for you) because so many people have asked if it’s truly a book for ACOMAF fans and my answer is YES. But I’m quite sure that Laura Thalassa doesn’t overly appreciate her book being pawned off as ACOMAF fanfic of sorts or a temporary placeholder for people with an ACOTAR series bookhangover. And I totally agree (I mean I have no idea how she actually feels about this but that’s how I’d feel. I’d want my hard work to stand on its own and not exist merely as a comparison, a shadow work).
The thing is that yes, it has definite similarities and yes that is what drew me to this book initially. But despite that this book is undeniably its own story. It’s similar, yet entirely different.
The Bargainer series is a blend of paranormal and fantasy, which I discovered I really love. On earth there are supernatural beings (e.g. werewolves, witches, sirens, etc.) living amongst humans, but there is also another world ruled by Fae. Fae are at the top of the hierarchy/food chain with supernaturals in the middle and us poor powerless little humans at the bottom as per usual (LOL).
After opening with a scene quaking in the aftermath of a murder this book jumps forwards in time easing us into Callie as an adult with a fantastic gritty P.I. setting which slowly expands into an epic tale crossing realms. The story jumps back and forth between present day and “Seven Years Ago” when Callie first met the Bargainer until it bridges to that heart-shattering ending that begins the dull void that is those seven years between young Callie and adult Callie. Aaaaand then the book forges onwards only to end in an epic, dark, and major plot twist.
So yeah, let’s talk about the main character Callypso aka “Callie.” She’s a Siren, possessing the ability to command people to do whatever she says, she’s a private investigator, best friends with a powerful sassy witch, and owes 322 favors to the infamous Bargainer whom she hasn’t seen or spoken to in seven years. I really loved Callie, she is one hell of a firecracker type of protagonist. She’s strong-willed, sarcastic, compassionate, but comes with her own share of baggage and nightmares that plague her past. Personally I liked her from the start (well, technically at the very beginning she’s covered in blood and terrified, but I mean after that haha) and her personality felt so realistic that it was easy to connect with her, support her, empathize with her, and just overall wish we could be friends.
I love how Callie is stunningly beautiful because she is a Siren but showed how beauty can be a weapon and how it can turn against you just as easily. I actually met a girl a few years back who was gorgeous and so incredibly nice but she could really connect with Callie’s story if she read it. I remember thinking she was so brave to share her story and it truly gave me a new perspective on the world, particularly as at the time I was a lanky young thing who felt ugly and worthless and thought beauty could be the answer to all of my problems.
Anyway, I totally thought Callie was a fierce but loveable character. Plus how could I not like a girl who makes a big scary Fae King read and watch all of the Harry Potter stories, calling him a heathen for not having done so before?? (Btw that scene when they watch the last two movies was perfect and I don’t know if I could have smiled any harder at the cuteness). I mean, normally I’m kind of iffy about certain pop culture references in fantasy stories because it always seems out of place, a bit forced or cheesy, and it never fits in smoothly, but the way Thalassa imbedded bits of our world into this earth with supernatural humans simply worked. Instead of glaring out of place it helped bridge a gap between my reality and this reality and made me wonder if maybe I just hadn’t noticed the supernatural stirrings in this world before.
The plot of this book was an absolute ride. There’s a definite major plotline of romance, but there’s also a growing evil in the Otherworld that Callie and Des must face. I happened to really like the pacing, the plotlines, the world-building, and the characters. And I’ve got to say that I really fell hard for Des. And you might think that it’s because he’s really attractive and smirky, but it was when he was building a friendship with Callie, a young girl with no friends, that I fell in love (just like with Rhys in ACOMAF, I love his smirks and playful attitude but it’s in the tender moments that you find yourself drawn to him. If only more guys could figure that out *rolls eyes*).
Sometimes when books like to go back and forth between the past and present I get impatient because the past, while informative, is detracting from the present and I just want to go go go with the action. But in this case I couldn’t wait for a jump to the past just to watch their friendship grow deeper.
So yes, while I can’t speak for everyone I definitely think that if you’re a fan of Sarah J. Maas’ ACOTAR series then you need to get on this train because it’s epic. At least on my shelves it rates up there right next to those books and actually with such a strong first book I wouldn’t be surprised if it edges its way ahead (especially if I continue reading into the incoherent delirium that is any time past midnight for me haha).
Rhapsodic is a story of darkness – how it comforts, how it abuses, how it ignites, and how it rules. Taking humans, supernaturals, and a powerful realm of Fae, this book spins together a romance that will steal your heart, a mystery that will horrify, and a cast of characters that dig deep into their darkness unearthing secrets that take a powerful toll. Rhapsodic, in short, is absolutely riveting.
P.S. And let me not forget to mention how much I LOVE the cover!
Purchase here: Rhapsodic
Meet Laura Thalassa!
Found in the forest when she was young, Laura Thalassa was raised by fairies, kidnapped by werewolves, and given over to vampires as repayment for a hundred year debt. She’s been brought back to life twice, and, with a single kiss, she woke her true love from eternal sleep. She now lives happily ever after with her undead prince in a castle in the woods.
… or something like that anyway.
When not writing, Laura can be found scarfing down guacamole, hoarding chocolate for the apocalypse, or curled up on the couch with a good book.