Rhapsodic (The Bargainer #1) by Laura Thalassa ★★★★

First and foremost, I want to address this book cover.

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I mean, it’s ridiculous how much I love it. I hate (no I don’t…that’s a lie) to admit that I totally judge books by their covers, and in this case, this book is an absolute winner. It has been given a coveted spot on my “my shiny pretty” GRs shelf for me to gaze at for all eternity. Sigh…. Now that we have my cover art fangirl session out of the way, I can get to the meat of the matter: what lies within this gorgeous cover.

I don’t normally do this, but I feel I need to issue a pre-review disclaimer: this is the second book I’ve read by Laura Thalassa, the first being The Queen of All that Dies (that title–loves!), and the issue that I had with that one I also had with this one: the age gap. In TQoAtD, the main dude is like 60-ish (though he looks much younger and is NOT a supernatural being) while the main female protag is barely an adult. Well, Ms. Thalassa takes it a bit further this time. In Rhapsodic, our MCs meet when she is the sweet young age of 16 (which is for some reason considered an adult in the supernatural world–ick!) and he is, well, he is basically a super-old, super-immortal fae. The redeeming caveat here is that technically nothing happens between the two until she is 24. Now, I know that 24 is still a blink of time in the world of an immortal, but at 24 she at least has the potential to be a mature adult in human terms. And let’s be completely honest here: going by years alone, EVERYONE is too young for someone who is ageless. So while them meeting when she is 16 still kind of squicks me out, I’m not holding it against the story. End of disclaimer.

“I prey on bad men. This is my vendetta. My addiction.”

Meet Callypso (or Callie to her friends). She’s 24 and runs a private detective agency along with her witchy best friend. Callie has a special talent extremely suited to her line of work. You see, she’s a siren, and as a siren she’s able to compel people to do her bidding. Mostly this means being able to compel the truth from a suspect, but there can also be a darker side. Her siren (who is presented as almost a completely separate personality—which is understandable but also a little strange) feeds on sex and lust and violence, and it’s always that brewing just under the surface.

“I’ve never been free of him. When the sun hits my face, it’s his shadow I see on the pavement. When the night closes in on me, it’s his darkness that blankets my room. When I fall asleep, it’s his face that haunts my dreams.”

The Bargainer. The King of the Night. The one you call when you’ve no one else to turn to. He doles out IOUs and he ALWAYS collects. So when 16 year-old Callie inadvertently kills someone, she calls on The Bargainer to help her. And for the next year of her life, she calls on him again and again, amassing an astronomical number of debts–322 to be exact. But at the end of that year, The Bargainer disappears, and for 7 years, Callie is left waiting, with only her beaded bracelet of favors owed to remind her of her one time quasi-protector.

But now, out of the blue, Des, The King of the Night, has returned to collect. The reason: there are some super creepy shenanigans going on in fairy land. Women are disappearing only to be found again, comatose and having given birth to some seriously disturbing kids. Des needs Callie’s help to get to the bottom of what’s going on, but it’s apparent that’s not the only thing Des is after.

“You have over three hundred favors to repay me. By the time we’re done, you will realize that Eli and all those other men were just a dissatisfying dream. That this, and only this, is real.”

The story is told in a mixture of flashbacks and present day. We get to meet Des when Callie does, and we learn how their friendship began and progressed. It’s obvious extremely early on that their friendship began to be more to both of them, even when Callie was just a baby at 16. Callie has a hard time understanding Des’s intent, maybe because her feelings have been clouded by her sense of betrayal and rejection when she was younger, but it’s pretty evident to the reader just what Des’s intentions are. And they are anything but platonic.

While there is a fairly creepy mystery-ish story here, this book is without a doubt a romance before it is anything else. But it’s the best kind of romance because it is one that has been left to simmer for going on 8 years. That’s like a warm, ooey, gooey brownie covered in a rich chocolate sauce, top with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Yummmmm….I just want to eat it all up. I love slow burn romances and lately I’ve been having a thing for the Fae, so this definitely ticked those boxes for me.

My biggest complaint (aside from the aforementioned disclaimer) is that I didn’t really get Callie’s siren side. It felt incomplete and not nearly explored well enough. And the boarding school that she attended for “supernaturals” or “paranormals” or whatever, seemed just like a school for normies. It seemed odd to make that distinction in the book but then do absolutely nothing with it during the flashbacks. I guess I just think her character outside of her relationship to Des should have been explored more. However, in the scope of things, it was a really minor hangup that didn’t necessarily detract from my enjoyment of the story.

Oh, and just one more note: people have commented that this is very similar to, and maybe even a knock off of, A Court of Mist and Fury . But seeing as how I’ve never read it, it made no difference to me. In fact, it has maybe, possibly convinced me to give Sarah J. Maas’s series a second chance, after struggling so much with the first book in the series (Feyre is the worst IMO). I like Callie infinitely better than Feyre, and Des is nowhere near as smug as Rhysand (though that’s not necessarily a disparage against Rhysand–I actually do like his character well enough).

I know this was kind of a rambly review, so I’m going to leave you readers with this: IF you like Fae stories, and IF you like Fae romances in particular, and IF you liked ACoMaF or books of that ilk, then you may just enjoy this one.

Happy reading folks!

 

 

 

 

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