Hello, my name is Amy and I love the A Court of Thorns and Roses series (you probably already knew that if you’ve read even at least one of my posts, I manage to squeeze it in anywhere). Because I can’t get enough of Sarah J. Maas and her books, I’m a member of several Facebook groups relating to them! Whilst browsing the groups one weekend, I came across a post that recommended a book that anyone suffering with an SJM book hangover would love. So, of course, I bought it right away. That book was Rhapsodic, the first book in The Bargainer series by Laura Thalassa. I started the book on a Saturday morning, and finished the second, A Strange Hymn, on the following Monday morning, so I suppose you could say that I somewhat enjoyed them! I could definitely see the similarities with ACOTAR and ACOMAF, but I’ll go into more detail further down.
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From the cover:
“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.”
So first of all, I want to highlight that *trigger warning*, this book contains sexual abuse and rape. I unfortunately couldn’t find any warnings in the book, but believe they are necessary and would hope that in future printings that this could be rectified.
I was a little thrown by the beginning. I’m generally not a fan of urban fantasy, I definitely prefer high fantasy where we get to delve into an entirely new world, so when this book started off in present day America I wasn’t too excited about where it was going to go. However the story soon progressed and in no time I was enthralled.
The premise of the story is that Desmond Flynn, aka King of the Night, is also The Bargainer. He makes deals with people in return for a favour that he can call in at any time. In the beginning, Callie goes through a fairly traumatic situation, and calls The Bargainer for help. Thus, their “relationship” begins, and Callie starts to owe many, many favours. Their story is told through a combination of flashbacks and present day. I don’t always enjoy this but Laura executed this really well. It helped to provide an insight into the pair’s history, why they act the way they do and without this I don’t think I’d have cared for the characters as I do.
For me the characters were one of the main reasons why I couldn’t put this book down. Callie is a fighter, a survivor. She is herself with no apologies, clever, independent and loyal. Desmond is arrogant, confident and aggressive when it comes to his enemies, but with Callie he is caring, loving and protective. His secrecy did annoy me at several points throughout the story, though I understand that this was used as a plot device. For me, he is your typical “alpha male” but HOW OLD IS HE? This is never explained, just that because he’s Fae that he’s very, very old, and it’s annoying me. While he is undoubtedly an attractive character, he just doesn’t compare to my fave High Lord.
However, one character I wasn’t 100% was Temper, Callie’s best friend. Her dialogue felt very out of place for me; she started every other sentence with “bitch” and “girl”. These particular lines, which Callie does sometimes contribute to, felt very jarring. Here are a couple of examples of lines from the two which I couldn’t get on board with: “homegirl is in shackles because she boned a dude with wings” and “playing hide the salami with a soldier”.
While Callie and Des’ relationships was sweet, quite often a little more than sweet, and very romantic, I found myself wanting to yell “JUST TALK TO ONE ANOTHER”. The way they held things back from each other was very frustrating, but I guess there would be no story without that… Despite this, Desmond really respects Callie; he doesn’t try and stop her from doing anything and trusts her to make her own decisions and this definitely made me appreciate them as a couple more.
Many of Des’ “favours” were related to violence and sex. At first I did feel a little uncomfortable but it’s very clear to see that any romance between the two is completely consensual and the “favours” are obviously chosen as Desmond knows its what the two of them want. Rhapsodic and A Strange Hymn are very much adult novels. While there are definitely many similarities between it and ACOTAR, the romantic scenes are much more descriptive in The Bargainer series, with more swearing and coarse language throughout.
Now, the similarities between The Bargainer trilogy(?) and the ACOTAR series. I’m in no way suggesting that plagiarism has occurred either way around, I’m merely stating similarities that I found having read both author’s work. For some, these points may be a great thing; you’re missing ACOTAR dearly and want something to attempt to fill the void. This will do it for you!
- So the first point is obvious. The book is all about Fae and Fairies, with the usual folklore such as iron being a weakness, male Fae territoriality, mates, different courts and “under the mountain” is also referred to
- There is a Night Kingdom with a Land of Dreams
- Desmond, our male protagonist, has wings that are likened to those of a bat
- Desmond’s attitude is also similar to Rhysand’s: cocky, cunning but overall a big softy
- Desmond’s friend had a scar over one eye
- There is an evil queen Mara with long red hair (similar to Amarantha)
- There is a literal Starfall – “The stars are falling from the sky!”- in which Desmond takes stars from the sky for Callie
- During this Starfall, Callie refers to herself as being the “Cosmos personified” which reminded me of the “Stars eternal” quote from A Court of Wings and Ruin
- Callie glows during ‘romantic’ scenes
- Callie’s ex is a wolf that was fairly possessive and wrecked her home
Overall, I rated both books 3.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but some of the language used definitely knocked it down a star or two for me. I just felt as though I was reading two different author’s work in one book because it seemed so out of character. Laura has created an intriguing and fantastical world, built around two very well developed characters whom I can’t wait to read more about. I would definitely recommend that if you are suffering from a Feysand slump, you read these books. Alternatively, if you weren’t a fan of ACOTAR, I would still recommend The Bargainer as of course despite any similarities they are completely different stories and totally enthralling, so you may enjoy!
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