Rhapsodic (The Bargainer Book 1) by Laura Thalassa

Themes

  • Coming of age, teenage romance, romance novel, romance series
  • Fae, fairytales, otherworld, supernatural, supernatural beings, magic, curses, bargains

“Cherub, people like us are not victims. We’re someone’s nightmare.”

The first book I have read from a wonderfully productive, if not wickedly sarcastic author, I have to admit that I was poised to write it off at first. But the idea was intriguing, while it does pay homage to the many wonderful tropes and stays true to the fairytale mythos, it does attempt to be a creature of its own making. Thalassa’s writing voice does not attempt to be lyrically poetic, or dark and brooding, instead it is delivered in blunt honesty. Coming off the heels of a latest read: The Angel’s Game by renowned author and poet of Spain’s soul Carlos Ruiz Zafon, this romance novel featuring a fae king of darkness and the woman who offers him her heart was exactly what I needed.

There is an Otherworld that exists beyond the thin fabric of our own. The fae and other daring “Supernaturals” cross back and forth at will. In the world of Rhapsodic, these gifted humans, and predatory fae live openly among everyone else. However there is a dark character who nearly tops the most wanted list: The Bargainer. He is neigh untouchable on Earth, and when a teenaged girl murders her very infamous and disgustingly abusive stepfather, she soon begins to bargain away bits of her life and will to the Bargainer in exchange for his time.

The book is written in alternating chapters: one set in present day where Callie finds herself thrown back into the company of the dark criminal who abandoned her seven years earlier, and other chapters delving into the time they spent together starting eight years earlier as they countdown to her inevitable abandonment. Each chapter flashback chapter offers more depth and development to the two main characters as they try to unravel the mysterious disappearances of hundreds of women in the Otherworld, and their unnerving return- seemingly dead with their own living infants all sired by The Thief of Souls.

Despite its subject matter, this book had an air of lightheartedness. The secondary characters, villain included, are not well-rounded. The best friend is a stereotypical, exclamatory, Black woman who uses “girl” judiciously in every sentence, the ex-boyfriend is a lycanthrope who comes off exactly as he should- overly protective, slightly abusive, alpha male, and the villain will get the only benefit of the doubt because he is going to be a slow reveal over the rest of the series.  I would recommend this book as a young adult novel. It doesn’t shy away from mature scenes, but unlike so many romance authors, when those instances do arise they are built into the natural flow of the story. None of the interactions between the characters seem forced or inconvenient. This book however is not without some flaws, namely that it is an exploration of Callie’s life and her reconciling her past with her present. Causing most of the focus to remain on the chemistry between both Callie and Des, at the expense of whatever epic evil is awaiting them in the background. Until about seventy-five percent of the way through the book the true antagonist of the series is not even interacted with directly.

While that criticism sits harshly atop a fairly scathing review, I cannot in good conscience give this book a poor sendoff. What the author is attempting to create does work. The world is engaging, though we have yet to truly explore it in this book. I get the distinct feeling that Rhapsodic is a necessary steppingstone into the fae world, exploring the mindset of the main characters before we begin the true adventure. Thalassa spends much of the time aligning our thoughts with her heroine: a girl after my own heart who is sarcastic, rough around edges, and strong despite her splintered self-image. I like her, she is relatable, but I worry that once their relationship is actualized the tiny bit of tension that was building between Callie and Des , which is small only because their mutual attraction is obvious from the start and there is no threat to that other than themselves, will be lost.

I look forward to starting the second installment shortly so that I can explore the Otherworld, delve into the overarching plot, and see if the tension which is crucial to all successful romances finally delivers a payoff that lifts my emotions.

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