This is something a bit different but I just couldn’t wait to share my thoughts on the final instalment of The Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa. Dark Harmony is to be released at the end of the week, and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC so that I could read and review it a little early.
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As I haven’t yet shared my thoughts on Rhapsodic, A Strange Hymn and The Emperor of Evening Stars, and as they are fresh in my mind from my pre-Dark Harmony reread – I wanted to share my thoughts on all of the books in this incredible series.
Title: The Bargainer Series: Rhapsodic, A Strange Hymn, The Emperor of Evening Stars, Dark Harmony
Author: Laura Thalassa
Synopsis of Rhapsodic: 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.
Categories: Fantasy, Fae, Sirens, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance,
Rating: 5 stars
Content Warnings: There are several off page rapes which are discussed throughout the series. If you want to read The Bargainer Series but need some more information on this, please get in touch.
Review: I am going to give my thoughts on each of the books in the series, I am going to do my best to keep my reviews spoiler free, but if you like the sound of Rhapsodic I would recommend diving right in to the series!
I was overdue for a reread of this incredible series, and I was so glad I could fit in a reread before I read the last book Dark Harmony. Rhapsodic is an amazing start to what has proved to be truly epic series. The main character Callie is a siren and she is so wonderfully written, sassy and strong, vulnerable and unique, she capture my heart from the very beginning.
We follow Callie as The Bargainer enters her life after disappearing for 7 years. There is a shattered timeline following current events, and the events of seven years before, when Callie and Des first meet and as their friendship (and the number of beads Callie owes Des) grows. It’s wonderfully constructed and strikes the perfect balance between plot, world-building and character development.
The characters are all so well written and unique, they seem almost real. As well as Callie, I love Desmond Flynn (how could I resist!) and Temper. There are a range of Supernatural characters, including, sirens, Fae, a sorceress and even a werewolf. There is a richness to the worlds of The Bargainer Series – the ‘real world’ in which magical beings coexist with normal humans (who are blissfully unaware of the magic around them) as well as the Fae Otherworld. The world-building is truly incredible (and really comes in to it’s own in later books when we get to spend more time in the Otherworld.)
The relationship between Callie and Des is so enjoyable to read, they are such strong personalities. I love that the clash so much, I have yet to find an author who writes banter as well as Laura Thalassa. There is such fire in their relationship it is impossible not to be swept up in it – but there is also a tenderness between them too. As Callie struggles with the return of Des, she realises “he stuck around when I was least loveable.” and this is how she knows she is making the right decision.
Des is just as unique and vivid as Callie – I must confess I love everything about him. From the way he is with Callie, (I adore that he calls her ‘cherub’) to the fact that he is so inherently Fae. There is a darkness to him which he embraces, and he sees that same darkness in Callie and loves her all the more for it. There are so many incredible quotes from both Callie and Des to each other woven throughout the book. “And the mountains may rise and fall, and the sun might wither away, and the sea may claim the land and swallow the sky. But you will always be mine. And the stars might fall from the heavens, and night might cloak the earth, but until darkness dies, I will always be yours.” as well as these gorgeous declarations, the banter between Callie and Des is truly incredible. Laura Thalassa writes to most incredibly sarky characters and with Callie and Des she has created a wonderful meeting of equals.
As well as such a wonderful example of a pairing of equals, Laura Thalassa also gives us a rather thought-provoking example of a toxic masculinity and a relationship tainted by it – Callie’s relationship with Eli, which she breaks off early in the book. We are there as Callie realises that her relationship with Eli is not what she needs it, or wants it to be. “I blink through the haze of dominance he’s been throwing around since he swept me up in his arms , I just hadn’t noticed it then.” and even our bold and strong siren struggles to end thing with Eli “Wait. What am I saying? This isn’t a negotiation. There’s nothing to talk about. When you end a relationship, you don’t owe the other person an explanation, crappy though that may be.” There is such stark contrast between Eli’s Callie and Des’s Callie – and only after Callie is free to be herself do we really see her.
Callie’s character is so complex, as well as her innate strength and her siren’s darkness, we also get to witness her vulnerability – not just in those flashbacks to when she was a teenager but also in the present. Callie is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I think that her struggle with those memories and feelings is written really well, and sensitively dealt with… “I’m forever banished to watch people live out their lives, while I wait for mine to begin”. We watch as Des helps Callie to piece herself back together “People like us are not victims. We’re someone’s nightmare.” is what Des tells Callie, something which I think it very much shown to be true over the course of this series.
Rhapsodic is an incredible start to a wonderfully dark and enchanting series and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy. I do not say this lightly but it is one of my all time favourite books – and now that I have read the finally book in the series, I can honestly say that The Bargainer is one of my favourite series of books.
A Strange Hymn
The second book in the series picks up where Rhapsodic left off. I won’t say too much for fear of spoiling things but as well follow Callie and Des on the quest to solve the mystery of the Thief of Souls we get to explore more of the Otherworld. The worldbuilding is exquisite the Otherworld and it’s realms of Night, Day, Flora and Fauna are everything I had hoped for. Laura’s take on the Fae is one of my favourite, I love that they are so beguiling and yet so other and so very very dark.
I always wonder how I could love Callie more, but after each book I realise that I do. She is such an incredible character and underneath her sassiness there is a raw vulnerability about her that makes her so very relatable. We are also given the most wonderful gift in this series, the friendship between Callie and Temper – it is, honestly, so refreshing to see such a wonderful friendship between two female characters – without a hint of competition or backstabbing. Temper is the best friend that we all need – one who always has our back (and would totally blow up a portal for us) she is there for Callie and Callie is there for her. I would love to read more about Temper – and about her powers.
We are left with a cliffhanger at the end of A Strange Hymn and the wait for Dark Harmony was a long one (but it was totally worth it!) Whilst waiting for Dark Harmony I read The Emperor of Evening Stars which is book 2.5 and is a novella, which gives us some background on the elusive Desmond Flynn.
The Emperor of Evening Stars
I must confess, as much as I wanted more information on The Bargainer himself, I was worried that with reading The Emperor of Evening Stars that Des would lose some of his mystery. But I need not have worried. I loved Des even more after reading this. It’s a wonderful window into the world of The Emperor of Evening Stars and his life before Callie. Even with all this extra information about Des, he still retains his mystery.
I love that Des is a morally grey character, one who is honest with himself about that. Having a window into the Otherworld and more specifically to the Kingdom of Night was a wonderful gift and one which really added to the series as a whole. I am pretty sure I could read endless books about the Otherworld – and I hope that Laura Thalassa decides to write more books based, at least partially, in this dark and feral Otherworld.
I couldn’t wait to be back in the Otherworld with Callie and Des – they are two of my favourite fictional characters and I was desperate to know who their story ends. Dark Harmony was definitely worth the wait. I loved everything about this book – from the first page through to the Epilogue. I raced through it, because I could not bear to put it down. As with the early books, the mystery of the plot and the incredible characters just pull you in – as every bit as dark and enchanting as the Fae denizens of the Otherworld.
Dark Harmony was every bit as incredible as I had hoped! It was a fantastic conclusion to The Bargainer Series. It is darker and more Fae that the earlier books, it was also amazing to get to visit more of the Otherworld and find out more about the Fae that inhabit it. Dark Harmony is, quite simply, perfect! “fairy tales aren’t just full of princes and fair maidens and moonlit weddings. They are full of monsters too. Monsters and violence and terror and death.” For me this quote from Dark Harmony really highlights the essence of this series – and as we all know what is true in fairy tales is also true in life.
I don’t want to discuss plot or events too much, because I really don’t want to spoil anything. I will say that I love that after everything she has been through Callie is still as snarky and humorous as always. I love that we get to read more about her incredible friendship with Temper – I really love Temper so much – I need at least one book about her! The plot is truly incredible, and the threads that Laura Thalassa has woven together come together to create a truly epic ending.
I often recommend The Bargainer Series to, well, anyone who will listen it’s the perfect dark fantasy and I would recommend it to anyone who loves the Fae, fantasy with a dark twist and strong female protagonists who realise that not only do they not need saving, but that perhaps they themselves are the monster to be feared. If you want to get your hands on this series, the first book Rhapsodic is available on over on Amazon*.
I received an ARC of Dark Harmony for the purpose of a review – however all opinions and words are my own (and I already had a ecopy of Dark Harmony preordered and will be treating myself to the paperback too) and would have been sharing a review of the series regardless of whether or not I received a copy.