My strategy for surviving the Trump presidency is to hide exclusively in fun escapist books and Rhapsodic, involving a fey king and a human siren, fit the bill.
Callypso is a siren who can use her voice to compel humans to do/say whatever she wants, a power she utilizes to coerce bad people to admit their crimes, stop stealing from the innocent, etc. When she was younger she bought favors from the Bargainer, a dark fey. Not just a few favors, HUNDREDS OF FAVORS. She wears a mystical beaded bracelet and each bead is a favor owed that the Bargainer can call in at any point and she cannot refuse. He can ask her to say or do anything he wants. AN. NY. THING.
How did she rack up hundreds of favors? She would call the Bargainer to hang out with her in high school. Y’know, watch movies, eat macaroons, chill in her dorm room (she’s in a private school after a traumatic event that involved her first favor with the Bargainer). Basically they were dating only each date cost her a favor. Eventually he ghosted on her and now, 7 years later he shows up to collect.
At heart this is a romance novel that focuses on the smolder between the mysterious and powerful Bargainer (aka Des), and the sassy and capable Callypso. As with the author’s other book Pestilence, it’s an unique concept that feels fresh compared to the standard vampire/werewolf fare that is common in urban fantasy. Des is not a classic alpha – he’s powerful but in more subtle ways, full of shadow and mystery. Callypso is smart and self-aware and her siren persona is original. There is a terrifying mystery that Des needs Callypso’s help to solve and the two have great smolder. And if you’re worried that he’s using all of his favors to make her do sex stuff – don’t. It does a great job building their relationship while maintaining a sense of danger.
“Having the Bargainer’s full attention is like catching a tiger’s eye. All you wanted to do was pet the creature, but as soon as it turns its gaze on you, you realize it’s simply going to tear you apart.”
There is much to commend about this book and I’ll be picking up the next in the series. There was a sticking point that hindered my ability to get swept up in the escapist fantasy of it, and that was when Cally and the Bargainer initially spend time together (in the past), she is 16. It’s not clear exactly how old he is, however he is clearly an adult. And while they don’t physically engage in the past there is clear desire to do so on both parties.
If the author had made her an 18 year old college student it would have solved the significant ick factor that permeated the 50% of the book that takes place in the past.
Like Pestilence this book isn’t perfect, but there’s enough interesting things happening that it’s worth checking out (currently $3 in Kindle US) – this is an author I’ll be keeping an eye on.