If the price of safety is slavery, would you bargain your life?
A Bargain in Silver is book one of Josie Jaffrey’s Solis Invicti paranormal romance series, set in a dystopian, post-apocalyptic London.
A deadly infection threatens to wipe out humanity. The only people who can stem its advance are the Silver, a vampiric race who offer a simple exchange: protection in return for blood and subservience. It’s not a deal that Emmy’s willing to make, but as her world burns around her she finds herself in the arms of the enemy and the line between oppressor and saviour begins to blur.
After an attack by the infected, Emmy is rescued by the handsome Drew who introduces her to the world of the Silver. Desperate to escape subjugation and confused by her attraction to him, she gathers what remains of her surrogate family and plans to make a break for freedom.
But despite her efforts to resist, she is drawn further into the intrigues of the mysterious Silver through the agency of their ruler, the Primus: Solomon. Emmy refuses to submit to the cold and detached Primus and an attempt on her life makes it clear that he is unable to protect her from the political machinations of his race.
As the connection between them deepens she must choose between her desire and her will to rebel, but can she trust his intentions when everyone is after her blood?
A Disclaimer + Content Warnings
First, Content Warning: This book contains graphic descriptions of blood, depictions of sex and sexual activity, dubious consent, post-apocalyptic portrayal of society, violence and murder, as well as a depiction of an epidemic (not light reading for 2020).
Disclaimer: There are some parts of this book that I did not enjoy that I won’t be discussing in this review. That’s because, I’ll be honest, it’s my own fault. I like this author. I saw her name and that this book was about vampires and jumped in without reading a summary. If I’d read a summary, I don’t think I would have read this book due to personal preference. I have done my best to let go of the things I’m not a fan of that were right there in the summary and will focus instead on other aspects of the book.
What is A Bargain in Silver about?
A Bargain in Silver takes place in a recently post-apocalyptic version of London and is about Emilia–Emmy for short–navigating the new world. Emmy’s London is now a scourged city fallen victim to the Weeper plague. As a result of the plague, the Silver–vampires–have revealed themselves and taken over the country in an effort to preserve humans, as they are a necessary food source for Silver. Emmy finds herself rescued and put under the protection of the most powerful Silvers in the country.
Genre: Post-Epidemic Vampire Fiction
Vampire fiction meets apocalypse! Yes, this book without the addition of vampires could easily hit all the plot beats of a typical zombie or disease-based apocalypse movie.
Tropes: Vampire Society is Different
Unsurprisingly, like most vampire societies, the Silvers operate differently from humans. This book really focuses on that, though, as Silvers have now taken over the United Kingdom (and other parts of the world) and are imposing their leadership and rule upon humans.
Plot: Vampires Take Over the World and One Girl Kinda Resists
The takeover by the Silver is pretty fast and efficient. In a matter of days things are sorted out for them, and it’s up to humans to decide if they want to risk certain death or go along with things. A bit of resistance is put up, notably by Emmy and her friends, but it ends poorly and frankly seems pretty pointless.
The only element of this book I can really firmly say I liked was Solomon, the Primus or leader of the Silver. Sol falls into a vampire archetype I actually quite enjoy, in that he’s a leader who must maintain certain impressions of him but does have quite a lot of power to do as he wishes. As a result, he’s one of the few characters in the book that rarely hides his motivations, even if he’ll maintain secrecy for certain aspects of his personality out of necessity. He never lies to Emmy–a point she also appreciates–and his relationship with her is built on mutual understanding, respect, and consent. He repeatedly makes his intentions and methods clear, and does exactly what he says he’ll do.
In terms of “vampires are taking over the world” plotlines, this one was reasonably well thought out. It wasn’t immensely appealing, but I do like that the author doesn’t gloss over the fact that the system was in place for a takeover for a long time. The Silver admit that they were ready to take over the country–perhaps the world–and were just waiting for a good time to do so. However, the Weeper plague is so underdeveloped, unexplained, and unrelated to what everybody claims is the turning point that led to the Silver takeover. Cara Alton and what happened to her is described in great detail, forgotten about briefly, and then explained but is also completely unrelated to the Weepers. It just… doesn’t make sense?
There are some elements of the story that I didn’t like but that, again, I should have known they were present due to the summary of the book. That being said… I was not a fan of quite a few things in this book. Emmy was, as a protagonist, one of the most confusing perspectives I’ve ever read. There were times when she made very emotional decisions, but she was inconsistent in those and frequently changed her mind about things based on either logic or emotions, whichever she felt like. At one point, she told a character that no matter what he said she wouldn’t change her mind on a subject but…she was also easily convinced by every single other character in the story to change her mind at one point or another. Her resistance to the Silvers was half-assed at best. At first, she was frightened by their announcement, and decided to escape them. But she was hilariously bad at that, getting three others killed in doing so. She then proceeded to blame someone for their deaths even though he wasn’t really at direct fault. She was willing to forgive Sol for things that every Silver she met did, but unwilling to forgive Drew. She would repeatedly say that Drew was not a romantic option but then say she was undeniably attracted to him for no apparent reason.
When it came to the relationships Emmy had, all of them were bad. She presents herself as “woe is me, I’ve had a hard time in life” but also does nothing to ingratiate herself with others, not connecting with any of the other humans she lives with towards the end. While she regularly points out the problems, dangers, and issues with her relationships with the Silver, she also refuses to take multiple opportunities to cease those relationships. She takes their protection but goes back on the deals she’s offered for that protection frequently. When she finally admits that she doesn’t want to stay away from some of the Silver, she still argues against the conditions they have for a relationship. She finds these conditions distasteful, but they’re consistent. Sol, Drew, and even Cam all consistently lay out how a friendship or relationship with them would work, and Emmy will agree to their terms one moment and be belligerently angry about the enforcement of those terms the next.
There are a lot of other things about the world building that I took issue with, but I’ll be the first to admit that at least some of them are almost certainly explained in the rest of the series. I just don’t have the patience to read the rest of the books, now that I know this series is just not written with a reader like me in the target audience. A few things stood out to me: the Silver seem highly organized and to have thought a lot out, but they still make some basic mistakes. At one point, Emmy is assigned a job and it’s revealed that all humans that are working only get one day off a week. That seems exhausting, and the way they’re forced to live together in dorms as well as most of the pleasure activities–bars, nightclubs, restaurants, shops, etc.–being explicitly designed to be made available to Silver only… It strikes me as odd. The Silver explain that they have an interest in protecting humans, in making sure they survive, and this includes maintaining a degree of the world’s infrastructure to keep humans happy and healthy. Why would they then force them into overcrowded living situations, overwork them, and deny them any pleasurable leisure activities? If the goal is to genuinely create a slave population out of the entire human race, then the Silver don’t really need to try to cajole and trick and manipulation humans into doing their bidding as they demonstrated.
I will admit to being rather disappointed by this book. Thus far everything else I’ve read from this author has been a hit for me, and I was sad to see this one not turn out that way. Perhaps it has more to do with the fact that I’ve read mostly more recent publications by this author, and also the fact that I really should have read the summary closely before jumping right in. As I said above, though, I left those elements I disliked out of the review and I still didn’t enjoy this book without them. This author has absolutely grown as a writer, and her characters in more recent publications–especially May Day, which is also set in the world of the Silvers–are far more appealing. If you are reading this review to the end and you’re worried about reading anything by Jaffrey, please check out my review of May Day. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, from its setting to the main character. I’m not going to beat a dead horse any longer because honestly I’d rather move past this book and focus on reading the new content that the author is putting out at a fantastic speed. Alternately, if you’re reading this review and finding that the things I criticize actually sound interesting to you, do check it out! This is the first in a series, so if intensely possessive vampire romances are you thing this is probably right up your alley.