Friday, February 11, 2005

Book Review: Rhapsody by Elizabeth Haydon

One of two unknown writers from the fantasy anthology Legends II, I decided to pick up the Symphony of the Ages series which Haydon wrote. The first book is entitled Rhapsody, named after one of the main characters in the novel. It doesn't take much imagination what the theme of the seris is about, especially when you get words like "symphony" and "rhapsody". So, how does Haydon fuse elements of music and fantasy, and is she successful?

The novel opens with a prophecy (an ancient trope in fantasy) and actually had an interesting prologue involving time travel and manipulation. However, as I read on, I feared that the book will descend into the stereotypical plot a lot of fantasy stories fall prey to. And to make a long story short, it did. Haydon follows all the stereotypical techniques of most fantasy novels, inserting prophecy, destiny, ancient evil, magic, and even romance into the mix. If you're looking for a groundbreaking fantasy novel, this isn't it.

Not that the book doesn't have its own share of originality. As I mentioned earlier, Haydon weaves the theme of music and song into the formula. It was interesting at the start but later on, the music theme feels too contrived. I mean there was a portion when Rhapsody and her companions found a secret passage with a puzzle. And guess what, the puzzle involved musical notes, when it really didn't make much sense (at least to me). And if you're looking for melodious interweaving of text, well, this isn't it. You're probably better off with the likes of Patricia McKillip. Haydon though does have some good lines and gorgeous descriptions along the lines of Jordan narration, but it's nothing too spectacular or anything I haven't seen before.

Character development is quite okay. You have the stereotypical naive protagonist who wields great power, the skeptical anti-hero, and a firbolg general with a British accent. They're actually quite okay, although I'm more fascinated with their "coolness" factor more than their original personality.

At a certain point though, the book degenerates into something that a couple of fantasy writers like Eddings and Feist is prone to using, namely that of giving the main characters too much of an edge when it comes to planning and everything seems to fall into place.

Thankfully, there's plot although by the end of the novel, you still have a lot of unanswered questions. Despite the length of the book, there's still a longing for more, since the reader catches only a glimpse of the setting and a hint of the adventures of the characters. I'm curious enough not to regret purchasing the other books in the series, although a more critical reader might want to pass on this series.

Ultimately, Haydon is more or less the typical mass-market fantasy fanfare. It's good mass-market fantasy but it's not breathtaking. It's slightly a step above being a book of guilty pleasures but don't kid yourself thinking that this book is a must-read. If you need some entertainment (nothing too simple but nothing too complicated either), this is probably it. The book shows potential, but it was never developed in the first book. Still, Rhapsody is better than a lot of fantasy I've read in quite awhile and might be a fantasy book I'd recommend to others if they want romance and intrigue.


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