Rhapsody is a woman, a Singer of some talent, who is swept up into events of world-shattering import. On the run from an old romantic interest who won't take no for an answer, Rhapsody literally bumps into a couple of shady characters: half-breeds who come to her rescue in the nick of time. Only the rescue turns into an abduction, and Rhapsody soon finds herself dragged along on an epic voyage, one that spans centuries and ranges across a wonder-filled fantasy world-- a world so real you can hear the sweet music of Rhapsody's aubade and smell the smoldering forges deep within the Cauldron.
Elizabeth Haydon (* 1965 in Michigan) is a fantasy author, whose 1999 debut, Rhapsody: Child of Blood, garnered comparisons with Goodkind, Jordan, and even Tolkien. She has written two fantasy series set within the same universe, The fantasy/romance/whodunit fusion called The Symphony of Ages and the young adult series The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.
An herbalist, harpist, and madrigal singer, Elizabeth Haydon also enjoys anthropology and folklore. She lives on the East Coast of the United States.
There are aspects of this book that are worth more than one star. Achmed, one of the book's central protagonists, is reasonably awesome. Grunthor is pretty likeable in a gruff ogre sort of way. But things would be far more tolerable without Rhapsody, the third in the company, the heroine supreme. When you feel that way about the book's/series' namesake, it reflects poorly on the author. The plot was just interesting enough to keep me reading (did it for Achmed), but I just kept getting punished for my effort. Rhapsody is a fantasy classic, master of all trades (musician/healer/fighter/pyromancer/former-hooker/girl of prophecy). She left her family to chase a boy and ends up in the company of monster-men Achmed and Grunthor, and they embark on a grueling, duldrum, underground epic journey (where her beauty levels up from 60 to god-mode). Despite the dullness of this period, I dreaded the journey's end because it would mean Rhapsody interacting with humans again (shudders). See... every time Rhapsody meets a man, this happens: Painfully lengthy description of Rhapsody's appearance->"weak trembling knees"->reaction in trousers->vague fantasy involving her hair Repeat: this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME she meets ANYONE, including NPCs. She causes accidents in the streets, townspeople chase after her like a $100 bill on the wind, she starts wars. And ever so humbly and endearingly, she is totally oblivious. What a nitwit. She also has an irritating habit of adopting every stray child that comes her way.
Enough about Rhapsody; she's not worth it. Another issue I had with the book was the forgone opportunity. As the trio emerges in an unfamiliar place, they have no knowledge of who the baddies are. Gasp, what an opportunity to explore morality, trust, complexities of good and evil. But no. You can identify the villains as the ones sacrificing and violating small children. The easiest, most sympathetic targets. BORING. Plus I have issues with villains with the ultimate goal of destroying the world. Manipulating and controlling the world, sure. But destroying the known universe? What's the motivation? Lazy writing. There's a lot of lazy, repetitive, overly dramatic writing to be found. I nearly gave up on this book multiple times (which I never do), and rewarded with some decent Achmed-centered plot in the last 200 pages (but also had to suffer the stupidity of new characters like Jo and Ashe). The book ends with a cliffhanger but I have absolutely no compulsion to read any more Haydon.
The good: This book is very well plotted - in fact the series is very well plotted. The overall story was gripping. I think I saw that the author is a musician, and used music theory to help structure the book. That's a pretty neat idea. The heroine consistently is the one moving the plot forward, and is clearly the hero, all men are rescued by her and not the other way around. Girl power! (Too bad she's such an idiot - which brings us to...).
The bad: The writing and characterization of the people in the book was pretty terrible. The main character and name-sake of this book is basically a 1970's romance novel heroine, thrown into a fantasy novel (which was pretty funny, ac-tually, once I figured that out). It was disorienting to have the main character, the one you're supposed to identify with, be so irritatingly perfect in a Harlequinne sort of way. Not to mention that every man who saw her instantly fell in love, and I don't care how hot you are, no woman is attractive to every man in the world (not to mention, where were all the gay people in this universe?). And the way the men reacted to Rhapsody (to a man - hah hah) was absurd. I can't think of a single one that didn't want to either possess her (ie, the bad guys) or fall in love with her (ie, the good guys) by the end of the series. The transitions in characterization were awkward at best and totally absent at worst. For instance, one character went from riding down children in the street (to the horror of our romance heroine - SAVE THE CHILDREN) to rescuing her from freezing to death with absolutely no exposition in between. It's like Rhapsody decided he was good and Tra-La! 'Twas so. These problems do get better as time goes on, and the third book is almost bearable, it's all still awfully annoying.
The Ugly: Oh, the word choices. Oh, the terrible dialog. In this land, if something is "very", it is always "more (fill in the blank) than you can imagine." There are no unused adjectives - why would there be a crown of gold when it could be a crown of purest gold? Etc, etc, ad nauseum. The descriptions... they go on for pages, my friends. I ended up skip-ping over loads of stuff and just reading the dialog (because I did want to know what happened, the bones of the story and the plotting are really good), and I noticed that this author has the same problem with scenes - every little detail of every little action is related. I've read some writing manuals that suggest coming up with a complete and through back-story for your characters but in addition to doing this, Ms. Hayden wrote it all down. In short, Hemingway would choke on these three books, and would glad of his impending death rather than finish the series.
In sum - it's a great plot, but if you have short patience with wordy authors, don't like being irritated with characters, have an aversion to fake Welsh, or dislike the word "lore" (oh, man, how I hate that word) pass this one by.
Please pardon me while I rinse my brain out with “The Sun Also Rises” and some Charles de Lint (whatever his faults, he’s never overly wordy).
I love sci-fi/fantasy and I was suckered in by many of the good reviews on Amazon. It did sound interesting, three people transported hundreds of years into the future, so I gave it a shot. I still can't believe I wasted two days on this book and the two following it. I curse the fact that I'm one of the sort of people that needs resolution, even if it means wading through three books of complete drivel.
Achmed and Grunthor were the only reasons I didn't use this book to start a bonfire. Those two are actually interesting characters, even if they're turned into metaphorical eunuchs later on. I skipped pages to read more about them and to get away from Mary Sue--oh, sorry, I mean Rhapsody.
Let's talk about Rhapsody. How perfect does a character really need to be? This woman is blond, thin, beautiful beyond description, modest, magically talented, an expert swordswoman, loves all children -- excuse me while I go retch.
She started out fairly well, a former prostitute trying to escape from an over-attentive client, but it all went downhill after that. When she's "reborn" in the fire and becomes Ms. I'm So Perfect, she becomes utterly unbearable. Page after page is spent talking about her beauty and the affect it has on everyone around her -- which she, of course, has no knowledge of. I was grinding my teeth before I even made it a third of the way through the book.
The horror that is Rhapsody herself aside, this book has way too many other flaws for me to recommend it. How much of a history lesson do we really need? Personally, I was almost put to sleep every time a character felt the need to lecture us for pages on end about their world's history and politics. It's boring. In fact that pretty much sums up the majority of this book.
Even Achmed and Grunthor start to become a little worn by the end of the book. What made them fun is slowly stripped away by their mindless devotion to Rhapsody and their increasingly out-of-character behavior.
This book, the whole trilogy, actually, is little more than a romance novel wrapped in the thin disguise of a fantasy book. If that's your sort of thing and you don't mind nauseatingly perfect, sugarcoated heroines, then you'll probably like this. If, however, you're looking for an intelligent book with a believable plot, well-rounded characters and gripping dialogue, you'll want to look elsewhere.
Something else to go on that long list of awful things through which I put myself. Torturous volumes of Angel Sanctuary tops it, I think, but this has to come a close second.
Rhapsody is an awful Mary Sue and every sweet chime of her irresistible voice and sweeping charm was an affront to my very being. Why, then, did I put myself through four episodes before a) I couldn't take anymore and b) the school library ran out of copies? It was all for Achmed, my friends--one of the two likable characters in this series; both of which happen to hold minor roles before Rhapsody's shining brilliance.
Sorry, my fingers got a way from me there.
Oh! And Ashe! Ken doll made real and tormented by a tragic past and saved by the grace of our beloved and flawless heroine--aren't they all? Gods! What I wouldn't give for him to turn to stone.
Really, though, I shouldn't be so vehement. It was my own fault that I had to live through four aching volumes of this (really gives a new meaning to Symphony of Ages--bloody ages) drivel and I should blame no one but me and stop being so bitter.
The story, the basic premise and idea… They sound interesting. I can’t tell you whether they actually are because, despite all pages in the book, the basic beginning force of the story isn’t explained. Not surprising really, as that’s most likely being saved for exploration further down the series. The plot contained in this particular book itself, the journey of Rhapsody, Achmed, and Grunthor, THAT part I did find quite enjoyable and would gladly read more of.
I will expound on the problems I had with the book some, but I would like to preface it with saying that despite these problems I had fun reading the book. I enjoyed it, which I believe counts for at least a small bit.
I’ll be saying nothing new when I complain about Rhapsody herself. Within the first chapter she’s found her soulmate, given him her virginity, and declared herself forever his in some of the most forced and gag inducing romantic text I’ve read outside a Harlequinne romance. Later on in the book, every man she comes across, and many of the women, are instantly dumpstruck (if not falling madly in love with her) simply because of her shear beauty. Of course, she never realizes this, but is wonderfully kind, perfect, and gracious to everyone she meets.
Basically, she’s perfect. What flaws she does have seem to exist only to throw a greater light on her perfections, and she shows no real change or growth throughout the book.
I should hate her, but I don’t. I found her perfection easy to ignore and move along with despite it being annoying. This, considering she’s the main character of the book, is not necessarily a plus for the writing. Never the less, Rhapsody is just relatable enough that I can accept the character, if not like her.
Of the other three ‘main characters’ two I loved, and one I absolutely hated. The males, Achmed and Grunthor, I enjoyed reading about. They had wit, skill, kindness tempered with realism and cynicism, and generally just seem more intelligent than the girls.
The last of the group, ‘Jo,’ I found entirely un-relatable, miserably idiotic, selfish, ignorant, and jarring to the setting. From the moment she joins the group she just doesn’t seem to fit in, her actions endanger the others but are never met with any real consequence, and, at least in this book of the series, she seems to serve no real purpose.
Many of the supporting characters could be interesting but are unfortunately struck with the dumps and strawman-itis whenever Rhapsody is around.
The text of the book itself can be lengthy and verbose at times, but the descriptions, though treading close to purple at times, I found was one of the more enjoyable aspects.. I didn’t really get annoyed with the reading until after the climactic battle at the end. At this point the story doesn’t wrap up but meanders on into the lead in to the next entry in the series. Personally I think it would have served much better to wrap things up, or leave them at a cliff hanger, and save the last three chapters and place them in the next book as the first three.
Lastly, there are some scenes in the book that just seem to float in space with no real purpose. For example I, quite frankly, did not need to know about Lord A’s extramarital sexual dalliance with Woman B, who hasn’t been so much as mentioned before and is never mentioned again after this scene. These scenes might have some purpose in later books but if that is the case than they should have been in those books. Here they float disjointedly with no real rhyme or reason for having been brought up at all.
To Sum Up:
Things I loved: Achmed (so much so that I’m actually rooting for him to pair up with Rhapsody), Grunthor, and their journey before, through, and just after ‘the Root.’
Things I liked: The general setting of the world, and the idea of a story that spans several centuries and the disorientation the change in times has on the characters.
Things I loathed: Jo, Ashe, random scenes which don’t seem to fit anywhere in the plot.
Not quite 3 stars but more than 2, and kind of a bore, really.
Neither the characters or the story or even the world itself was of any interest to me. Not even the time travel arc got to me, which is a big deal because I tend to like time travel elements (when they're done well and made sense). Overall though, I can't really say what it is exactly that didn't engage me, other than all those things I just listed. Hah. The writing alone wasn't bad, nor was it any good. The whole thing was rather bland, tbh. But maybe that's because I'm past the age threshold for this kind of high fantasy*.
*Piers Anthony, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, etc etc.
The more I consider this book, the more I find to dislike about it; things like its uneven, often glacial pacing, and its blatant Mary-sue. It shows moments of decent fantasy where you can fool yourself into thinking you're reading something good, but quickly descends back into mediocrity. It's one of those books where you like the plot and think interesting idea, but dislike (okay, hate) the execution.
The book starts out with a decent, if heavy handed deus ex machina of an opening. It goes downhill from there with an excruciatingly long, dull journey. I expected some sort of reward to the reader for being forced to read that. An exciting fight in a new time period, or the inevitable reveal of Rhapsody's soul mate (gag me). Instead I got even more travel, coupled with everyone falling in love with the heroine and an awful lot of talking interspersed with very few scenes of action. Also, the dreaded telling, not showing.
Rhapsody started out a decent character if a little unbelievable even then. The author uses her nightmares as shorthand for all the pain she's suffered, but her personality rarely, if ever shows signs of what the book says she's gone through. And if her character could have grown on you before the endless journey, it became repulsively perfect afterwards. An uncanny valley of a genuine person, if you will. She's overloaded with powers, always gets her way (so much so that Achmed, the only person who ever successfully stands against her, even acknowledges it as its own power that even works on him), is kind to children and cares for the sick and a million other things that just make her seem like an idealized, unreal heroine the author wishes she were. The hilarious thing about everyone singing her praises and the author portraying her as being so intelligent to have basically been granted a postgrad degree is that the actual heroine is largely rather stupid. She's childlike in her view of the world, which no one who's been through what she's been through would be, and comes off as... mentally challenged in regards to her self-image and people's opinions of her. It's one thing to not think you're pretty (though the fact that she considers herself hideous is crazy), it's another not to be able to interpret people's facial and body expressions and know that they like/love/desire you. I was left wondering if the author was deliberately presenting us with a mentally handicapped heroine.
Due to the way it was written, a lot of the passable jokes in this book fell flat. Even when I knew I should be laughing, I couldn't because the word choice and phrasing had messed up the joke's delivery. This problem with the writing haunted the book in other places and occasionally left me scratching my head in puzzlement (a character's mouth moved into a 'hidden smile' but since it was neither hidden from everyone's view, and his mouth moved, I'm at a loss to what the author was describing). The exposition, while obviously separate from the rest of the text at times, wasn't as bad as it could have been, but I've read Robert Jordan...
Achmed, while having the best characterization after Rhapsody, is only vaguely less of cypher to me now as he was at the beginning of the book. You couldn't help but like him for saying no to Rhapsody so many times (and for not killing her), but I don't think the author understood him any better than Rhapsody. Poor Grunthor, while occasionally breaking out of his cliché portrayal, is mostly ignored. Surely as one of the Three, we should at least know more about his life before and how he came to be with Achmed?
There are a million other little things that annoy me about the book (if Naming is such a great power that it can bring flowers back to life, why doesn't Rhapsody actually use the power for things other than silencing people and renaming them once or twice? Why must Rhapsody keep adopting copious numbers of children and siblings? Why doesn't Rhapsody notice all these erections men keep getting around her?), but I'll be here all day if I start to list them.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
while i really enjoyed the world set up in this book (enough that i am willing to read the sequel), there were some major problems. i liked the entire first half of the novel where Rhapsody was kidnapped and traveled through the root of the world and ended up in the future. the part that i started having problems with was firstly, Rhapsody, in her travels, is transformed into the most beautiful woman ever. this isn't as annoying as her total refusal (read denial) that this is the case. she thinks that she looks freakish because everyone (male) keeps looking at her. this is interesting for a little while, but rapidly becomes obnoxious. the second problem with the character is her penchant for picking up stray children. i feel that this is in there to make the reader like the character, but it really just makes me want to strangle her. after a while, i want her to stop "adopting" kids into her family. on the plus side, the character of Achmed is a fascinating enigma. he is curt to the point of rudeness, but still has human moments. his face is disfigured, and this, too, is a mystery that is worth reading more of the trilogy to find out why.
overall, i really liked most of the supporting characters (with two noticeable exceptions). the two exceptions are another of Rhapsody's "adoptions", her "sister" and the other is Ashe, whom i have the feeling that the reader is supposed to like, despite his portrayal as socially inept. i find the character irritating and unrealistic (i know that word hardly applies in a fantasy novel, but the character seems to have really strange motivations). this may prove to be a problem since he may be shaping into the love interest (which would annoy me since i obviously prefer Achmed). also, the hood that covers the face of Achmed is interesting and intriguing, but the hood that covers Ashe is just irritating. perhaps it is a sign of an overused plot device. Achmed is still compelling enough that i will continue the trilogy, but i'm not sure that i'm in love with the main character or her apparent love interest.
It is always nice to start a new series of high fantasy, to move again to a different fantastic world at the beginning of a long story and to know new people who will keep you company for too many pages. Of course, the new one in this genre is a relative concept but it does not matter. In the first book of the series we seem to have a beginning with the classic pattern of modern high fantasy, with a preface that seems to be totally irrelevant, a brief introduction to understand where we are and then a journey. On this journey we know better the main heroes and slowly the fantastic world where all these things are evolving that is facing a very great threat. The problem, however, is that this trip does not seem to have a very clear destination. In the beginning our heroes are moving towards an unknown purpose, some ideas are appearing in the middle of some disaster that threatens the world and have to deal with it but are abandoned quickly and eventually we end up in a completely different situation where only there we have more information. One other issue is the speed of this journey as the writer takes a lot of time to describe less important things, and for some very important developments that could fit into a whole book, she only devotes a few chapters. However, certainly the characters are not an issue, with first the protagonist of this story, the beautiful and emotional Rhapsody, are particularly special, with the author presenting them and evolving them in an ideal way, giving great weight to their relationship and the different feelings it causes. These characters are the main asset of the book and make the story interesting, making me overcome any weaknesses and ambiguities that exist in it and to want to move forward immediately to the next book.
Πάντα είναι ωραίο να ξεκινάς μία καινούργια σειρά υψηλής φαντασίας, να μεταφέρεσαι και ξανά σε ένα διαφορετικό φανταστικό κόσμο, στην αρχή μιας μεγάλης ιστορίας και να γνωρίζεις νέους ανθρώπους που θα σου κρατήσουν συντροφιά για πάρα πολλές σελίδες. Βέβαια το καινούργιο σε αυτό το είδος είναι μία έννοια σχετική αλλά δεν πειράζει. Στο πρώτο βιβλίο της σειράς φαίνεται ότι έχουμε μία αρχή με το κλασικό μοτίβο της υψηλής φαντασίας, με έναν πρόλογο που φαίνεται να είναι εντελώς άσχετος, μία σύντομη εισαγωγή για να καταλάβουμε που βρισκόμαστε και στη συνέχεια ένα ταξίδι. Σε αυτό το ταξίδι γνωρίζουμε καλύτερα τους βασικούς ήρωες και σιγά σιγά τον φανταστικό κόσμο όπου όλα αυτά εξελίσσονται που αντιμετωπίζει μία πολύ μεγάλη απειλή. Το πρόβλημα, όμως, είναι ότι αυτό το ταξίδι δεν φαίνεται να έχει πολύ ξεκάθαρο προορισμό. Στην αρχή οι ήρωες μας προχωράνε προς έναν άγνωστο σκοπό, κάπου στη μέση εμφανίζονται κάποιες ιδέες για κάποια καταστροφή που απειλεί τον κόσμο και πρέπει να την αντιμετωπίσουν οι οποίες εγκαταλείπονται γρήγορα και τελικά φτάνουμε σε μία εντελώς διαφορετική κατάσταση όπου μόνο εκεί υπάρχουν περισσότερες πληροφορίες. Ένα θέμα είναι και η ταχύτητα αυτού του ταξιδιού καθώς η συγγραφέας κάνει πολύ χρόνο να περιγράψει λιγότερο σημαντικά πράγματα ενώ για κάποιες πολύ σημαντικές εξελίξεις που θα μπορούσαν να χωρέσουν σε ολόκληρο βιβλίο αφιερώνει μόνο λίγα κεφάλαια. Πάντως σίγουρα θέμα δεν είναι οι χαρακτήρες, με πρώτη την πρωταγωνίστρια της ιστορίας, την όμορφη Rhapsody, είναι ιδιαίτερα ξεχωριστοί, μ�� τη συγγραφέα να τους παρουσιάζει και να τους εξελίσσει με έναν ιδανικό τρόπο, δίδοντας μεγάλο βάρος στη μεταξύ τους σχέση και στα διαφορετικά συναισθήματα που αυτή προκαλεί. Αυτοί οι χαρακτήρες είναι νομίζω το κύριο προτέρημα του βιβλίου και κάνουν την ιστορία να έχει ενδιαφέρον, κάνοντας με να προσπεράσω όποιες αδυναμίες και ασάφειες υπάρχουν σε αυτήν και να θέλω να προχωρήσω άμεσα στη συνέχεια.
If you're anything like me, you'll occasionally end up finishing a book that contains characters you absolutely hate that put themselves in the most ridiculous and over the top unbelievable situations. Those characters that you'd like to enter the book just so you could punch/shake them because they're so annoyingly stupid. I like to call it hate reading. Well, this series was like that for me. I've forgotten hundreds of books over the years but not these, no. I'll never forget how anger inducing these are.
The main character of this book is the Mary Sue to end all Mary Sues. The kind where everyone she comes across falls all over themselves because she's so beautiful and can't stop themselves from touching or grabbing her or staring at her or commenting on her beauty. She's so beautiful that she becomes some sort of deity but she doesn't ever get why people keep saying she's so gorgeous because she's extra modest and also really dumb, but really smart too! Also, she saves the world! With her beauty and her talent! Because she's that much of a Special Snowflake™!
I still don't understand why I bought and read every single one of the books in this series, but I did. Maybe it was because there were a (very) few other redeeming qualities, like the magic system? Was I on drugs? I don't know. All I know is the only thing I can remember about these books is how much I hated Rhapsody (yes of course that's her name). Just thinking about as I write this is pissing me off, and I read them back in the early 2000s.
This series has a ton of high ratings. How is that even possible? Please treat yourself to some of the other really annoyed but amusing one star reviews so you can wonder about it along with me.
I've been addicted to the fantasy genre since before I could read chapter books by myself. Rhapsody is the sort of book that still keeps my attention even though I've passed my 40th birthday, enough that I am now on my fourth re-read. I don't want to spoil the story for you, but the elements that hold my interest, in no particular order, are: a butt-kicking female protagonist, weird creatures with a nasty, sarcastic sense of humor that would give Hugh Laurie's Dr. House a run for his money, time travel, magic, and a gorgeous, mysterious man who happens to be part dragon. Most importantly, however, is the fact that Haydon is a writer who can actually write! I'm an English teacher by training, and have a very low tolerance for lousy writing. One warning. Haydon doesn't focus on the horrific, but she doesn't shy away from the dark side. I am not especially squeamish (I read vampire stories and murder mysteries when I'm not reading fantasy or SF), but Rhapsody and every other book in the series has at least one passage that I found hard to handle. Again, horror isn't a major part of the story, but when Haydon does gross-and-scary, she **REALLY** does gross and scary. She doesn't emphasize or glory in it, but she does describe torture and abuse in a direct, graphic way that still gives me a few days of nightmares even though I've read this series several times. For this reason, I would be reluctant to recommend this series to a child younger than 15 or 16.
Next, I'll describe Haydon's dragons in a bit more detail, since they are so darned cool! Dragons in Haydon's world are not romanticized. They are as complex as all her other characters. In this first volume of the series, one dragon is the still-living stuff of legend. We don't actually get to meet her yet, but by the end of the book we know we're going to. The other dragon, whom we not only meet but get to see the world with his eyes, is actually inside a character who has a human form. This dual nature is a "source of constant struggle"(p. 435), a split-personality voice in his head that must be kept under control. It is sometimes humorous; for example, the dragon wants to count every peppercorn in the marketplace and sort them by colors. It is also sensual and exciting, as when the dragon "tastes" the object of its fascination and takes in every minute detail of her being, before she is even aware of it.
I love this series enough to be re-reading it for the fourth time. I promise: this book, and the other 5 books of the series, will not disappoint.
Seldom do I find an author so astounding that I would deem them a word smith. Yet I must say that Elizabeth Haydon is a word smith of no small skill. Within the first few chapters I was enraptured by the tale unfolding, nearly throwing the book away in despair and defiance after a poignant moment. Yet I couldn't help but read on enthralled at the same time. There's a certain way an author lays out a tapestry on which you can see every detail.
The imagery of the world, the characters and everything flows in a way that works like the finest tunes from the finest minstrels. The theme of music is obvious within the writing, and like music makes use of things unsaid as often as things said. I've gone through longing, empathy, despair, hope and even lust as I've leafed through these many pages. It's an amazing experience of emotions I don't think I've ever experienced quite this way.
I'm looking forward to the rest of the series of this epic tale of a world across millennium.
I read the first 20 pages and decided this is not for me. No doubt you will think me irresponsible for judging an almost 700 page book on the strength of the first 20 pages but I have often found that if it's mushy on page one, it's going to be extra mushy on page 101. So nope.
I mean, if you don't mind overblown melodramatic love confessions twenty minutes after one person has met another, you won't mind this book. But he calls his soul mate, his wife right after he meets her. Also, this book builds up the girl's character at the expense of all the other girls in the story. I mean, SHE'S a special snow flake while all the rest of them are coarse farm girls. Totally not up for this.
ALSO, the guy is only conscious of his physical reactions after seeing this girl. The way it's described, it seems like a bloody storm is occurring inside his body particularly the nether regions if you know what I mean.
So I am in minority because I hate this book. I really hate this book. I have never been so disappointed in a book when I picked this up and started reading it.
Now, to be fair, I'll admit my distaste started very early. I really don't like graphic sex scenes with 13 year olds. I know, I know, teens have sex all the time, but I don't want to read about until they're legal. (Unless it is the movie Valmont where it is done in a really funny way). But I know the hang-up is mine, and I was willing to keep trying.
And then the killer. The made me want to throw the book across the room bit.
So the heroine and her posse (such as it is) seem to travel underground forever. And then she gets stuck by a magic something and while she was beautiful before, she was even more beautiful now.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Having been exposed to much of the story and knowing what to expect, this read went more smoothly for me. I was less impatient. I was able to get a better feeling for the world-building. I appreciated the mythology. I found the magic system as interesting and as flawed as I did the first time. The pacing was slow as the author sought to introduce us to the world. This was often through info-dumping as one character educated another about one thing or another, but oddly enough, I wasn't too bothered by that because it made sense in the context of things. I delighted in Grunthor, and felt great appreciation for Achmed. I liked Ashe but he didn't stand out much, to be honest. Unlike the majority of the reviewers, I enjoyed the banter between Jo and Grunthor and Achmed. Spoiler for future books: Rhapsody drove me as batty as she did the first time. Although I guess I like her, I simply cannot stand her uber Mary Sue character.
First Review Read: January 25, 2011 - February 5, 2011
I read this book for Nothing But Reading's Read With Me Challenge. Although the blurb intrigued me, I confess to dragging my feet when it came to actually starting it. To be perfectly honest, I didn't enjoy it that much, especially the first half of the book. The writing was quite descriptive, and the style leaned toward narrative. There was a lot of telling, especially when it came to the history and descriptions of a world or culture or magic, which was disappointing. But I really enjoyed the author's humor which showed through the banter exchanged between the close friends and allies, and I became somewhat obsessed with finding out what happened to the two young lovers that we met in the first fifty pages or so.
By the first page, I knew I would have difficulty with this book. I had no idea what was going on, how the world was structured, and what kind of magic system was in place. I was very confused and remained so for most of the book, and this negatively impacted my reading experience. I was also a little incredulous about what happened in the "Overture". The dialogue between the young lovers seemed awkward, the "love-at-first-sight" unbelievable, and... It was a little difficult to take in. Then the young lovers are separated, and we are introduced to seemingly new characters. Thus, the reason for my second source of frustration. I was too impatient to know what had happened to the young lovers, and whether they would ever find each other again. I blame this need for a Happily-Ever-After in the romantic interests on my many years of reading romance. I've come to expect it, and when the lovers became separated with no word of what may have happened, I couldn't continue with the book until I knew vaguely what to expect.
By page 60-70, the ONLY part I truly enjoyed was the first 3 pages when we first meet Rhapsody. My first impression of her was, with dismay, "Oh no. Not another Mary Sue-ish character." That tavern keeper and his wife adored her. Then, she became really funny. I nearly snorted aloud on the train. But when we met the baker... Ugh. I used to like Mary Sue-ish characters, but for some reason, these days I have less patience with them. She didn't improve as the book progressed. Instead, it got worse as midway, Rhapsody went through an experience that physically changed her appearance that made her unnaturally beautiful. Since that point, every person who laid eyes on her was practically ready to worship her feet. This reminded me rather unpleasantly of the reactions to Bella Swan's transformed appearance in Breaking Dawn. However, unlike Bella who accepted the fact (and gloated in it) that she was (finally) drop-dead perfectly gorgeous, Rhapsody persisted in not understanding that the people's reactions toward her had to do with her impossibly perfect beauty rather than some fearsome flaw. The fact that she persisted in this misconception lent a sense of false modesty which was really irritating. I refused to abuse myself by banging my head, but I did give myself frequent headaches rolling my eyes each time. I liked how Rhapsody seemed to be a relatively strong female character while remaining feminine but...I didn't really like her. Damn those Mary Sues.
I really liked Grunthor. He was funny and lovable. I envision him to be like Shrek - with an impressive collection of weapons. He was probably my favorite character, followed by Stephen and Ashe. Achmed took a while getting used to. He was not lovable but seeing how he eventually accepted Rhapsody as an close and trusted friend softened my feelings toward him. I did not have much of a problem with Jo although I kind of wondered what her place was in the story - or I did until I looked up the Wikipedia articles on this series. *guilty look*
Overall, I wasn't too impressed with the world-building. I sort of got the picture of the world, but I was completely confused about how the Tree and Root thing worked, which is disappointing because it seemed like a significant part of the story and sounded really interesting. The concept of a magic system based on musical vibrations was intriguing and unique. Unfortunately, the execution was poor. There appeared to be little structure, logic or reason when it came to magic. I cannot really explain it but I felt as if something was missing. I just wish that it had made more sense, and that it was something more to it.
The worst hunk of garbage I have ever had the displeasure of reading.
The character's were unlikable. The concern with purity was so extreme that it became fetishistic, and the main character going from attractive to so beautiful men couldn't control themselves around her is incredibly problematic.
The things this book says about the author are alarming.
I can honestly say I hate this book. It is the standard to which I set all other books that I don't like. My dislike is so powerful that when I find out someone likes this book my regard for that individual immediately lowers, and I subsequently question all future recommendations they make to me on every subject... because their opinion is clearly dubious.
First off (don't you love it when a paragraph begins with "First off"), I could not believe the amount of time they were inside the tree. It felt like centuries to me too. So there goes 1000 pages or so of the first chapter (or it felt like 1000 pages) and then after more walking outside of the tree with a battle here and there, there's a cliffhanger ending. What the frick! After listening to over 3000+ pages (as I said it felt like 3000+ pages). I have no idea why anybody would love this book because by the end I pretty much had it with all of them.
Finishing Rhapsody was my first step towards rereading this epic series by Elizabeth Haydon. The fact that I'm doing a reread at all should say something about how much I liked this series, espeically considering how many unread ones I still have on my shelves (I don't usually pick up books I've already read more than once or twice a year... unless it's an audio). I had three motivations behind the reread: I really enjoyed it the first time around (about ten years ago), I caught wind that the author is finally back to writing the series and wanted to get ready for the next release, and I felt compelled to figure out why I seldom recommended it even though I really liked it.
And what's not to like? This book is the gateway into an epic world filled with unique cultures and histories unlike anything I've ever read before. It lets us explore the world through the eyes of several brilliant, vibrant characters who are incredibly likable and memorable despite their flaws. My favorite character, Achmed isn't even human, but it's his personality and interactions with the main heroine, Rhapsody, makes him the most entertaining and endearing in my eyes (he doesn't even like her much, haha). Achmed, along with most of the characters, are so rounded that you don't even scratch the surface of the mysteries surrounding them in this first book. Learning more about them was my main motivation to keep reading this series, and I have to say it didn't disappoint!
So, why don't I recommend this book even though I've just sung its praises? Because the first hundred pages (excluding the prologue) are among the most confusing and boring-assed of any that I've ever read. If not for a single thread of hope and interests in what was to come, I'm not sure I would've made it through the first time (not much less the second). I just can't bring myself to suggest it's to people because a 100 page courtesy is too much to ask of a reader trying to find their next engaging book. It's a shame too, because this really is one of the most memorable, unique fantasies I've ever read and would love to share the story as a whole with more people.
Overall, if you have the motivation (and time) to suffer a long winded book (and series) for an epic payoff, then you could possibly get the same enjoyment out of it as I have. Otherwise, perhaps stick to the great fantasy novels that provide a more, shall we say immediate gratification.
Recommended Reading: For brave fantasy readers who aren't scared of long-winded authors. Also for those who don't mind sex, violence, and language, as there's a fair bit of all three.
Wow, this book took me by surprise! I picked this book up because it had the classic 90s Fantasy cover design that I really like. I didn't know anything about the series, but was intrigued by the covers enough to pick it up (plus its TOR, which usually is a great publisher). I have to say, this is one of the best, most interesting Fantasy novels I've read in quite a long time. Definitely up there in my favorites list.
I must also warn you that you, the reader of this review, will probably not like this book.
What? How is that possible? How can I love this book so much and yet not recommend it for you? Well, let's get into the review.
This is a very thematically dense book. And it doesn't try to mask that fact. A good portion of this book is dialogue discussions and history discussions about many thematic issues. And I think the themes in this book will rub most people the wrong way.
I would compare these themes in the book to the process of getting a Colonoscopy (odd analogy, but hear me out). This book deals with themes about morality, prostitution, sexuality, governance, religion, and history that most people will absolutely not like reading. But when they are done with the book they will recognize the value in it and will see that these are issues that need to be addressed. Much like a Colonoscopy is unpleasant and a difficult process to go through, but afterwards you will have addressed some major things that need to be addressed.
Alright, my gross analogy is over.
Before I get further into the themes, let me discuss the characters. I thought that the most shocking character in the book was Grunthor, the giant Firbolg. He was so humorous and every time he talked I focused because I was always intrigued by what he said. The side character who is the big brute with a heart of gold (Chewbacca anyone?) is always an entertaining character. Haydon really gets that trope well here. His best interactions are with the main character of Rhapsody.
Rhapsody is a character that will be divisive in this book. She has a very checkered past, and yet she at the same time has this sense of "purity" to her that is refreshing in epic fantasy. She gives this book its bleeding heart. She makes many decisions, both good and bad, with the best of intentions. And while many complain about how Haydon just made her the most beautiful character imaginable, I thought that she handled it well, exploring how people reacted to her when she walked into a room. Most of the deeper themes of the book revolve around Rhapsody, so I'll discuss those in a moment.
Of the main party, the character I liked the least was Achmed. He was really quiet in the first half of the book, and became much more talkative in the second half. He also had some great humor, but his attitude was just unpleasant. He absolutely was necessary for the story, but still of the main three was my least favorite.
Of the side characters, I absolutely loved Ashe. He was so aloof and socially awkward that I really related to him. He also had lots of situational irony that made me laugh. The religious character Llauron was really well written, and it is refreshing to see a member of the clergy written so dynamically and sweetly.
This book has a really interesting hook of a premise for the first 100ish pages. Then the slowest part of the book is the traveling in "The Tree", which takes place over another 100 pages. But the strongest point of the book was the next portion, where the party is with Llauron through the end of the book, where I thought Haydon really shined. The first two portions might turn off most readers however, as they are not near as interesting to most people.
When it comes to style and worldbuilding and plot, Haydon has the ability to blend the familiar with the original. There are obviously, OBVIOUSLY influences from The Wheel of Time in here. No doubt about that. However, Haydon has a way of making it her own, of taking the ideas from the Wheel of Time and shifting them to her narrative, which I thought was really good. I also thought I noticed several LOTR influences, but nowhere as near as prevalent as the WOT influences.
With regard to the themes, they are hard to talk about, but worthy of discussion nonetheless. Haydon explores the issues with the way Human sexuality works and what humans have done to pervert that. The main character is *ahem*...deflowered.... at a young age in the book. At the time, she was only caught up in the moment. However, she realizes later on the issues that this brings, and the book really steers the reader towards believing that sex should wait, at least until marriage.
The author definitely whacks humanity for the way it handles sexuality, particularly prostitution. The book has several passages depicting the horrors of it, and shows why women are so often forced into it. The book really presents the idea that men should treat women not only with more respect, but with inherent value to society. While many of Haydon's contemporaries depict the sexual revolution as a step forward for women, Haydon shows how purity is a step forward. (and if you missed it earlier, Men get whacked throughout this book, so its not like its directed soley at women. The men subjugating women and promoting promiscuity are really evil, mustache twirling villains in this book. So both genders have something to think about in this book).
This book also explores the idea of governance well. One character decides to become the leader of a nation, and he makes a decision to achieve power through whatever means necessary. Its interesting, because this character could be considered Machiavellian, and yet he actually helps out the people he wants to lead.
The book also examines the issue of Free Trade and Tariffs well. This is definitely something you don't see often in Fantasy. I however, absolutely loved this, because it brought a discussion about Trade in that could very well have come from a textbook, but it was masked in the trappings of a Fantasy storyline.
Religion also has quite a role to play in this book, as the character of Llauron has a profound impact on the plot and on the main character's personal journey. This book shows how the clergy can work at its best. The compassion that the clergy has towards Rhapsody is fascinating. Likewise, the book also explores the religious concepts of prayer to God rather than prayer to an individual who prays to God. I think this is a subtle not to Catholicism, at least in the way its presented, but I could be wrong. Regardless, the discussion itself was fascinating.
There is an element of worldbuilding (between Dragons and Humans) that I absolutely did not like and thought was ill placed in the book. Just creepy, gross, and a weird choice. But it was so miniscule that it didn't bother me too much.
Overall, I absolutely LOVED this book. I recognize that most people will probably not, as the themes, the style, and the plot are not going to be appealing to the general public. But I still loved it. I have not felt this way about a new author since I read Brandon Sanderson and David Farland. I will definitely read books 2 and 3 very soon! I give this book a 9.9 out of 10! Well done Haydon!
This book was terrible. I didn't even finish it (though I was close to the end). It started off really rough, because I had no idea what was going on in the first page. Then even more confusion and some hearty distaste for a sex scene between two fourteen year olds (excuse me, the girl was a day shy of fourteen). I don't want to read about adults doing it, why would I want to read about children doing it?
When we finally got into the 'story', it ended up a mess of plot and crap I didn't care about. The only characters I had any affection for were Achmed and Grunthor. They deserved a better story. And a better heroine. Rhapsody was thick. I really didn't like her. I wanted to see where the author took this interesting backstory and Rhapsody ended up generic bland fantasy heroine, and when she reached god-tier levels of beauty I wanted to throw the book. No, but seriously, why was it necessary to not only make her so beautiful that people threw flowers at her feet and thought she was some spirit or goddess, but restore her virginity? Why is that a thing? Why did this author make so many terrible writing choices?
For such a tragic backstory, Rhapsody is just... so bland. And I got frustrated at how the author bludgeoned us over the head with her inability to accept that she was the most beautifullest person ever to beautiful. No lie, at one point she thinks a character thought she was freakish (and said character actually groped her... like... straight up groped her).
Furthermore, I stopped reading during the "pickpocket" scene with Jo (aka, when the book jumped the shark like WHY IS JO A NECESSARY CHARACTER I HATE HER SO MUCH). WHY WOULD THE AUTHOR HAVE RHAPSODY GROPE A DUDE IN THE MIDDLE OF A STREET LIKE WHY WHY WHY DID THIS BOOK MAKE SO MANY CREEPY CHOICES I DON'T UNDERSTAND.
I stopped reading and took it back to the library and I want some mind bleach, thank you very much.
DNF, some point after the Fire Incident...pg 220 or so? Whatever.
There comes a time with mediocre doorstoppers when you put the book down, stare at the wall, check the page count yet again, & say: "I don't give a rat's ass about this. So why am I still reading?"
Friends, I've reached that point with RHAPSODY.
There's just too much waffling tedium (ffs, it takes for-fucking-ever to get out of the stupid root system) to excite my curiosity & push forward. It's the worst kind of epic fantasy -- that is, endless wandering around a pseudo-medieval world with vague menaces pursuing the protags as they reluctantly band together & learn trust. Zzzzzz. Combine that with Rhapsody's gag-inducing Mary Sue Disease (forget sugary-sweet Anne of THE INNOCENT -- Rhapsody makes her look like Bellatrix LeStrange) & a tedious Tolkien remix of villainy (the tower? the eye? puh-lease), & it's a hearty good night.
As I've said in other reviews, I don't necessarily mind Tolkien homage in one's epic fantasy (example: GREEN RIDER), but the book still needs to differentiate itself somehow. It needs to have characters that compel completion. It needs to be, y'know, good. Here? There's no dimension to the characters; the world building is a muddle; the plot begins in the middle & rarely offers explanations enough to orient the reader; heroes & villains are totally black & white (excepting, perhaps, Grunthor & Achmed, but I don't care enough to wade through for their sake); the baddies are lolzy in their obvious "Hate me! Booo, hiss!!" (Michael enjoys torture, manipulation, murder, rape, AND child molesting -- overkill, much?); the overall plot is meandering & unfocused; the time travel aspect bores me...
And so, farewell to RHAPSODY. By the time I'd asked myself why I was still reading, my brain had already checked out, run to the library, & stopped for Starbucks -- because caffeine & better books are the cure for everything.
All of my original opinions from my status update still stand. I made it to page 50 and officially had to give up. I found myself skimming to try to block out some of the horrible cheesiness, and still I got tired of the taste of bile in the back of my throat from where I kept trying not to vomit from the totally false character interactions & the awful hyperbole.
I stole this from "Jocelyn Zombie's" review, because it was oh, so perfect that I couldn't have said it better myself: "The Ugly: Oh, the word choices. Oh, the terrible dialog. In this land, if something is "very", it is always "more (fill in the blank) than you can imagine." There are no unused adjectives - why would there be a crown of gold when it could be a crown of purest gold? Etc, etc, ad nauseum. The descriptions... they go on for pages, my friends. I ended up skip-ping over loads of stuff and just reading the dialog (because I did want to know what happened, the bones of the story and the plotting are really good), and I noticed that this author has the same problem with scenes - every little detail of every little action is related. I've read some writing manuals that suggest coming up with a complete and through back-story for your characters but in addition to doing this, Ms. Hayden wrote it all down. In short, Hemingway would choke on these three books, and would glad of his impending death rather than finish the series."
Since I couldn't even manage to finish it, I guess I should be giving it zero stars, but I don't want my future self to think I just forgot to rate it and maybe give it a try again. Future self: this is a case of an interesting plot ruined by an author - don't bother! Reading it makes your brain feel like teeth do after eating half a bag of Halloween candy: sticky & rotting & in need of a good scrubbing to get rid of that taste!
This is my second read through of this book. Yes it can be infuriatingly slow and Rhapsody can be a complete dumbass but the overarching storyline, world building, and lovely supporting characters really make it worth reading. Also, Grunthor could get it.
The primrose, usually the first flower of spring (from the Latin “prima”), represents enduring love. In the Language of Flowers, it means “I can't live without you.” It tells your significant other, “I am yours forever.”
★★★★½ The world-building in this epic romantic-time-travel-fantasy is superior, the characters wonderful. Some people find Rhapsody, the heroine, to be too much of a “Mary Sue” – if that is even possible for someone with her back ground! I found her delightful and felt her losses. **shrugs** Go figure.
This book is spell-binding, the characters anything but cardboard cutout figurines – so often found in other books – and the mystery entertaining. The developing camaraderie between the three main protagonists is entertaining and truly the “guts” of this first in the Symphony of Ages series. I almost gave up on their endless journey along the Root, but it was so worth it when they finally hit the light of day. I’m guessing the heart – or romance – comes in the second book; one I’m looking forward to! Plus, I’m hearing rumors of seventh book, The Merchant Emperor in Spring, 2012. Yippee!