Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Rhapsody: Child of Blood by Elizabeth Haydon

I watched the movie Return to OZ when I was five or six years old. I don't remember much about it just bits and pieces of a few scenes that and the fact that I enjoyed it. I keep meaning to watch again but I never do, part of me is afraid that it won't measure up to my expectations and ruin a good childhood memory. Perhaps that's why I'm not much of a re-reader, having not reread almost anything baring Tolkien and Jordan. Thus it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I reread Elizabeth Haydon's debut novel Rhapsody recently. Sure it was great all those years ago but I hadn't read much fantasy up until then. What if it didn't measure up?

The story opens with a rather intriguing prologue. A mysterious being named Meridian is tampering with time and plucks a teenage boy named Gwydion from his own time and dumps him several hundred years in the past. Gwydion meets a girl named Emily and begins to panic when he realizes that he has been placed on the continent of Serendair which was destroyed hundreds of years ago in a natural disaster. Gwydion quickly falls in love with Emily and surmises that he has been sent back in time to save her and with his knowledge of the future believes this is possible. The two consummate their relationship and Gwydion promises to meet Emily's parents the next day. However Gwydion is suddenly sent back to his own time and believes that Emily perished hundred of years before, while Emily believes that Gwydion abandoned her.

Flash forward several years later and Emily is now Rhapsody a recently graduated singer/namer of great power on the run from a ruthless thug named Michael who developed an obsession with her while she worked as a prostitute. Rhapsody encounters two mysterious men, Grunther and the brother, who aid her against Michael's goons. Inadvertently Rhapsody uses her abilities to rename the brother as Achmed the snake freeing him from the clutches of a F'dor, a demon born from fire who controlled him through his name. The two men had learned of the F'dor's plot wake up the giant worm in the center of the earth to destroy the world and had decided to flee to another continent. Achmed quickly realizes Rhapsody's power offers another option and leads the three of them deep into the earth where Rhapsody alters the worm's name so it can't hear the demon's call. After a seemingly endless journey through the earth the three at last emerge to find hundreds of years have passed and they are now on another continent with Serendair destroyed long before. The three set about rebuilding their lives in the new world but Achmed secretly fears the F'dor may have followed them.

Haydon has a very fluid writing style, reminiscent of Feist's and Wurts's Empire series, that keeps the narrative moving. The action is told from the primary character's point of view but can change from sentence to sentence if another character has an interesting observation. The byplay between the three protagonists remains witty and entertaining throughout without being over the top and one of Haydon's crowning achievements is how effectively she shows them grow into a family, albeit a dysfunctional one. Dialogue is not her only forte and Haydon descriptive style absolutely shines when describing everything form monuments to landscape. The World building is solid encompassing several thousand years of history and drawing on some of the pillars of the genre and taking them in some very different directions. While the magic system is nowhere near as elaborate as Jordan's or Sanderson's it is interesting and shows Haydon's background in music and folklore.

The plot could have taken a rather predictable turn of events once the three arrived in the new world but Haydon mixes things up nicely and we do get a solid resolution though the ending makes it evident that the plot lines introduced in the prologue are still waiting to be explored.

Overall Haydon's debut novel was just as good as I remembered. Which makes it doubly tragic that she seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth leaving two more books in the series unwritten. Elizabeth if you're reading this you are simply too talented a writer to leave this series unfinished. 8/5.10