Pros: Wonderful characterization; great pacing; fantastic world and story
Cons: Very minor flaws that don’t matter much
Rating: 5 out of 5
First posted 4/7/2003
Recently I got on a kick of reading a series of high fantasy books by Elizabeth Haydon. Rhapsody starts off the series, introducing Rhapsody, a Singer and Namer, who meets up with two other unusual characters (Achmed the assassin and Grunthor the Sergeant-Major) and sets off on a mystical journey around (and through) the world, avoiding the destruction of their continent and changing themselves forever.
Prophecy continues the story, but focuses on the volatile and confused romance between Rhapsody and Ashe, who is descended from both dragons and humans and who hides his face and identity from all who see him.
Finally, Destiny seems to wrap up the trilogy, bringing many of the events of the series to a climactic close. But things aren’t over yet.
“Requiem for the Sun”
After reading the trilogy, I could not help but feel that a couple of minor threads had been left dangling. And sure enough, in “Requiem for the Sun” (which starts out about three years after the end of Destiny), Haydon picks up those abandoned threads and weaves them deftly into a new story. An old and presumed dead character returns–we haven’t seen Michael, “the Wind of Death” (or as people like to say behind his back, “the Waste of Breath”) since the very first book. He’s the source of many of Rhapsody’s nightmares, and now that he’s become host to a F’dor, a demon, he’s far more powerful and frightening than before. He’s found out that Rhapsody is still alive, and he’s coming for her.
The Dowager Empress of Sorbold has died, on the same night as her one and only heir, leaving Sorbold in a state of disarray. Who will become the new emperor or empress, if anyone? Will the empire dissolve or hold together? And how will this affect Rhapsody and Ashe’s young alliance?
The province of Yarim is dying–they’re starving and running out of water. Rhapsody believes that the Bolg have the technology to restore Entudenin, the holy geyser and source of fresh water that failed a long time ago. Can the Bolg do it? Will the people of Yarim allow them into their city without killing them?
The Guildmistress of the Raven’s Guild in Yarim has finally figured out that someone in the Bolg kingdom is responsible for destroying her foundry and her attempt to secretly tap the silent waters of Entudenin. She’s determined to take revenge–personally. And on top of all this, Ashe and Rhapsody have decided it’s time to have a child, despite all the difficulties that his dragon blood may bring to the pregnancy. But first, they want to visit Ashe’s prescient (and mad) great-aunt Manwyn to find out for sure whether such a pregnancy would harm Rhapsody.
There’s a lot going on in this book, and not all of the plot threads get wrapped up in the tapestry of the story–presumably because, as seems standard for fantasy stories these days, there’s always another book around the corner. Still, the most important plots do come to a decent conclusion, so even if you hate waiting to find out what happens next you can still read this book now.
How Haydon Has Improved… Let Me Count the Ways!
I admit, I had some serious issues with the second and third books. Haydon’s talent shines clear and sparkling, but her skills weren’t always up to the formidable tasks she set for herself. The series has presented a consistently fantastic world with a great deal of detail, as well as a set of characters I’ve been drawn to follow and find out more about.
However, the pacing had a tendency to derail at crucial moments–momentous events were glossed over as though they had little import, leaving me to feel as though what should have been serious plot points were instead hollow plot devices. In addition, the characterization of the main character tended to the extreme–an image of Rhapsody as a paragon of virtue was forced upon the reader, as we were told over and over again how amazing she was and honor after honor was heaped at her feet with little preamble and less good reason.
Gone are all of these problems. Vanished. Fixed.
At the beginning of the book Haydon dedicates it to her editor, James Minz, about whom she says: “Because he refuses to accept less than my best.” I hope that Haydon continues to work with Minz, because it’s clear that he really did draw out the best in her writing. I have to give Haydon a great deal of credit here, of course, because plenty of writers refuse to actually listen to the good advice others give them, and it’s clear that she has learned a lot since writing “Destiny.” A writer who is willing to admit to her imperfections and attempt to overcome them is worth her weight in gold, because she can only get better and better.
The pacing of “Requiem for the Sun” is flawless. The characterization is gripping–finally Rhapsody is treated as an equal with the other main characters, rather than outshining them at every turn. Haydon no longer forces a view of Rhapsody upon us, but allows us to come to our own conclusions about her–paradoxically, I find that this made me like Rhapsody quite a bit more. She seems like a much nicer character when the author isn’t going overboard trying to tell us what a nice character she is.
The conflict is allowed to flow naturally from the story, unlike the conflict in “Prophecy”–in that book it seemed that Haydon so concentrated on the romance of the story that she failed to introduce enough plot. This meant there wasn’t enough natural conflict between characters, so she compensated by making all the characters unnaturally touchy, taking offense at the least provocation. It’s wonderful to see them settle down and behave naturally.
And, of course, the sparkling prose that I so enjoyed in the other books still remains. Haydon learned a lot without losing any of what makes her writing so much fun to read in the first place. Frankly, if almost any other books had exhibited the flaws I saw in “Prophecy” and “Destiny,” I would have marked them down to 2 stars instead of 3 and stopped reading the series. But Haydon’s spark shines through and makes the story interesting to read despite the imperfections.
“Requiem for the Sun” isn’t 100% perfect–there are some bits and pieces here and there that niggled at me, minor confusions or inconsistencies that bugged me just a little. But frankly, they’re nit-picks in what is otherwise an absolutely beautiful piece of work. I truly enjoyed Haydon’s latest, and I hope you do too. I can only hope that her subsequent books impress me as much as this one did.