2003 seems to be a good year for epic fantasy, with the impending release of Robert Jordan’s 10th Wheel of Time book in January, George R. R. Martin’s 4th Song of Fire and Ice book in April, and Terry Goodkind’s 8th Sword of Truth book in June. That afterwards fans of these series will be left to languish for a couple of years is not a savory thought. In light of this reality, that Elizabeth Haydon fulfills the promise of bringing the Rhapsody series to a satisfying conclusion (though not THE conclusion) in a reasonable amount of time seems very satisfying indeed.
In Destiny, Rhapsody and Achmed must track down the children spawned by the F’dor to purge them of the evil taint and also to acquire enough essence of the demon in order for the Dhracian to hunt it down. Llauron the Invoker continues to work behind the scene to forward his unknown plan, with Ashe as his unwilling accomplice. Deep in the mountain fortress of Ylorc, Grunthor must strengthen the Bolg army for a terrible and hopeless battle that Rhapsody has foreseen. Meanwhile, the F’dor, the identity of its human host now narrowed down to among a handful of powerful people, continues to spread the seeds of chaos and wanton destruction to bring its plot yet closer to fruition. Most grievously, Ashe must part from Rhapsody bearing a secret that would break her heart, but that must not be revealed lest their plan will fail. Then there is the question of the reunification of the ancient Cymrians and their descendants if the glory and prosperity of the land are to endure. These questions will be answered in Destiny, and some readers would be beyond thrilled when the business with Meridion is revealed at last.
Destiny fails to provide the actions and thrills so abundant the first two volumes. No strange lands nor major characters are introduced. The first half of the book consists of Rhapsody and Achmed tracking down the various demon-spawns, some young and some not so young, and cajoling away or kidnapping them. While this can be seen as essential to the development of the plot, it’s hardly exciting nor adventurous. Though there are some tantalizing threads, such as the discovery of the tunnel under the forge in Yarim, they turn out to be red herrings. Rhapsody’s adventure at the gladiator ring in Sorbold is fascinating for a while, but nothing further is made of it. Some revelations regarding the history of the Lirin warrior Oelendra and Anborn may be interesting to some, but more likely rather flat and tepid. Even the whole business with Llauron proves disappointing; yes, it provides the fuel for the deception and betrayal that may tear the lovers apart, but even this could have been done away without significantly altering the plot. Haydon likes to tantalize readers with clues to the identity of the F’dor. While she has done so admirably in book two, she may have overdone it in this book with numerous passages from the point of view of the antagonist. The identity of the F’dor is apparent long before it is finally revealed. While this may have been the author’s intention, it hardly enhances the suspense when the heroes themselves finally make the discovery. Most of the book seems to plod toward the inevitable confrontation between the heroes and villain, and such is the lone bright spot of the book.
One may admit that the F’dor is not as formidable a villain as many others. While it and its minions are capable of heinous acts, such as the sacrifice of children, it’s hardly omnipotent or even omniscient. Its power is manifested more through its guile and insidiousness than through pure destructiveness. It’s known all along that it can be contained, captured and defeated. Thus it’s no surprise that the sense of imminent threat and hopelessness aren’t readily apparent when the companions finally face the demon. However, Haydon has done a an excellent job to bring thrills and chills, and a frantic rush of actions, to this climactic confrontation. When the F’dor is able to bring both its power and its guile to bear, it’s a frightening opponent indeed, and for a brief moment the outcome of the battle seems hardly certain. Even when victory is within grasp, the demon’s counterstroke may have shorn of it of sweetness and joy. For me, this is the climax of the book, more so than the subsequent battle with yet another villain nor the unraveling and fruition of the romantic subplot (which by the way bears a distaste for me since book two).
Destiny may have been a weaker conclusion than its predecessors have led us to hope. But considered overall, the series leaves an enduring legacy of memorable characters and a fascinating world.
Originally posted December 27, 2002 on Amazon.com