Rhapsody: Child of Blood (Symphony of Ages #1) by Elizabeth Haydon
Wow. This was a very good book. You know how authors aren't supposed to spend a lot of time on exposition? You know how sometimes it's disguised as dialogue, especially in Star Trek? Haydon did better at not doing that than I remember seeing ever before, especially in fantasy. I mean, there can be a lot to explain in fantasy. Your whole world is (or may be) new to the reader. But, with one purposeful exception, Haydon doesn't tell you any more than what her characters know, and generally less. You learn about the world as it comes up. New races could easily be introduced in the sequel, for all I know. I won't tell you what it's about, because that would spoil the process of discovery. So don't look at my tags for it on librarything.
There were more sexual references than I'd like, and a kind of silly sexual scene towards the beginning, but overall this was an outstanding book. After I finished I read some of the amazon reviews. There aren't all that many negative ones, but people seemed to either love or hate it, and some of the ones who hated it had their reviews at the top, so I read them first. Then, since they were written intelligently, with some valid points, I thought about them for a while. My conclusion? I can refute every point. (=
Probably their best point was that Rhapsody (the character) is too perfect. She is rather perfect, especially towards the end. And the reactions to her physical perfection could get annoying at times. But this is fantasy, and she's the heroine (in the true sense of the word, not just meaning main character). So, um, big deal. I find it far more annoying when the main character does stupid things that get him or herself in needless trouble, rather than being in Trouble because of confronting Evil.
Some people thought it was a little plotless, but I think they just didn't understand the plot structure because of how good Haydon was at not telling you what's coming. No, Rhapsody doesn't set out to save the world, and no, she doesn't leave home because the Nazgul or their equivalent are after her -- that's not the same thing as no plot. No, the characters don't always explain the reasons behind their actions. Use your brain and figure it out yourself. And yes, of course it sets up for the next book. That's what first books do. But it does it in a sufficiently interesting way -- it's not as though you're just marking time until the next book!
Some thought the preface had nothing to do with the first book, just the second one. That's ridiculous. At first those bad reviews seemed to be intelligently written, but come on. Have you no appreciation for subtlety, for mystery, for unstated motivations? I'd explain what I mean, but again, I'm trying to avoid spoilers.
The dialogue was rather '90's, yes, but in books like this I just assume the dialogue is "translated" anyway -- they speak in at least three different languages over the course of the book.
And finally, there's my favorite complaint, that the book is just generic fantasy. I can see how you'd be confused -- after all, it uses some of the major fantasy motifs, like good versus evil! And you know what? There are even some demons on the side of evil. There's also the power of names, an epic journey, nature worship, um... let's see... beauty... magic, swords (even a magical sword!) and battles... Yep, you got me. It must be generic. Along with all fantasy ever written. Yep.