Science fiction and fantasy
by Elizabeth Haydon
Haydon has a flair for imaginative violence that she lets loose in Destiny. There are plenty of gruesome scenes when Rhapsody and Achmed attempt to rescue slave boys from an underground tunnel, and later on when she has to infiltrate the residence of a gladiator in a brutally misogynistic country.
All the while, Rhapsody has lost vital parts of her memory, in order to make her the unwitting participant in the schemes of a dragon. She believes she has been abandoned by her lover whilst she faces some of her toughest challenges so far.
Destiny is a fantasy with all the traditional bells and whistles, frills, and cream on top. And a cherry. There are dragons, mythic races, magic stones, legendary swords, prophecies, seers, secret knightly orders, and more. All the clichés, in fact. Not content with one cryptic prophecy that suggests how it's all going to go, Haydon gives us several. The sheer amount of magical baubles and artefacts make the entire novel seem like a catalogue for Christmas decorations, not to mention the multiple cases of vacant kingships. (Where have we seen that before, I wonder?)
As a result of all this blatant foreshadowing, Destiny is utterly predictable. Unlike Rhapsody, there is little sense of a mystery building up, or much complexity at all. Although we do set out with the F'dor's identity yet to be discovered, once this is revealed it is disappointingly clear how events are going to pan out.
Some of the problem lies with the character of Rhapsody. She's a woman with supernatural beauty, and that's a symptom of what is so wrong with her. Not only is she perfectly attractive, she is without other major flaws that would make her seem human. Although she can be dense and naive at times, this born-again virgin is unable to lie. On top of this she's brave when it counts, self-sacrificing, honourable, kind to children, loving, and indifferent to the pursuit of power. In spite of her past as a whore, she even fails to give in to the temptations of the flesh which are so readily available to her from all quarters. Any right-thinking individual would have drowned her as a kitten rather than giving her a trilogy to herself, and considered it an act of mercy.
Unfortunately the latter half of Destiny makes it crystal clear, if there were any doubt, that this fantasy world revolves around Rhapsody. By the end of this novel the political situation in this world is absurd, with all the prizes handed out to the main characters on a plate. There are a few hundred pages after the climactic battle with the F'dor that seem to be devoted to giving the main protagonists as many chances to appear in heroic poses as possible. Apparently it's not enough for them to save the day just once, as regular heroes would.
The final chapters of Destiny are a mess of conflicting melodramatic scenes. We are barely given time to absorb one event before something else tragic, poignant, triumphant or terrifying takes its place. As a result, scenes that are obviously meant to have an impact are diminished by a surfeit of histrionics. People are given to weeping and kissing each other with irritating frequency. Crowds are easily swayed to cheering and general merrymaking, even after the type of events that would give hardened soldiers PTSD for decades.
Destiny is fantasy by numbers, without the benefit of a subtext or any kind of psychological or political slant. It doesn't stand as a metaphor for anything, or as a reflection of anything in our society, except perhaps the prevalence of utter vacuity. Rhapsody in particular has developed into a character who is too good to be real, too worthy to be even vaguely believable. So what began as an intriguing trilogy descends into the most basic escapist romp, and one that actually manages to become less meaningful the longer it goes on. This overlong novel reaches a climax well before the end of the book, and is an extremely disappointing conclusion to the Rhapsody trilogy.
Review © Ros Jackson
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