I found myself torn on how many stars I wanted to give this series. I felt that the plot and characters (with some trepidation, which I will explain later,) deserved at least four. And, with one exception, the writing was solid. That exception was that there were entirely too many words. That fact also brings me to my biggest gripe of how those words were used - to turn what could have been a modern fantasy classic into a Harlequin Romance. That really turned me off. For that, I wanted to go no more than 2 stars. I wish I could have given out 3-1/2 stars to rate the book as above average, but since I'm a nice guy (even though I'm not a fan of romance novels) I compromised at 4 instead of 3.
What I'm trying to say is that I really enjoyed these books ("Rhapsody", "Prophecy" and "Destiny") but feel that there were potentially fatal flaws that I hope Elizabeth Haydon can remedy before she writes any more fantasy novels. Or, if that's not her nature, perhaps she can turn to romance novels exclusively - I'm sure she'll do it well.
Ostensibly, this series was concerned with three characters - Achmed, Grunthor, and Rhapsody - and, at the beginning, it seemed that each would get equal billing. After all, the first book was alternately titled "Child of Blood" (i. e., Achmed) and the second "Child of Earth" (i., e., Grunthor). Then, while reading the second book, I realized that the "Child of the Sky", i.e., Rhapsody, was getting all the press. This was also when the series turned from pure fantasy to fantasy adulterated with romance and gratuitous sex. By way of explanation, I do not consider myself a prude - my favorite series' these days are George R. R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" and Jack Whyte's "Camulod Chronicles". Anyone who's read those books or the reviews on Amazon knows that fantasy can be brutal, backstabbing, adult-themed, and good. It seemed to me that half of the second book of this series ("Prophecy") was dedicated to play-by-play accounts of Rhapsody and Ashe's trysts at Elysian and elsewhere. Was the writing titillating? Yes. Was it necessary to advance the plot? To a degree, yes. Was it incredibly overdone? YES. In book two, entire pages were spend describing the colors of Rhapsody and Ashe's eyes. In book three, Rhapsody and Achmed went from finding two of the F'dor-spawn to nine in the space of one sentence. Am I the only one that finds this extreme??
It's fairly obvious that Rhapsody and Ashe were Elizabeth Haydon's favorite characters and she lost all semblance of reality and practicality in making them larger than life itself as the story went on. Rhapsody was a truly amazing woman, but she lost all credibility when I realized that every decision she made was to ease more and more of the pain and suffering of the rest of the world and took it on herself. Nobody is that altruistic, plain and simple. Add to the fact that she was expert in everything she did and was skilled in every form of magic known in the world. Same with Ashe, though to a lesser degree. Give me a break. . .
I found myself reminded of Ayla in Jean Auel's "Earth Children" series. You remember Ayla, don't you? She invented fire, the wheel, mathematics, the sling as a hunting weapon, the domestication of animals, and nuclear fission - all before breakfast. This was the way Elizabeth Haydon painted Rhapsody. And, the sad thing is, I don't think it was intentional, but a labor of misguided love.
OK, so Elizabeth Haydon is not the only one who uses too many words - I'm almost done. This truly is a good series, all in all. The intrigue involved with Achmed setting himself up as king of the Firbolg and the machinations of a certain holy man who's name I won't reveal for the sake of those who haven't read the last two books yet were very well done. The histories the Ms. Haydon created of the old world and the new were works of creative genius. I'm glad I read these books and will recommend them to anyone (with caveats, of course.) I feel that they could have been even better and the same story told in 1/3 to 1/2 of the pages. I apologize to any romance readers I might have offended and invite them to point me to any other romantic fantasy that they feel I should try. But, unless Elizabeth Haydon focuses more on the fantasy than on the romance, her books will not be filling my shelves.