Review: Symphony of Ages

So there are good books and there are enjoyable books and there are books that are both.  RhapsodyProphecy, and Destiny by Elizabeth Hayden are enjoyable but I’m not sure they are good.  Their tone is something of a harlequin romance/adventure/mystery with all the flat characters and stereotypical character choices therein.  However, that doesn’t make them bad books.

Let’s put it this way, I’ve read these about once a decade since I was ~16 and this last time I devoured them as happily as I have in past consumptions.

The Bad:

These books are cheesy.  They are rife with outlandish “BEST” and “WORST” to describe things. If it’s big, it’s ginormous and if it’s small it’s the most minuscule ever. EVER. Reactions are strong enough for a mime to be making them. I get over this (usually) because apparently this world just lives in the extremes and they just get jerked around by magical MOSTESTS all the time and developed coping mechanisms.  Though it adds an interesting layer on “divine right” of rule…

Rhapsody (the titular character and protagonist) is blind when she needs to be obtuse and makes a bazillion assumptions because of course she must have all the facts – even when she knows she’s dealing with the most deceitful people in the world (literally).  She is deep when she needs to be and brilliant in music (apparently) and has special-shiny-powers we see no one else having any depth in.  We hear about her teacher, but it seems like pretty much everyone knows about this power but no one else ever uses it – much less with the blase power-level Rhapsody has.

There is only one question I had that the book never answered and it doesn’t impact the plot, but it kind of bothers me.  Supposedly, these people come to an uninhabited land (maybe? sort of?) but they “intermingle with the people already there.”  Wait – which one is it?  Is it people weren’t there and the refugees comprise the first population ever or is there a population there they intermingle with. Since it’s supposed to be semi-history/lore of the world I can’t decide if the author was being sloppy or purposefully messing with lore because that’s what happens to history (I am a little inclined to lean towards the former for once, but I try to convince myself it’s the latter).

The Good:

The plot is actually pretty tight.  I mean, I don’t think most adults would be shocked as things unfurl, there aren’t a lot of massive twists – but the plot is consistent and tight within itself.  The villains are evil and some of them are even evil for understandable reasons (even the villain who kind of is “evil to be evil” has a REASON – maybe not a brilliant one, but a real reason).

The description and world-building is fun if exaggerated.  There is some decent variety of locations and you can see where the different cultures might have veered. We get very select lore, so there are elements I would have liked more on, but overall the cultures feel “real” and consistent.

Magic is also pretty clear, consistent and tight.  It doesn’t 100% follow strict rules, but there is rare-to-never when characters do something that made me think they broke the rules of magic in this world.  Even the strangest character makes sense by the end of the third book because we had explanations to help understand his “uber powerfulness” that made me nod and go, “Ahhh, ok that’s a stretch but plausible. I get it.”

I love the musical references the author uses.  Not being musical myself, I have no idea of her accuracy or just how cheesy it might be to a musically minded person – I enjoyed the references she used.  I won’t try to sound smart about whether she actually made the series the “acts” of an opera, but there is an “overture” and “intermezzo” instead of books or sections.  I think it’s more like an opera (especially with the over-dramatic characters) and in that light even the over-dramatic doesn’t feel out of place.  I have no idea if Hayden intended that – but if she didn’t double-good-job ’cause it still ended up feeling musically-based to the non-musical.

Overall:

I enjoy this series despite imperfections.  It’s a jaunt in an interesting lore and although I don’t love the characters, if I pretend I’m watching the operatic interpretation of history – I enjoy it.  I doubt it will challenge anything in your world except your faith in deep writing, but it’s fantasy that was 1990’s-2000’s fantasy.  I can’t remember much that came out during that time that “challenged” people.  There are things I could gripe about in a modern context, but like I said I put on that operatic interpretation and a lot of those go out the window anyway.  It would be like asking why Rent doesn’t have cell phones (in my opinion).  If you need something that won’t challenge you and just entertains – this isn’t a bad 3 books to take on a long flight.