At the start of Haydon's lyrical sixth installment in her sweeping saga of musical magic and ancient prophecies (after 2004's Elegy for a Lost Star), the dragons of the world gather to mourn the loss of one of their oldest and greatest-whose demise leaves a weakness in their protective shield of the Earth. Ashe and Rhapsody, the Lord and Lady of Cymrian, also convene with their allies to prepare for the war looming between deadly powers that could tear the world apart. Rhapsody has the added distraction of caring for their infant son, Meridion, for as the heir to Cymrian the baby is an obvious target; he may also be the Child of Time, whose coming will change the world-and perhaps even the nature of Time itself. While deftly managing a large cast of intriguing characters in a story that's both grand and intimate but never predictable, Haydon moves all the pieces into place for the next volume. (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Three events portend a dark future for the world: the arrival of Ysk, the Assassin King of Ylorc, upon the coast of Avonderre; a gathering of dragons to mourn the death of one of their own; and a war council composed of the leaders of the lands: Ashe and Rhapsody, protectors of the Middle Continent; Gwydion, Duke of Navarre; and Achmed, the King of Ylorc. It becomes clear that a great war is coming, and the fabric of Time itself may well be changed forever. The sixth installment of Haydon's "Symphony of Ages" series carries the popular saga into new territory, revisiting familiar characters and introducing new ones. The author's skill at character portrayal and world building make this an excellent choice for most fantasy collections and essential for libraries owning the previous series titles. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The sixth book of The Symphony of Ages series (Elegy for a Lost Star, 2004, etc.) picks up on the further adventures of Rhapsody and the strange band of characters who've gathered around her over time. Rhapsody faces a dire future as the lands around her begin to turn to war. The dragon race that protects the world has lost one of their kind, and it means a loss of the shields that keep the world safe. The evil demon race F'dor are out among humans causing trouble again, and to the south, the power hungry Talquist gets ready to invade the lands and people Rhapsody holds dear. The book begins slowly with a great many meetings being held and political alliances being made by both sides of the upcoming war. Once this is established, the pace picks up, with Rhapsody fleeing to safety with her old allies Grunthor and Achmed as her husband prepares for Talquist's invasion. Talquist however, has a few tricks up his sleeve. Meanwhile, Rhapsody flees for the mountains as a dragon with a grudge does its best to kill her before she can reach safety. The fate of worlds and races relies on the outcome of the upcoming battle, which will come in a later novel. Not for newcomers: Half of the book summarizes history covered in other books and involves people sitting around in councils of war, while the other half builds up to the first battle. Agent: Richard Curtis/Richard Curtis Associates Inc.
From the Publisher
“One of the finest high fantasy debuts in years.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review on Rhapsody
“This series already has ‘landmark’ written all over it.”
—RT Book Reviews Gold Medal Review on Prophecy
“Unlike most middle books of fantasy trilogies, Haydon’s dazzling second volume of the second trio of her bestselling Symphony of the Ages series inspires and thrills all on its own. Those who eagerly anticipated this volume will be even more desperate for the next, and if the author’s stunning rate of improvement is anything to go by, it will be well worth the wait.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review on Elegy for a Lost Star
Read an Excerpt
Chapter One Western seacoast, Avonderre
On a morning of unsurpassed fineness, the sun rose over an incandescent sea, rippling with light so bright as to be painful in its radiance. The winter wind dancing over the gleaming waves, fresh with the sweet hint of a spring coming far away in the southlands, carried with it the scent of blood.
Rath cursed and lowered his head to his chest, pulling his brown hood farther down over his stinging eyes. He waited for the water beneath his translucent eyelids to clear, then blinked several times and looked up again at the shoreline. The sea was so calm that the edge of the land barely wavered in the distance. Rath clutched the oar in his sinewy hands and put his back into rowing for the beach.
With each stroke, each pull, each screech of wood against the oarlock of his small boat, he canted his list of targets, every one of their names engraved permanently on his memory. Hrarfa, Fraax, Sistha, Hnaf, Ficken, he whispered in the odd, buzzlike language of his ancient race, the one form of speech that was inaudible to the wind. Rath was always careful not to put information on the wind, especially the sea wind, where it would blow recklessly about the wide world, to be heard by any ear that knew how to listen. Rath was well aware of the loose tongue of the wind; he had been born of that ephemeral element.
He gritted his teeth as he rowed, mentally cursing the waves over which he traveled. Water had long blocked his Seeking vibration and kept him from his quarry. Each stroke moved him closer to being free of it, but that did little to calm his growing ire. Until he was away from the sea and the cacophony of thick vibrations that it generated, he would be unable to hunt. So he concentrated, as always, on his list.
Hrarfa, Fraax, Sistha, Hnaf, Ficken.
Once through the roster of would-be victims that had been his agenda for as long as he could recall, he silently intoned one last name that had been recently added.
It was not a name in the language of the others, but rather one that had been conferred on its owner by an ignorant species, a demi-human race that barely formed words at all. Ysk was the Firbolg word for spittle, for the regurgitation of something foul. That monsters had given someone such a title could only convey the deepest disgust, contempt that had no limit.
It was perhaps the worst name that Rath had ever heard.
It was also a dead name, a name whose power had been broken more than a millennium before, whose history lay at the bottom of the sea on the other side of the world. A name all but forgotten, indeed, completely erased from the wind and from memory, except for the recollection of Rath and his kind.
It was the last name on his list, but the first one he would actively seek upon landing.
When the beach was finally close enough that rowing was disproportionate effort, Rath climbed out of the boat and left it drifting in the tide. He had sighted his landing carefully so as to be able to come ashore unnoticed in a small, rocky alcove between two fishing villages. His luck was holding; there was no one in sight for as far up and down the beach as he could see.
He turned away from the sea wind with one last glance over his shoulder; the little boat was slowly backing away in a graceless dance, spinning aimlessly in the current. Rath waded to shore, ignoring the pebbles and seaweed that coated the sand beneath his feet. His soles had no nerves in them anyway, the calluses from millennia of walking through fire were almost as thick as a boot would have been.
Once on the beach, he hurried forward until the scrambling froth of the waves was no longer able to reach him, then stopped in the cold, dry sand, pulled back his hood, and tilted his head to the southwest, listening to the wind. He waited for the span of a hundred heartbeats, but no voices akin to his own could be heard; none of his fellow hunters had anything to report, as was the case most of the time.
As it had been for centuries into millennia.
Rath lingered a moment longer, then turned his back to the west, away from the crashing of the waves and the rustling of the foam. He took a breath of the salt wind, inhaling over the four openings of his windpipe, clenched his teeth, and loosed his kirai, the Seeking vibration by which his race sought their prey. The buzzing sound came forth from the deepest opening in his throat, a vibration heard only by him.
Then he opened his mouth, allowing the air that was rising from within his lungs to pass over the top opening in his throat, forming words again.
Hrarfa, Fraax, Sistha, Hnaf, Ficken.
One by one he canted the names of the demon spirits he was hunting, feeling the slight variation in tone as he changed from one name to another. If the kirai matched any of those names to a vibration it detected in the air, his throat would burn as if with caustic fire; he would taste the beast's blood in his mouth, feel its heartbeat in his own chest. He could lock on to that rhythm and follow it.
But, as always, there was no taste of any of the names on the wind.
Finally, he intoned the last name.
This name, of course, was different. Unlike the others, it was the dead name of a living being, a name once given, in another lifetime, to a man with a soul. However tainted that soul might be by the ravages of time and personal failure, it could never be as acidly evil as the essence of the demonic beings Rath and his fellow demon hunters regularly pursued. And however dead the name might be, Rath had reason to believe its original owner was, in fact, still alive, though his vibrational signature had changed along with his name.
And not long before, he had heard the dead name, spoken aloud, on the nattering wind. He hoped to get a taste of it once more, now that he had crossed the sea and finally come ashore in the place to which he had tracked the name, the place it seemed to have been last spoken.
He inhaled, letting the wind pass over his tongue, then canted the name.
There was a remnant of it still on the wind coming from the southeast, though faint and hollow; perhaps it had been years since it had been voiced. Still, this continent, this place known in old lore as the Wyrmlands, was the place where the name had last been sounded. Rath could taste that much.
Satisfied, he stripped his pack from beneath his cloak, opening it carefully on the sandy ground as the wind whipped off the sea, buffeting the skin of his naked head. He quickly checked his provisions and the minimal tools of his trade, as well as the dagger he wore in a calf sheath. The weapon was little more than a child's knife, meant only for the meanest of self-defense against any beast or man that he might not be able to otherwise avoid. No one who observed him would consider him armed.
Rath carried his deadliest weapons in his head.
Determining his water supply to be sufficient, he quickly repacked his provisions and slung the pack beneath his flowing brown cloak. Then he glanced at the sea one last time; the little boat was no longer in sight, lost in the blazing glare of the rising sun.
A moment later, to any eye other than his own, so was Rath.
Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Haydon. All rights reserved.