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New Release Review


Elizabeth Haydon – The Cauldron Interview

Spoiler Warning: This interview contains spoilers for The Symphony of Ages and The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series. Please read with caution if you have yet to finish the books.

Editor’s Note: This interview was originally published on The Cauldron fan forum, hosted at the time by, which has sadly passed into internet history.

Note from the Interviewer

Rhapsody - Child of Blood (cover)Back in 2002 while I was in middle school, I walked into Books-A-Million and began browsing the shelves in the fantasy section. From what I can recall one spine immediately caught my attention, Prophecy: Child of Earth by Elizabeth Haydon. I bought the book, not realizing it was the second in a series and, upon this discovery, returned and got the first book, Rhapsody: Child of Blood the following day. Little did I know that it would become one of (if not the) top fantasy series I would ever read.

Rhapsody was released in 1999, launching to the New York Times Bestseller list and garnering praise from fantasy giants Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony and more, for a very good reason. Haydon brought a unique note into the grand fantasy symphony, a trio of characters (Rhapsody, Achmed and Grunthor) that enraptured my attention and ushered me into a community that brings back some fond memories. That community was a fan forum called The Cauldron, where we carried out countless discussions over the series while we waited for the release of the next installment. Many members I remember fondly Sam I Am, Achmed’s Lover, Valecynos, Muffins, Grunthor, Rhapsody, Sil, Iluvachmed, Krinsel, and countless others (if I failed to mention you, I humbly apologize).

TinkerbolgAt the summit of Symphony of Ages’ (SOA) popularity, Fox Animation was set to adapt Rhapsody into a movie. With the conclusion of the Rhapsody Trilogy and the release of Requiem for the Sun and Elegy for a Lost Star, many of us felt that Haydon stood her own against the likes of Tolkien, Jordan, or Martin.

The forum was growing, being run by the talented Grunthor, and administered by Valecynos and others. Our tightening community of many members sent out cards to each other around the holidays. We even had our own “grammar fairy” called Tinkerbolg that a fan had created.

However, things went quiet for a long time when Elizabeth Haydon went off the radar after sending out this message to the forum in 2005:

Elizabeth HaydonDear Friends,

I apologize for the long delay in getting you the answers to your questions, and for the disappointing information that THE ASSASSIN KING has, in fact, been delayed until fall of next year. It will be coming out in the same season as the first book in my new young adult series, about which I am very excited.

The new series is called The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme and the book title is THE FLOATING ISLAND. We have been keeping this project under wraps but you should be hearing quite a bit about it soon. A sneak peek will be available on this site a few months before its release. This new series takes place in the same world and history as The Symphony of Ages, but in the Second Age, an earlier, more magical time. This series connects many of the dots in the SOA, and is for both young adults and adults who are young at heart.

I am very sorry that you have to wait so much longer for THE ASSASSIN KING. If it’s any consolation, the seventh book (and second book of the War of the Known World trilogy) should follow it shortly, so there will be less of a delay in the story.

I hope this finds you all well, especially those of you in the southeast/Gulf Coast region. My thoughts are with all of you; I thank you deeply for your interest in my work and for all I have learned from you.

With warmest wishes,


The Assassin King (cover)After the release of The Assassin King and the first few releases of The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series (The Floating Island, The Thief Queen’s Daughter and The Dragon’s Lair), we didn’t hear any news of Haydon’s next installment of her Symphony, The Merchant Emperor, and wouldn’t until 2014, seven long years later. One day Haydon, or rather, Elizabeth (as she prefers to be called) replied to an email I sent out into the blue one day. When I got the reply back I was squealing for joy! To have finally received an answer from one of your favorite authors was overwhelming exciting, to say the least.

Understandably, many fans had bowed-out of the forum by this time, disappearing into the ether. The few that remained enjoyed the release of the rest of the series, finally getting the conclusion that we had long desired and participating in some final discussions. Elizabeth’s series was carefully planned from the beginning and it definitely showed in the conclusion.

Fantasy-Faction has agreed to republish the 2014 interview, which was originally published on The Cauldron many years ago. I am sad to say that some questions have been lost and while she was getting the final touches on her manuscript edited, the final three questions were never answered.

So, for any fan of Elizabeth Haydon’s series, or any fellow Cauldronite who might still be out there somewhere, I salute you. It was fun while it lasted. And to any new fan, I welcome you to Haydon’s glorious symphony.

– Mri Niun (guidekeeper at The Cauldron fan forum; AKA: Summer H. Paulus)

The Cauldron Interview

So, you mentioned that instead of eight books, there will now be nine total. What caused you to write the extra book? Did you feel that eight were not enough and that nine was the “magic number?”

The Merchant Emperor (cover)No, I have always planned for this arc of the story to be nine volumes—a first trilogy (Rhapsody/Prophecy/Destiny), two bridge books (Requiem for the Sun/Elegy for a Lost Star), then the second, later trilogy (War of the Known World) and a capper book, Dirge [released as The Weaver’s Lament]. Sorry for any confusion.

It was never intended to be such a long time between THE ASSASSIN KING and THE MERCHANT EMPEROR, but a number of tragic events beset my family and I had to put the second trilogy on the shelf while I coped with that. Fortunately, all has mostly returned to well, and the next two books are done, so they will be released in a timely fashion, as I think the first part of the series was. I am sorry to all readers for the long wait, and hope you will enjoy the ending of this arc of the story.

Will we (possibly) learn more about Achmed’s past at Quieth Keep and his “several friends,” and past love interest in any of the future books?

Yes, absolutely. Already written.

What type (genre) of music do you like listening to?

All kinds, seriously. I am getting (slowly) into dubstep. But I do a lot of professional or semi-professional singing and playing, and we play everything—rock, pop, jazz, bluegrass, a little bit of hip hop, classical, Celtic, church stuff—everything. I also have studied vocal improvisation and Circle Singing with Bobby McFerrin, which is an amazing musical form. I am even a metalhead, though not death metal—it has to have some sort of tonality for me. Music is the basis of the magic system for my world, so I try to listen to it all. If it’s repetitious or had a stupid message, it turn it off.

In a previous chat transcript a question was asked:

Elynsynos: “I was wondering, have you ever considered writing a book about the events of the alternate timeline?”

Elizabeth: “Ely, yes, I certainly hope to do that.” Or, “… hope to one day write the book of the lost timestrands.”

Is there a possibility you might still consider writing about the old timeline? And on that same note, are you still thinking about writing about Achmed/Grunthor’s past before they met Rhapsody?

The Weaver’s Lament (cover)The old timeline is featured in the last two books, primarily in DIRGE [The Weaver’s Lament]. As for the book that I jokingly refer to as When Grunthor Met Achmed, I do hope to write that as a stand-alone someday. It’s a great story.

What happened to the Rhapsody movie? I read somewhere that Fox Animation had picked it up but after that it seemed to have disappeared. I assume it was the studio shutting down, but I hoped beyond hope that maybe another studio had picked up the project and might develop it still?

Plans are being worked on as we speak. Will post when things are final. [Editor’s Note: As of 2018 there has been no further developments with the Rhapsody movie.]

Is there a certain country, city, town that inspires some of the geography/places (like the forest of Gwynwood or the great city of Sepulvatar or even Ylorc) of your world in either the Symphony of Ages series or the Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme? I really loved reading about the Thieves’ City/The Crossroads Inn in the Journals and the lost city of Kurimah Milani in The Assassin King (TAK).

The Lost Island of Serendair was based on New Zealand long before it was cool to connect NZ to fantasy literature. 🙂 Gwynwood was inspired by some of the forests of Germany and Switzerland. The kingdom of Ylorc was inspired by the tunnels and caves of Cappadocia in Turkey. The Hintervold is based on a lot of the geography and topography of Alaska and Norway.

The nice thing about being a world traveler is that you see so much that remains in your mind that you can recall a lot of it in writing, but make it your own at the same time.

I read in a chat transcript that you studied linguistics. Do you have a particular language you enjoy speaking/studying (you mentioned you studied Welsh a little bit)? I myself (for whatever odd reason) love speaking German, probably because of my heritage, but also because it comes natural to me as a phonetic language. I tried taking French and Spanish and couldn’t stomach either one (too foofoo, if you get my meaning). Quoting from the transcript:

“In college I studied linguistics as a minor part of my field of study, and learned to devise the basis for a language, the coda, from which the rest of the language is derived. Serenne, the tongue of the Ancient Seren, is a language with its own alphabet that I got advanced college credit in linguistics for creating. All languages have anthropological backgrounds as well as philological ones, and so I had to describe the culture from which the language emerged as well. So Serenne is not based on any existing language, but on medieval music theory, back when the scale had six instead of eight notes, the famous Guido scale.

I began learning Welsh about eight years ago, inspired by my friend Tom Evans. He was one of the earliest expert consultants on Rhapsody, and helped a good deal with the language formation of the Cymrians. I can understand the tongue fairly well and speak it a little less; there is a fair amount of crossover Gaelic in the basis as well, which my grandmother used to speak. I can sing pretty well in Gaelic.

I have great friends and connections among Native peoples, so in studying Navajo and Maori I learned a lot of the core words and word groups, but the patterns came from book study. I also got to interview some of my husband’s students who were Hmong, and learned a little of their language as well.

The Norse and Old English influence come from both my own study, which was very limited, and my in-house expert, my husband, who is fluent in both, occasionally reads newspapers from Iceland and has translated Beowulf from the Old English. One of the great blessings of marriage is being able to steal someone else’s research without ramification.”

The question was about languages I like to speak, and German certainly is one of them. I find it a quizzical language, where sounds that are harsh or distasteful occasionally get applied to some of the prettiest things in nature. Case in point—that beautiful animal that starts out as a caterpillar in a cocoon, is called by very pretty names in most languages: papillon, mariposa, vlinder (Dutch), motyl (Czech) and butterfly, which is a transposition of “flutterby”. The German: Der Schmetterling. I am tickled by the thought of using the “Schme” sound, almost the sound in the word schmuck, about such a pretty thing.

I am also very fond of speaking Gaelic, though I haven’t gotten any better at it since this interview was done.

Probably an important note about linguistics and this series is that the languages in the books were formulated on similar patterns to languages of the cultures I felt were similar to the ones I was forming. So to write the language of the Bolg, I studied Maori, the tongue of the Lirin is based on Navajo, Old Cymrian uses Welsh, the Gwenen (whom you haven’t seen except across the Moot at the Cymrian Council) use Gaelic. The tongue of dragons is based on a Tibetan dialect.

Is there any possibility the F’dor might appear in the Ven books? Or is the F’dor too dark for children’s books? I also thought it might be interesting, if Ven happened to run into the legendary Brother (but then he probably wouldn’t live to talk about it).

Well, you know what they say—anything can happen!

Where did you get the inspiration to write The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series?

The Floating Island (cover)Actually, it was my then-editor, Jim Minz, who suggested this to my now-editor, Susan Chang, who is a specialist in YA and kids’ fantasy. Minz knew the story of the earlier ages in the Symphony of Ages, a time when magic was still alive and vibrant and the world was somewhat more innocent and fresher. He made the introductions, and Ven was born.

Ven was already a historical figure in the Seven Ages timeline, so it was fun to get to show him. He’s a lot of fun to write about—I’m pleased that he makes his own magic by being curious and pleasant, rather than being born to it. Although he is discovering as he goes along that there are prophecies from long past that may actually be about him, though he’s not sure, The Tree of Water, which comes out next month, was a challenging book to write—certainly the most of the series—but it’s one of my favorites. It takes place almost completely under the sea, which, as you know, is an especially magical place.

Who is your favorite Symphony of Ages/Lost Journals character so far?

Hmmmm. It’s hard to choose, because it’s a little like being asked to pick your favorite child. I would say overall Grunthor is the most fun to write, and, just for Cauldron members, I have an EXCLUSIVE sneak peek at his newest marching song that opens the next book:

O, Gwylliam was a piece o’ shi
But that don’t matter none,
‘E liked ta build and loved ta smith
‘Cause makin’ stuff is fun.

It’s isn’t nice ta beat yer wife
Ya shouldn’t if you ‘ave one,
But anyone would wanna smack
That bitch that they called Anwyn.

So, while he’s not really my favorite character, he’s probably the most fun to write.

Are you writing other novels in different genres (you mentioned in a previous q/a thread you were working on a biomedical thriller) besides the SOA/Journals series?

Yes, I have a whole lot of stuff in the works in several different genres. I will make sure you know about them when they are ready to be announced, but YES, yes I am. Thanks for asking.

Will “The Three,” ever go adventuring together again? I guess that’s a weird question to ask, but I miss reading about Rhapsody/Achmed/Grunthor being together like they were in Rhapsody (racing to Sagia to escape Michael and Tsoltan, traveling within the earth, etc.). I guess with the war there might be a few instances where they might have to join together again and fight (they did join-up in TAK, which I just loved!).

It seems to me like they are “stuck,” in roles of monarchy/leadership (Rhapsody being Lady Cymrian/Queen of Tyrian, Achmed King of Ylorc, Grunthor Sergent Major) and for them to be “together,” again it would either mean them within Ylorc protecting the Sleeping Child or battling against Talquist army from without.

*I haven’t been able to read Merchant, yet. So maybe Achmed/Rhapsody/Grunthor are together as the Three again in that book. I apologize ahead of time! 😉

The Hollow Queen (cover)Yes. They are together at the beginning of Merchant Emperor, hanging out in Ylorc, as they were at the end of The Assassin King. As for the future, well, read and find out!

Talquist seems like a formidable enemy for the Alliance to overcome, but he also has the F’dor (Hrarfa) in his midst. I often thought it would be interesting if the F’dor happened to possess Talquist (and therefore have control of Sorbold and a very, very powerful army to wreak havoc with). I know you can’t answer any questions about what will happen in future books, but is there any possibility Talquist will be possessed? I can only imagine how grave a situation that will be for the Alliance and in protecting the Sleeping Child.

There is ALWAYS that possibility. 🙂 That’s the danger in messing around with F’dor. Not advisable.

While we are on the same subject, where did you get the inspiration for Talquist? I notice while rereading that he can be a bit of a tyrant like Stalin, Hitler and Mussolini. Did you get the idea for Talquist from one of history’s past malevolent leaders?

Well, not specifically. I think the malevolent leaders in the past all have some things in common, and Talquist shares in some of those aspects. But to me he is a man who cannot deal with having been dealt a normal lifespan, when his vision is so long and all-encompassing. If he resents anything, it’s that. And, as you may already know, he will do whatever he needs to achieve the immortality that would give him the opportunity to put his plans into place.

I love reading about the Dhracians! They are so fascinating to me that it was a nice surprise to read more about them with the introduction of Rath. Rath is pretty awesome by the way (just thought I’d let you know).

Where did you get the idea for Rath? Did you just need a character to take down the F’dor with Grunthor since Achmed couldn’t afford to leave the Sleeping Child unguarded? Or did you adjust the storyline around him? Whatever the reason I want more Rath! 😉

Rath has always been part of the story. I know the names and personalities of all the Dhracian hunters who left guarding the Vault of the Underworld when the star that was called The Sleeping Child fell from the sky at the beginning of the First Age and shattered the Vault, to go upworld and hunt them escapees down. Rath is one of the most interesting of them; he’s been around a long time, and he is obsessed, as all those hunters are obsessed. He cannot understand how Achmed cannot be.

I know you stated somewhere that you knew how you were going to end the SOA series but, does any big, current event affect what you write? Such as Putin (possibility for Cold War II), The Palestinian/Jews ongoing conflict, the worsening Ebola outbreak or the war in Afghanistan?

Requiem for the Sun (cover)No, not at all. Small images that have been inspired by world events and events that have occurred in my life in the time over which I have been writing SOA have crept in; if you read in REQUIEM OF THE SUN Macquieth’s description of what the destruction of the Island of Serendair looked like under the sea when he returned to try to find and bury his son, that description was inspired by the image of the rubble of the Twin Towers on 9/11. But this is not a story of our time; the universe it is set in has its own history, from birth to death, that I knew every era of before I started writing. I told my first editor, Jim Minz, the man who started it all, how this would end back in the year 2000, and he gasped. (Not sure if that was good or bad, but he did.) It has not changed.

With the Symphony of Ages linguistics, how much of the language do you have developed so far? a) Do you plan on expanding the Lirin, Firbolg, Seren languages etc. of the series? b) And if so, do you ever plan on releasing a guide on your languages?

A very interesting question. Each of the major languages has a basic philology (look it up) and the fundamental structure of word use, though I have not and do not plan to do a complete linguistic workup (a word-for-word translation) until I don’t have books to write anymore. So, while I have a list of four hundred words that are common to English and each of these languages, I’ve also determined how each language works, based on what is important to the culture that uses it. For instance:

– The Lirin use suffixes to distinguish between them: Lirin-glas, Lirin-darc, Lirin-ved, Lirin-pan, Lirin-mer are Lirin from the fields/skysingers; forest Lirin; the “in-between” who are nomadic and travel between field and forest; the Lirin that live in cities, and the sea-Lirin.
– In the common tongue, the addition of the suffix “-sid” means “city”, generally denoting the capital of a region
– Among the Cymrians, the suffix -ar or a’ar meant “the bearer or carrier of”, usually an elemental sword, but not always.

This was a LOT of work when I first did it. Perhaps one day I will go back and do a fuller explication of all the languages, but I still have too much to do right now. 🙂

The Tree of Water (cover)For those of you who are interested, you’ll be seeing a lot more books soon. THE HOLLOW QUEEN (book eight), which is the end of the War of the Known World trilogy, comes out this spring [2015]. I believe THE TREE OF WATER in the Ven Polypheme series comes out this fall [2015]. And then DIRGE [The Weaver’s Lament] [2016], the end of this arc of the Symphony of Ages series, should come out next spring. I say “this arc” because it is entirely possible you will see more arcs that show you history you have heard about but haven’t seen, or the future.

I am often asked if we will get to see how Achmed met Grunthor, and since that is a great story, I do hope to do a book on that someday and maybe some other lost lore. For instance, what made Anborn go from being a cheerful and good-spirited young soldier to the merciless killer he became in the Cymrian War? How did the F’dor really come to the new world? In Elysian, what was with that broken golden birdcage? In Kraldurge, the Realm of Ghosts, why was the ground so polluted with sorrow? I have known these answers all along, and I hope to get to write the books that address those questions.

Many authors/fans have published lore books on their series, like Tolkien’s work that was published with A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day, or Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonlover’s Guide to Pern by Jody Lynn Nye. It would be nice to have a guide to refer to on the history (timeline with brief descriptions), lore, maps (how the world/planet has changed in shifting of continents, islands appearing/disappearing, “globe-view of the entire world,” etc.) and facts on the Symphony of Ages or the Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme.

Yes. I do hope to do that. Thank you for asking.

The following questions are pertaining to The Merchant Emperor (asked by Val from The Cauldron)

When Anwyn was relaying to Rhapsody the information about the alteration in the tapestry of Time that was made, she said that there was only one last thing she knew from the old timeline, that she had heard before it completely disappeared. It was someone whom both Ashe and Rhapsody cared for, and whose death had brought them together. (The Merchant Emperor, hardback edition, page 370) That name was Weinatha.

Can you tell us anything about this person? Will we meet him or her at some point?

Achmed and Rhapsody, not Ashe. You will know all about her if/when you read the last book, DIRGE [The Weaver’s Lament], which is finished and in copyediting. Book eight, THE HOLLOW QUEEN, comes out this spring [2015]. DIRGE, book nine, should be out the following spring [2016]. That’s all I can really say. 🙂

As Gwylliam lay dying, he called for Bareth. (The Merchant Emperor, hardback edition, page 371) Who is Bareth?

Elegy for a Lost Star (cover)Bareth was one of Gwylliam’s knights in the Old World, and one of his generals in the Cymrian War. I expect you will get to see him in action in the prequels.

Seeing as how this war is called The War of the Known World, are the remaining Kith, Seren, Mythlin, Dracians, Nain, Gwadd and especially the dragons (who so far have not concerned themselves with “the problems of men”) going to be drawn into the war now?

That would be a terrible spoiler to reveal, wouldn’t it? 🙂 All I can say is that there are some interesting folks you have heard about but not really seen taking part.

The dragon Witheragh (loved meeting a new dragon, by the way!) loaned Rhapsody a fantastic new weapon, Mylinmacr’s Tongue, which is actually his grandmother tongue. What was the inspiration for such a unique and creative weapon? Can you also give us a correct pronunciation for it?

And Witheragh says, “The tongue by itself has spoken from time to time over history, but not of late. It has been silent for most of this age; I would not expect much if I were you.” This seems like a huge clue that it will be having some major stuff to say, so can we expect to hear more from Mylinmacr’s Tongue?


(Last question first.)

Inspiration questions are the hardest ones for me to answer. Sometimes, though not all that often, I have a specific inspiration for something, but most of the time, ideas just come into my mind—or onto the page, bypassing my mind. I am working on something right now that I am the last one to know what’s going on with it! I wish I could tell you what prompted the tongue, but it was just there one day.


By the way, I have a special announcement, since Summer and y’all have been so good to me. Audible purchased the audio rights to SOA, and the narrator who reads it, Kevin T. Collins, is unbelievable! He is an actor and singer as well as a voice narrator, and actually sings many or all of the songs in the books. He does them all very well, but my absolute FAVORITE are his renditions of Grunthor’s marching songs. O-M-G. Wait ‘til you hear him!

Given that there is now an elemental sword for water, fire/ether, and wind at play in the war, will we finally see an elemental sword for earth? It would seem that they would need all of them to finally beat Faron.

Alas, no. The elemental sword of Earth (and there was one) met its end in an earlier conflict—at least as far as we know. If a master sword maker had the right material one could possibly be made again…or some weapon like it…

You’ve used a pearl twice now to “keep” memories for someone. Where did you get the inspiration for that idea?

Rhapsody (French cover art)Well, memories are ephemeral—they pass quickly if you don’t find a way to hold on to them, a little like grains of sand skittering across the bottom of the sea. The way pearls are made fascinates me. When a grain of sand or some other irritant gets inside an oyster, instead of trying to expel it, the oyster wraps it inside layers and layers of nacre. Nacre is not just a soothing substance. It is composed of microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate, aligned perfectly with one another, so that light passing along the axis of one crystal is reflected and refracted by another to produce a rainbow of light and color. This process works perfectly with the SOA ‘laws of the universe.’

What a real pearl is, therefore, is a capturing of an idea that is covered in valuable layers of protection, both for it and the oyster, producing and protecting something important and beautiful. Pearls are also porous and strong.

Anyway, that was my thinking on it.

Are we going to see all the scales in play at some point? Perhaps either eventually destroyed or given back to the dragons?

Well, Ven Polypheme is working on returning the scales of the Younger deck to the dragons who gave them to patch the Vault, when he can find them. You may see the Older deck in use—but that might be bad…

Thanks again for agreeing to answer some questions for The Cauldron! (I hope it wasn’t an overload.) I can’t wait to read the next two books in your Symphony and the new Journals book!

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Summer for saving this interview and sharing it with us on Fantasy-Faction!



  1. Avatar Jessica says:

    Glad to see that there are others out there that love these series as much as I do. Do you have any idea if Elizabeth is still writing? The last book in the Journals series was supposed to come out in 2017 but there’s been no word on it yet and Elizabeth seems to have fallen off the map.

    • Avatar Summer H. Paulus says:

      Hey Jessica,

      Glad to see another SOA fan! ATM I have no idea if Elizabeth is still writing or not. I know for a long time she was struggling with some personal issues that had kept her from writing, and I’m wondering if those same issues are keeping her from completing the young adult series.

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I’ve been a fan of her work since The Floating Island and I look forward to seeing how the series ends! I’m going to start reading Symphony of Ages while I wait.

    • Avatar Emma says:

      I was a member of The Cauldron many moons ago under the name Woodland Nymph and too remember it fondly. I am still in touch with a few members. I remember the Christmas greetings (still have them somewhere!). Thank you for posting this x

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