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Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Haydon and The Symphony of Ages Series

Spoiler Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Symphony of Ages series. Read with caution if you have yet to finish the books.

The Prophecy of the Three

The Three shall come, leaving early, arriving late
The lifestages of all men:
Child of Blood, Child of Earth, Child of the Sky
Each man, formed in blood and born in it,
Walks the Earth and sustained by it,
Reaching the sky and sheltered beneath it,
He ascends there only in his ending, becoming part of the stars.
Blood gives new beginning
Earth gives sustenance
The Sky gives dreams in life—eternity in death
Thus shall the Three be, one to the other.

Introduction to Elizabeth’s Grand Symphony

Elizabeth HaydonWhat immediately comes to mind when I reflect on Elizabeth’s The Symphony of Ages series? What, at its core, makes me smile, like I was greeting an old friend?

It’s a large number of things, from Haydon’s deft hand at worldbuilding, such as the map I spent a great deal of time studying in my youth, or her unique languages she added in from her linguistic studies in college. It is also the races borrowed from Tolkien, but unique in the sense that Elizabeth makes them her own. The great Cymrian War, the lost island of Serendair that was consumed twice, her grand cities, like Ylorc, that spring to life across the page, her magic system based around names and music, the magical and mysterious “Lightcatcher” and the “Sleeping Child” and so much more.

In total, her Symphony of Ages series is nine books:

The Rhapsody Trilogy:

  1. Rhapsody: Child of Blood
  2. Prophecy: Child of Earth
  3. Destiny: Child of the Sky

The Bridge Duology:

  1. Requiem for the Sun
  2. Elegy for a Lost Star

The War of the Known World Trilogy:

  1. The Assassin King
  2. The Merchant Emperor
  3. The Hollow Queen

And the series capper:

  1. The Weaver’s Lament, aka “Dirge.”

Rhapsody: Child of Blood (cover)The basic plot of the series, revolves around a timeline that becomes changed, impacting the fates of the characters. It is also about renewal, of bravery against impossible odds, and of loss. Three characters travel to a whole new world and end-up being the prophesized heroes to save it. A titanic peril lies within the center of the world, and with its awakening, threatens to destroy everything. The series is heavy in romance, with a love triangle at its center, but also fellowship between three people who become the dearest of friends. By the end of the series you might be feeling a great sense of loss, but you will find yourself cherishing the world, the people within it, and the story she has created.  

A Quick Note: I will be pulling information from Elizabeth’s SoA series, while also drawing from the dusty archives of content originally posted on The Cauldron fan forums, as well as personal guides I created. If you are a fan of Elizabeth’s SoA series and want copies of past interviews or guides, contact me through Twitter (@MriNiun), and I’ll be more than happy to send you pdf copies of: “Questions with Elizabeth I”, “II”, and “III”, lore from her expired website, as well as the (unfinished) Dictionary I made back in the day, plus other fun content.

The Duchess: Elizabeth Haydon (Or, as she prefers to be called: Elizabeth)

Requiem for the Sun (cover)Elizabeth Haydon is the daughter of an air force officer and traveled all over the world growing up. Aside from her worldly travels, Elizabeth is an educational book editor, harpist, herbalist, madrigal singer, conducts dramas, oversaw a workshop on grant writing, and loves folklore and anthropology. One of her earliest creations began with a game she played with her sister’s on the swing set, launching themselves into a live action version of a board game:

“As a little kid, I spun my sisters a fairly elaborate live action version of imaginary Candy Land. We used to launch ourselves into it from the swing set.” – Questions with Elizabeth I and II

Her first writing experience began in the fourth grade, when she had to choose from several projects with her friends, which involved writing a script titled The Clue in the Diary, stating that,

“It was the easiest, and I was lazy.” – Chat Transcript [August 18th, 2002]

From there she only read a few fantasy novels, such as The Chronicles of Narnia, to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, before falling into a position editing textbooks. It wasn’t until she left college and met up with an old friend, that the idea for Symphony came into existence.

The Birth of The Symphony

The Assassin King (cover)The spark for The Symphony of Ages series came about when she attended the American Library Association’s conference. While there she went to the NOLA restaurant in New Orleans with her dear colleague Ward Evers, and discussed the current state of the fantasy genre over the infamous drink Dixie Blackened Voodoo (you can read the full reflection here). One of the key elements found in Elizabeth’s series is romance, which Mr. Evers emphasized was a crucial factor in an epic tale, alongside history:

“Every great epic tale in history has a love story of some kind at its center, though not always a happily-ever-after one,” [Ward] opined, “from the Odyssey to the Arthurian Legend to the Thousand and One Nights. I want to experiment with that, while not losing the classic elements of battle, journey, and magic. Female characters need to [be] more than Xena Warrior Princess or arm candy.” – Tor Forge Blog

Aside from discussing some of the elements he wished Elizabeth to include in her fantasy series, he also stressed the author needed to know how the series was going to begin, and how it was going to end, including the history of that world, above everything else. If not, one is doing a disservice to those who will read the series and, as well, the characters who will be wrestling alongside the history the author had established.

That was back in the year 1993. Elizabeth wouldn’t publish Rhapsody: Child of Blood until 1999, six years later, and Ward wouldn’t live to see her creation come to fruition. Elizabeth’s new entry into the archives of the fantasy genre was praised by such literary giants as Anne McCaffrey, who stated it was: “A stunningly told tale by a new fantasy author who is sure to go far,” and was praised by USA Today as a bestseller epic fantasy. In 1999, all eyes were turned onto Elizabeth, waiting to see what she would come out with next. Prophecy: Child of Earth, was swiftly released in 2000, and was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, while gaining a rabid fan base. During this time, Elizabeth was beginning to become active with her readers through her website, elizabethhaydon.com, as well as the new forum: The Cauldron, where she answered a number of questions.

Elizabeth’s involvement in the fantasy community, particularly on The Cauldron fan forum, became nonexistence after the publication of The Assassin King, and remained nonexistent for the next several years. I remember anxiously refreshing The Cauldron every couple of days, hoping to hear some news from Elizabeth and her next upcoming novel, The Merchant Emperor, but it was not to be. Fans began to wander away from our close-knit community, until there was no activity on The Cauldron at all.

Speculation, of course, had been discussed and rumors surfaced across the web, from Elizabeth having cancer to her husband having a heart attack to her house burning down. Despite all this, her most devoted fans (myself included), remained waiting for her return and for the next installment in her symphony to be released.

The Merchant Emperor (cover)The silence ended in 2014. I sent a random email, as I had done countless times in the past, hoping to hear back from her. She generously replied to my “fan girl” email and agreed to conduct an interview for The Cauldron fan forum. I practically squealed with joy when I saw the it in my inbox and felt very fortunate in having the opportunity to pick her mind for her fans. If you happen to read this Elizabeth, I thank you again for the chance to “geek-out” with my favorite fantasy author. 

That year, on June 3rd, The Merchant Emperor, the seventh installment of the series, was released. The seven-year drought had ended, and I raced down to the local bookstore to pick up a copy of the novel. The next book, The Hollow Queen, released on June 30th, and the final SoA book was set for release in June as well. In addition, The Cauldron fan forum had come back to life, fans had returned to discuss the end of the series, as well as asking questions for the interview I was conducting with Elizabeth.

When The Weaver’s Lament was released, it was a very special day indeed. One last time, I raced down to Barns & Noble to get a copy, and spent the whole night reading it. When I turned the final page, I had to reach for a tissue, wiping the tears from my eyes, as everything began to sink-in. It was hard saying farewell to characters I had practically grown-up with and harder still when I realized we wouldn’t be going on another adventure with them ever again.

The Weaver’s Lament (cover)Once more, Elizabeth has disappeared into the ether, with her YA series, The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme incomplete. The last volume, The Tree of Water, was released in 2014 and the final book, The Star of the Sea, is still without a release date. The last installment of The Symphony of Ages was released in 2016 and it’s been four years since then. No news, no inkling of any forthcoming releases, no whisper from the author. Yet, while we might not have closure on Ven’s story, we at least have the final volume of her epic, high fantasy with The Weaver’s Lament, aka “Dirge” to content ourselves with. And while it took a little longer than we wished, Elizabeth kept true to her promise to her characters: “Tell a complete story.”

While many may not revere her as one of the greatest fantasy authors ever, many (and myself included) continue to re-read her series again and again, finding joy and wonder in her universe. If I could, I would give a warm hug to Ward Evers for planting the seed of The Symphony of Ages. For without that fateful, dreary evening in 1993, we wouldn’t have one of the greatest series to grace the genre. Nor, would we have these characters that have become my absolute favorite.

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