Eighth and penultimate part of Haydon’s Symphony of Ages series (The Merchant Emperor, 2014, etc.).
Former merchant Talquist, emperor of Sorbold, pursues his ambitions: conquer the world, exterminate the Cymrians, and gain immortality. To accomplish the first two, he must defeat husband-and-wife team Ashe and Rhapsody; to complete the third, he must eat the living heart of the Child of Time, who happens to be Ashe and Rhapsody’s infant son. Rhapsody, knowing of Talquist’s intent, has loaned her magical True Name to her son in order to keep him hidden—but at great personal cost: she’s now changed into a cold, remorseless warrior. Ashe, meanwhile, looking for powerful allies, heads for the hidden island of the Sea Mages and stumbles across his dragonly great-grandmother, who’s taking a nap at the bottom of the ocean. Talquist’s collaborator and confidant, a titanic warrior made of Living Stone and occupied by two demons, the childlike Faron and the ancient, evil Hrarfa, warns him that two assassins are coming—and then heads off about its own business. One of those assassins is Achmed, king of the Firbolg and a close friend of Ashe and Rhapsody. Talquist’s other plots also begin to unravel, as the rulers, warriors, and peoples he’s duped begin to realize they’ve been fooled. Haydon, evidently having lost interest in the project, serves up long stretches of reflection and description, mostly evades the big battles, and ignores such genuinely original ideas as the various magics operating in this world.
Thematically, an entry that wraps up all the major plotlines in a mostly satisfying fashion, though another installment is promised.