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The Merchant Emperor: The Symphony of Ages    by Elizabeth Haydon order for
Merchant Emperor
by Elizabeth Haydon
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I read and enjoyed the first three episodes in Elizabeth Haydon's wonderful Symphony of Ages - Rhapsody: Child of Blood, Prophecy: Child of Earth and Destiny: Child of the Sky. Believing it to be a trilogy, I lost track of the series until I found this seventh episode in the saga, The Merchant Emperor. And though I was able to follow it, I do recommend reading the books in sequence, as it's a challenge to track the large cast of characters otherwise.

The titular character is the bad guy (or at least one of them). Draconic Ashe and Rhapsody now lead the Cymrian Alliance and have an infant son, Meridion. Events have separated them. Rhapsody and the baby have gone into hiding, taking refuge with Bolg King Achmed who guards the Earthchild. There she undertakes a healing of Rath who holds within him 'the last hope of the world.' Meanwhile, Ashe leads the Alliance army, while struggling with the dragon inside him. And Lord Marshall Anborn is revitalized by a miraculous healing and (briefly) reunited with Rhapsody.

In Sobold, Talquist has taken power (through assassination) as the Merchant Emperor and works with demons and a stone titan against the Cymrians. He sends assassins into the Firbolg mountains to bring back to him Rhapsody's baby, believing that sacrificing the child will give him immortality. He orders other atrocities, including an attack on the Alliance fleet by winged iacxsis and their riders, reminiscent of Pearl Harbor. And ten-year-old Melisande Navarne and her brother Gwydion enjoy their own exploits, assigned to them by Rhapsody and Ashe.

As attacks escalate, Rhapsody must make a very difficult choice, balancing duty and maternal love. She sheds a part of her very soul in order to take on her destined role and do her duty. And she successfully negotiates with one dragon and defeats another. This episode ends on a cliffhanger in the midst of war, that will leave fans eager for more.

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