In 2019, when Jenn Lyons launched her epic fantasy series, A Chorus Of Dragons, with the novel The Ruin Of Kings, she said she had this pentalogy all planned out. But in the following email interview about the fourth and penultimate installment, The House Of Always (hardcover, Kindle, audiobook), she admits that, somewhere along the line, that plan got thrown out the castle window.
Photo Credit: Matthew & Nicole Nicholson, Dim Horizon Studio
For people who haven’t read the first three books — The Ruin Of Kings, The Name Of All Things, and The Memory Of Souls — what is the A Chorus Of Dragons series about, and what kind of world does it take place in?
The series is about a young man named Kihrin who finds out he’s at the center of this series of prophecies about the destruction of the world. Except rather than being the one who’s going to save everyone, he might be the one destroying everything. And even though it becomes increasingly clear that the prophecies were always a con, it likewise becomes increasingly likely that they’re being fulfilled anyway. Which is a problem, because again, see the part where he’s predicted to destroy everything.
The story takes place in a world that humanity has settled after fleeing from some sort of catastrophe in another dimension. But their new universe is a very different place, one divided into twin dimensions where a person lives one life in one before going to the other after they die. So “death” isn’t necessarily a permanent thing, and who controls whether or not someone can return from the Afterlife also controls an important commodity.
And then for those who have, and thus don’t need to heed a SPOILER WARNING…what is The House Of Always about, and how does it connect to the previous novel, The Memory Of Souls?
The House Of Always picks up several weeks after The Memory Of Souls ends. As his friends and loved ones find out what Kihrin’s done, they’re understandably horrified. One of them embarks on a risky plan to save Kihrin’s life. Unfortunately, this has some unforeseen consequences which put all his loved ones (and a few not-so-loved ones) on a timer where they either must destroy Kihrin or risk Vol Karoth escaping. Oh yes, and everyone is locked inside a magical building where time moves fast, the Lighthouse at Shadrag Gor, with Vol Karoth, which is the literal stuff of nightmares.
You’ve said in our previous interviews about this series that you’ve had a plan for a while. How close is The House Of Always to what you thought the fourth book was going to be when you first came up with the idea for this pentalogy?
Oh no, it’s nothing like it. Not even remotely. I’d originally planned to spend most of this book with the vordreth and uh, that didn’t happen (although we do visit a different race). But those aren’t the most important parts of a book like this, which, in my opinion will always be the relationships and people. From that point of view, I think The House Of Always comes through swimmingly (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Also, this version has 200% more pirates, so automatically a win.
The Ruin Of Kings, The Name Of All Things, and The Memory Of Souls were all epic fantasy tales. But in the interview we did for Memory [which you can read by clicking here], you said that book was even more of an epic fantasy. Where does The House Of Always fall?
Weirdly, there’s quite a bit of horror in this one. It’s very much a case where everyone is locked inside a house haunted by ghosts picking them off one by one. Which was planned before the pandemic hit, by the way, so it’s just an odd bit of serendipity that everything is so claustrophobic.
Are there any writers or specific stories that had a big influence on The House Of Always but not on The Ruin Of Kings, The Name Of All Things, and The Memory Of Souls?
How about non-literary influences; was The House Of Always influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
Not directly, but I’d be lying if I said that writing a book about a dozen people locked inside a lighthouse while I myself was locked inside my house because of the pandemic didn’t have an impact. I also realized mid-way that I’d created a scenario in which comparisons to Pirates Of The Caribbean were almost guaranteed — ironic, because I wasn’t trying for that, but sometimes you just have to go where the undead pirates lead you. There’s also a hat-tip to The Mummy, and that mandatory Hamilton Easter egg is still there.
As we discussed in the interview we did for The Ruin Of Kings [which you can read by clicking here], you worked for Electronic Arts on such games as Lord Of The Rings: Conquest and The Saboteur before becoming an author, and that part of Ruin was especially game-y. Is there anything particularly game-y in The House Of Always?
Hmm, that’s a hard one to answer without spoiling anything. Let’s just say that a healthy chunk of the book is set in a very video game worthy location: someone’s mind. That’s a classic of video games.
You also worked as a graphic artist and illustrator. Was that for EA as well?
No, I never worked for EA in that capacity. My previous career had been in marketing and print media — I designed brochures, t-shirts, that sort of thing. Everyone assumed when I started working for EA that I’d go into UI design (that’s fairly standard for graphic artists), but I decided to go into production instead.
Ah, gotcha. Anyway, where I was going was: When you were originally planning the Chorus Of Dragons saga, did you ever consider doing it as a series of graphic novels?
No, never. Mostly because I’m not that sort of illustrator. The closest I ever came was fashion illustration, and that’s a long, long way away from sequential illustration, which is very much a different specialty.
As we’ve been discussing, the A Chorus Of Dragons series is a pentalogy. I assume that’s still the plan, right?
That’s still the plan! (And considering I just typed “The End” on book five, I’m pretty comfortable with this plan.)
Cool. Do you know what book 5 is going to be called yet?
Well, normally I wouldn’t tell you…
…but since fans have already found the pre-order information for it online, I think I can safely say the last book will be called The Discord Of Gods. I cannot wait to show everyone the cover, because it is phenomenal.
So you’re still not going with my idea: The End Of It All?
I know I have a reputation for being hard on my characters, but yikes, I really don’t want to imply that I’m killing everyone off! (Especially since I’m not.) Besides, there’s plenty more stories that can be told in this world. I very much doubt that it would, in fact, be the end of it all.
I also assume there’s no news about the TV adaptation of this series that’s current in the works, right? Like, Vin Diesel hasn’t signed on to star and coproduce and to do the theme song…yet.
Sorry. No news, but telling you that there’s no news has been good luck before, so here’s to hoping your ability to inadvertently prod Hollywood executives continues.
I do what I can. Anyway, as you know, I usually end our interviews by asking you to recommend some fantasy books people can read if they like yours, but I want to change things up this time: If someone’s enjoyed your books, what equally epic sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for The Discord Of Gods to come out?
Honestly, last year was hell on my reading, so I don’t have a ton of stuff to suggest — a failure that’s entirely mine — but for science fiction I will always point people at Arkady Martine’s Teixcalaan Duology [A Memory Called Empire and A Desolation Called Peace] and Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries Of Empire series. Both have some extraordinary worldbuilding and very much operate on an “epic” scale.