The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy book 1) by Jen Williams (book review).

‘The Ninth Rain’ is book one in the new trilogy called ‘The Winnowing Flame Trilogy’ by Jen Williams, the previous trilogy being ‘The Copper Cat Trilogy’ which I highly recommend. Both trilogies follow different characters and seem to be set in different worlds, but they are all high fantasy with plenty of swords and sorcery!

This time we’re following three different characters, firstly Tormalin (Tor) the Oathless who is finding watching his home city of Ebora, once a beautiful place where the streets were paved with gold, slowly dying along with its tree god, Ygseril. So he decides to see a bit more of the world, mostly the bits involving lots of wine and women (well, he has been trained in the art of love making). Then there’s Vintage, a strong older, black female who is not content to do what is expected of someone of her age and class. No, she prefers hunting down the dangerous Jure’lia or worm people archaeological sites which are guarded by killer parasite spirits that will rip you in half as soon as look at you! They are joined by Noon, who is a fell witch and has spent the last 10 years trapped in a prison ‘for her own good’ and then used for her magical abilities.

They all head off on an adventure with absolutely no idea just how much danger they are going to get into and, if they only knew how it was all going to end in this book, they probably would not have set out in the first place. Knowing them as I now do, they probably would have done it any way! We watch as they try to look into the history of their planet, including the various attacks made on it by the worm people who seem intent on destroying their planet. Each time the worm people have tried, the Eborians have held them off having been given special powers and war beasts by Ygseril. However, Ygseril is now dead so these powers have been taken away to the point that most of the Eborians are now dead or dying leaving the planet vulnerable. Vintage wants to find out more about the worm people from the things they left behind for her own benefit and possibly the benefit of the rest of the planet.

Firstly, I need to say that I love Jen Williams’ previous books so I was a little worried going into this one with the new characters, etc, but I needn’t have worried, Jen is a master story teller! Jen is one of those rare breeds within the book trade, she is a dependable author and I don’t mean that she’s dull or predictable in any way. She is just someone that you know you will enjoy every time. Needless to say, I loved this story as well with its emphasis on feminism (although not heavy handed at all) and a new slant towards SF which is a new element in William’ books. There are some aliens and spaceships in this book which is not something I’ve ever seen before in a high fantasy book, I’m very interested to see where that goes. Jen even manages to write in a vampire-like character without it all going a bit sparkly skinned and urban fantasy, in fact for the first part of the book you barely notice that there are vampires at all.

I really enjoy Jen’s writing style, her ability to build a world in a few pages is amazing. You don’t feel at all confused as everything makes sense without a tonne of information being dumped on you at once. As a reader, I just wanted to keep reading and reading as she drew me into the story and made me love and loath her characters. Her characters all have so many different levels, they all have secrets and reasons for the way they act, even the side characters have some depth which is rare to find in some books. Oh and for those who know Jen, there are a few Easter eggs with regard the names of places eg Mushenska! Jen writes descriptions very well so you might get a little nauseated reading about what the parasite spirits do to humans and animals and some of the dream sequences and truly horrifying.

Every so often, throughout the book, we get to read a part of a diary or letter related to Vintage which give us some background to the story, the people and the planet. Mostly, they just made me fall in love with Vintage as a character. She is just so caring and really does love archaeology, something we have in common. I felt that I bonded more with Vintage than Noon or Tor, although they were both interesting characters as well. I hope we get to know a bit more about these two as the trilogy goes along, if this is anything like Jen’s previous trilogy then we will get to know each of the characters a lot more before the end.

I loved this book so much that I pretty much devoured it within one day, only stopping to do the mundane tasks of life such as eat and drink. Just as a heads up, the last quarter of the book has very fast pacing so it drags you along, so not something to start at midnight unless it’s a non-school night. I cannot wait to get hold of the next book in this series to see where the trio get and how the SF elements all wrap up. It’s not too much of a cliff-hanger, no-one is in mortal danger you just need to know what is going to happen next!

Sarah Bruch

February 2017

follow me @shelbycat

(pub: Headline. 532 page enlarged paperback. Price: £14.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-472-3517-6)

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