The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams
Well, what a brilliant start to series this is! I picked up The Ninth Rain with a certain amount of trepidation. I confess that I always do so when it’s an author that I enjoy reading – I always worry ‘will this book be as good as?’! Goodness only knows what the author must feel. Anyway, after loving the Copper Cat series, yes, of course, I had a certain amount of concern about where Ms Williams would go next but in real style she’s pulled another wonderful number out of the hat. The Ninth Rain brings to us a fascinating world, populated with a variety of different beings, conflict, characters that you will root for and a good degree of the author’s wonderful sense of humour. I admit that I’m a little bit in love with Jen Williams at the moment – not, of course, in a bunny-boiler-stalker fashion you may be pleased to hear (although I may stalk her twitter and Goodreads pages for news of the next book).
Anyway, to the book. It gets off to a great start. We read of the Eborans. Once a mighty empire Ebora now lies mostly empty. It’s once golden and busy streets are populated by the vines that again encroach and take hold and the few remaining inhabitants are simply waiting to die. The Eborans are a fascinating race. They worship a tree God called Ygseril. Their God bestows upon them an unusually long life, strength and grace. Unfortunately, Ygseril seems to have declined – or died – or just gone plain missing leaving the Eborans not only starved of his presence but also of the sustenance that he provided and forcing them to seek solace from another source – blood. As you can imagine this didn’t go down too well with the human population and obviously war ensued until a more peaceful arrangement could be accommodated. This was long in the past and many of the Eborans have now died as a result of a disease called the Crimson Flux – brought on by human blood! And so we arrive at Tormalin the Oathless as he prepares to leave his home, much to the disgust of his sister. Tormalin doesn’t want to sit and wait for the Flux to catch up with him – he wants to experience life and so off he goes with his little spotted hanky packed with goodies to sustain him on his travels!
And so we met Tormalin. Now let’s meet Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon! You’ll be pleased to make her acquaintance. She’s totally eccentric and a real character to boot. Full of sass and wit. Vintage’s family have made their fortune in wine and she now has the means to support her real passion in life. Vintage is something of an explorer and a scientist. She travels the country looking for clues about the Jure’lia from the broken pieces of their left over crafts. She’s determined to be ready for the Ninth Rain when it comes and knowledge is valuable. It seems almost inevitable that Tormalin and Vintage should meet up – the brawn to the brains, plus Vintage’s wealth and easy access to wine allows Tormalin a good deal of freedom, drinking and other exploits. Plus he gets to fight with all sorts of monsters whilst Vintage has her very own protector!
Of course, you’re probably pondering over the Ninth Rain. The previous eight ‘rains’ refer to attacks by an alien nation. Hideous attackers who leave a trail of death in their wake. The only people who have ever been able to stand up to the Jure’lia attacks are the Eborans – oh the irony! Now, what I love about this is it’s a delicious combination of science fiction and fantasy. The Jure’lians are the strangest race – at this point, I’m really not aware of their motivations. Perhaps they don’t have any – perhaps they’re just the downright baddy of the piece – they certainly don’t take prisoners and they create swathes of zombie type people as they swarm forward. Lets just talk about insects and the screaming heebie-jeebies for a moment – because that’s going on – even the ships that are used for travel. Anyway, no more of that – I’m not going to give too much away.
To the final character, Fell Noon – a fell witch with powerfully fierce sorcery. Beware the fell witches! Oh yes, they’re all evil, destructive, murderous creatures – or are they? Anybody can manifest this magical ability – it strikes at will and without any recognisable pattern and anybody who displays such talent is immediately taken from their families and placed in the Winnowry. This is a dreadful place. Cruel and harsh, the people who run it are religious zealots who treat the inhabitants terribly and at the very heart of it is corruption.
These three characters are going to eventually find each other on the same path. A darkness is once again growing. Strange portents and dreams are drawing people together, they know the Ninth Rain is looming. In the meantime our characters are on a desperate hunt, a race against time to prevent what could be the extermination of everyone on the planet.
One thing about Jen Williams is that she can write – well. And frankly good writing is never going to go out of fashion (in my humble opinion). It’s a delight to read a book like this, so well written and made to look deceptively easy. Yet again she brings characters that you will love, in fact to be honest, the plot plays an almost secondary role by comparison. Plus the world building. This is a completely different world – it takes a little time to become accustomed to what’s going on but once you sit back and chill it all just falls into place.
I really enjoyed this. It’s just a delight and I highly recommend it. I look forward to the next instalment because it appears that there will be critters aplenty to look forward to.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.