The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams

PoisonSongAnd so the final book in the Winnowing Flame Trilogy comes to an end, slightly bitter sweet maybe but nonetheless a thrilling conclusion to a fantastic and epic series that for me firmly places Jen Williams on my favourite fantasy author list.  Two series, both epic, both completely different in tone, world building and characters and yet both incredibly impressive.  What’s not to like really – it’s an absolute no-brainer.

I’m not going to discuss the plot, if you haven’t read the first two books in the series I strongly suggest you do so, apart from the fact that you’d be missing out on an awful lot of world building and development of character arcs but also, for me, one of the things I love about this author is she pretty much picks up from where she left off.  It’s something I really like but I imagine if you like to delve into a series midway it might make the book something more of a struggle to get on board with.  Plus, be aware that this review might contain spoilers.

First and foremost I would say that this is another series where each book brings something unique to the storyline.  We being this adventure with the Ninth Rain in which we meet some very easy to like characters and take a look at the fascinating world of Sarn.  This is a fictional world that marries fantasy and sci fi.  Occupied by a variety of different people and species and also with a long history of conflict invovling invading aliens.  We discover the world primarily through the eyes of Vintage, an archaeologist of sorts who seeks out wartime artefacts.  We also learn of the Eborans, a race of immortals, beautiful and almost ethereal who resorted to drinking the blood of humans when their own source of immortality dried up.  They brought about their own downfall causing a massive rift between their people and the humans (who seemed to take umbrage at becoming meals on legs) when their blood drinking tendencies lead to disease and a rather messy demise.  We discover the meaning of the Ninth Rain and end the story with the birth of the fantastic war creatures.

The Bitter Twins is a book where the main characters are desperately scrabbling around trying to find a way to help them defeat the aliens and survive the threat of extinction.  This is definitely a voyage of discovery with some great revelations not to mention some betrayals and some excellent world building.

The final instalment brings this all together with a monumental threat to this world.  What I really liked about this third instalment (well, to be honest too many things to really mention so I’ll narrow it down) is, here we have an invasion of aliens.  Destructive and deadly beings with one intent (which I won’t give away here).  What’s really great about this is that at the same time as really being able to powerfully dislike the Jure’lia and their methods (plus, did I mention insects??) they also become understandable.  They’re not really baddies as such, they’re simply doing what comes naturally, it’s like blaming a lion for eating you.  Of course that doesn’t make the fact that everywhere they go they cause death and destruction any easier to take but in a sense it’s the perfect antagonist – the motivations are easy to understand because this is more about their own survival.  You don’t like them, you’re not in their corner, but they’re just doing what comes naturally and even if they’re defeated, they’ll simply go away, lick their wounds, recover and try it all over again.  I love this combination of fantasy and science fiction (fantascience), it works so perfectly and at the same time as giving us a relentless and unsympathetic adversary it also serves to throw into relief certain symbiotic similarities that aren’t at first really obvious.  The Jure’lia are basically parasites destroying everything they touch to fulfill a certain need that drives them.  The Eborans also shared a brief spell of ‘taking’ whatever they needed to survive, regardless of the consequences.  They didn’t stop because they suddenly became ‘nicer’ they stopped because they were dying out as a race.  At the same time the humans need the Eborans in order to survive the alien invasion and so over the years their relationship has evolved, out of necessity, to become more mutually symbiotic in nature and in that respect they must fight together if they’re going to survive.

The characters all move on again.  Tor in particular changes somewhat in this instalment, I won’t giveaway why but he definitely suffers from a sort of withdrawal of sorts which hurt some of the other characters.  Noon plays a key role, returning to the Winnowry to release her fellow captives.  She becomes a hero of sorts and in a strange twist discovers a new meaning for her particular brand of magic – of course she had to face some rather bitter truths in order to make that discovery but her findings are fundamental in the terrible war that is played out in the final chapters.  Vintage is probably my favourite character.  She’s been a great character throughout the series, often feeling like an almost motherly figure to the others, bringing them together, calming them in times of need, offering words of wisdom but not only that, she really does bring the optimism to the story that you need as a reader and her sense of wonder and enjoyment at finding herself bonded with her own war creature is incredibly infectious, all the more so because of the sad way that it became a possibility.

In terms of criticisms.  I have to admit that this took me quite a while to read.  There’s a lot going on here and sometimes you can’t help feeling a rather desperate sense of being overwhelmed by the true scale of the threat.  Plus, it took me some time to get back on board with everything that had happened previously.  On top of this there’s the conundrum faced by any author who has been so successful in creating such a group of well loved characters – who lives and who dies – and this must have been a very difficult choice to make. But, I suppose, it’s inevitable really, you can’t expect a world under threat, terrible battles and ferocious enemies and yet everyone to miraculously survive.  That being said, I can’t deny I would have liked a slightly different ending and even now my mind is trying to find ‘what ifs’ in some desperate attempt to find my own happily ever after.

In a nutshell, epic-y goodness, fantastic emotion, wonderful characters, gorgeous writing and a series well worth investing in.  Do yourself a favour and read Jen Williams.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.



15 Responses to “The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    There has been much enthusiastic talk about this series in the course of Wyrd & Wonder, and I’ve added these books to my “wanted” list on the strength of all the accolades I’ve read. It’s going to be a great journey… 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Jen Williams is a stunning author, she really is. I think you would enjoy her books a lot and I highly recommend the Copper Promise series too.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    I hope to read this series one of these days

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, it’s only UK at the moment so I hope it gets published in the US.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I hope a publisher brings this series to the US soon! I think it was Angry Robot that pubbed her first trilogy over here, right? I wonder if they have any plans to do this one too *crossing my fingers*

    • @lynnsbooks

      It was Angry Robot now you mention it – I picked these up from Headline. Hope it comes to the US.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Tammy

    This series is definitely on my to read list someday, when I have extra time (what’s that?😝)

  5. waytoofantasy

    I have heard so many great things about this series! Definitely want to read these books when I can find time to squeeze them in. Glad you enjoyed the ending!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Jen Williams is just amazing. I’m loving her books, she writes such great characters and is so inclusive.
      Lynn 😀

  6. bkfrgr

    Oh my goodness! I am so excited about this trilogy! I’ve just bought The Bitter Twins, which I hope to start this week or next; the whole idea of a fantasy world being invaded by aliens has me blown away. 😀
    Glad to see you recommend the Copper Cat series too, I’m hoping to get straight onto that after I’ve read the Winnowing Flame books.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I love the combination of fantasy and sci fi is really well done with the aliens based on insects with a hive mind mentality. I really like Jen Williams, I’ve read both her series now and loved them both, she manages to bring something different. Her characters are easy to like and she’s incredibly inclusive so there’s a great balance – but it doesn’t feel forced at all.
      Lynn 😀

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