The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams

bitterThe Bitter Twins is the second instalment of Jen Williams’ Winnowing Flame Trilogy and is an excellent second in series that demonstrates William’s ability to create a richly woven world, full of history and religion and characters that are a delight to read and fall in love with.

Before reviewing The Bitter Twins I would point out that it is necessary to read the Ninth Rain first.  The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of No.1 and there is no recap of previous events so if you haven’t read the first book then I strongly recommend you stop right here, don’t read this review, simply go and pick up the first book.  The other thing that I would mention is that this is a book that is a little difficult to review without giving away spoilers for the first book or indeed for the content of The Bitter Twins so I’m really going to avoid discussion of the plot and limit my review to the writing, characters and world building.

Once again the story brings our favourite characters to the table.  Lady Vincenza, or Vintage, again plays a key role.  Not to be deterred by her lack of either magic or super strength Vintage isn’t prepared to take a back seat but once again manages to find herself in the thick of things.  Finding herself at the heart of Ebora and with her long missing love interest returning to the scene Vintage has a few harsh truths to face, not least of which is her own mortality and the knowledge that whilst she has physically aged her lover has not.  What I love about Vintage is she brings her own brand of upbeat realism to any situation.  She’s intelligent enough to be able to work things through sensibly and resourceful enough to not panic when faced with danger.  Alongside Vintage we share a few moments when all the characters are briefly reunited before they split into different groups each with important quests.  Noon and Tormalin go in search of ancient knowledge that might assist the war beasts who are suffering from memory loss.  Their adventure leads them to discover an archipelago of small islands some of which are more dangerous than first glance reveals.  They go in search of artifacts but instead find much more uncovering an astonishing revelation regarding Eboran history and finally coming to terms with their feelings for each other.

Aldasair and Bern have their own mission which involves a good deal of drama and the discovery of Hestillion aboard the Corpse Moon.  What a storyline this is.  I read it in mounting disbelief.  I wanted to shout at Hestillion and at the same time I just couldn’t believe half of what I was reading.  Hesillion what are you thinking?  I can’t say more other than that this is one of those parts of the story where you can’t but help be riveted to the page and your horror is only matched by your desire for the character in question to snap out of it.

We have the addition of a number of other excellent characters.  Eri, a young Eboran boy who has been living in seclusion and the arrival of a group of characters that seemed to have their own agenda.  Again, I’m amazed at how well developed all of these characters are, they may have secondary roles and in some cases not much page time but I felt myself really caring for them.

What really surprises me again and again with Williams is her ability to make you love her characters.  Even the ones that you only briefly meet or are newly introduced to – they’re just so very well drawn and display all sorts of emotions that make them jump off the page with anger, passion and self doubt.  It’s easy to fall for these characters and it makes the switch between different storylines incredibly easy to to enjoy because each story is equally heart wrenching.

The other thing that totally blows me away about Williams writing is the way she is able to create such an amazing world using both fantasy and science fiction to give it a different twist.  It reminds me a little of Anne McCaffrey who also conjured remarkable worlds by marrying epic fantasy with science fiction to create something incredible.  It gives the world such a wide range of possibilities.

In terms of criticisms.  I would mention that I thought the first half of the story was a little slower in terms of pace, of course this really helps in terms of character development and also in forging relationships that are believable but be aware of this when you start.  I find, and I think I mentioned this when I reviewed the Ninth Rain, that the plot isn’t really the main focus of the story, which isn’t to say the plot isn’t good but just that there’s such a lot of depth, not just to the characters, but to the world itself.

There’s a lot of history explored in this instalment and some of it I think will have a big impact on the final book of the series.  And then of course there’s the conclusion – which is a thrilling, action packed ride that really packs an emotional punch.  I didn’t see some of that coming and it really hit me I must confess.

The Bitter Twins is an excellent second in series, it may have had a measured start but the tension steadily grew and eventually culminated in an explosive finale.  And, of course, no review would be complete without mentioning the war beasts.  Such magnificent creatures, I absolutely love them.

If nothing else, I hope I’ve convinced you to read this series.  This review feels a little light on information but that’s simply a reflection of my desire not to give away spoilers.  Put simply, if you love epic fantasy you simply have to read The Winnowing Flame trilogy.  It’s an absolute must read series.

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

 

 

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Waiting on Wednesday : The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Bitter Twins (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2) by Jen Williams:  

bittertwinsThe Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever.

Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

Meanwhile, Hestillion is trapped on board the corpse moon, forced into a strange and uneasy alliance with the Jure’lia queen. Something terrifying is growing up there, in the heart of the Behemoth, and the people of Sarn will have no defence against these new monsters.

I’ve enjoyed all of Jen Williams books and I simply can’t wait to read this one – plus – just check out that gorgeous cover.

Expected publication : March 2018

The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams

ninth-rainWell, 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.

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday: The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday we get to highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  My book this week is : Waiting on Wednesday: The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams.  I absolutely love Jen Williams Copper Cat series and can’t wait for this to be released.  Fortunately, not too long a wait: February 23rd 2017.

ninthrainThe great city of Ebora once glittered with gold. Now its streets are stalked by wolves. Tormalin the Oathless has no taste for sitting around waiting to die while the realm of his storied ancestors falls to pieces – talk about a guilt trip. Better to be amongst the living, where there are taverns full of women and wine.

When eccentric explorer, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, offers him employment, he sees an easy way out. Even when they are joined by a fugitive witch with a tendency to set things on fire, the prospect of facing down monsters and retrieving ancient artefacts is preferable to the abomination he left behind.

But not everyone is willing to let the Eboran empire collapse, and the adventurers are quickly drawn into a tangled conspiracy of magic and war. For the Jure’lia are coming, and the Ninth Rain must fall… 

I can’t wait for this book!  Literally, I’m jumping up and down!  It sounds so good.

 

‘ere be dragons’

The Friday Face Off (FFO#2)

‘Here we are again with the Friday Face Off meme being hosted by Books by Proxy .   The rules are fairly simple and can be found here.  Each week, following a predetermined theme choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.  Simples.  This week the theme is:

‘A cover which features dragons’:

UK    :    US

The Copper Promise is the first in this fantastic series written by Jen Williams.  I actually like both covers and particularly the way the colours share a similar colour theme.  That being said I adore the UK covers for this series.  They have a wonderful olde worlde feel which is really striking.  Plus the three of them together look amazing.

My winner this week is the UK cover.

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