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.

 

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Throwback Thursday : The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams

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ThrowbackThursday.pngThrowback Thursday, is a new feature created by Tenacious Reader with the aim of  highlighting books from your reading past. This can be virtually anything, a book that you previously read and loved, a book that you want to highlight again, maybe it’s a book in a series and the next book is due out shortly so you want to focus some attention on the series.   Anything goes – so long as your book isn’t a current release as there are already plenty of ways to highlight the latest books.  

Today I’m highlighting the first two books in the Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams.  Here are the two beautiful covers:

This series is certainly epic in scope.  It’s packed with originality and fantastic characters and it’s written with flair.  I’ve just finished the final instalment The Poison Song – and my review will follow later but for now suffice to say that fantasy lovers should be reading Jen Williams.  She’s a tour de force who is carving her own spot in the world of speculative fiction.  Her books are a delight and I highly recommend them.

The third book is due out today so if you’ve not yet started now is the perfect time.  And, because I’m just really nice here’s the cover for Poison Song so you can see the full set.  this one is a real beauty and my favourite (although it is difficult to choose):

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Friday Face Off :  “How sweet to be a cloud, floating in the blue”

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(May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder – details here, Twitter: @wyrdandwonder)

FFOHere we are again with the Friday Face Off meme created by Books by Proxy .  This is a great opportunity to feature some of your favourite book covers.  The rules are fairly simple each week, following a predetermined theme (list below) choose a book, compare a couple of the different covers available for that particular book and choose your favourite.   Future week’s themes are listed below – the list has been updated to help out those of you who like to plan ahead – if you have a cover in mind that you’re really wanting to share then feel free to leave a comment about a future suggested theme.  I’ve also listed events that take place during the year, that I’m aware of, so you can link up your covers – if you’re aware of any events that you think I should include then give me a shout.  This week’s theme:

 “How sweet to be a cloud, floating in the blue” – A cover that is predominantly blue

Blue covers – I’m looking forward to everyone’s covers this week – there were quite a few out there but the book I’ve gone with is : The Iron Ghost (The Copper Cat #2) by Jen Williams. I loved this series and it’s a great fantasy series to begin my first FFO for Wyrd & Wonder – if you haven’t read it I highly recommend you do so.

My covers this week – only two but they both fit the theme :D:

My favourite:

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I love these covers.  Which one is your favourite?

Like last week I’ve added a Mr Linky here so that you can leave a link if you wish or please leave me a link in the comments so we can all visit and check out each others covers.  Thanks

I’ve updated the list and included themes through to the end of 2019 – I’ve also included events that I’m aware of so that you can perhaps link your themes up where possible (if you know of an event you’d like to share that let me know in the comments).  I also have a list prepared for 2020 and so will set up a separate page soon for forthcoming themes.  As always, if you wish to submit an idea then leave me a comment.

Next week – A cover featuring a festival/party/celebration

Future themes: (if you’re struggling with any of these themes then use a ‘freebie’ of one of your favourite covers)

2019

(May is the month of Wyrd and Wonder – details here, Twitter: @wyrdandwonder)

10th May  – “As full of spirit as the month of May” – A cover featuring a festival/party/celebration

17th May –  “The dark fire will not avail you, flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!” – A cover featuring a fantasy beast

24th May – “bibbity, bobbity, boo” – A cover that features ‘magical things’

31st May –  “simples” – A favourite fantasy cover 

7th June  – “One swallow does not make a summer” – A cover that makes you think of Summer 

14th June – “Coraline opened the box of chocolates. The dog looked at them longingly.” – A cover featuring something sweet

21st June – Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year – Pagan rituals/standing stones/blazing suns – a cover with your own interpretation

28th June – “And who decided which people wore the striped pyjamas” – A cover that is striped

5th July – “The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe… has been answered” –  a cover featuring something/somebody historic 

12th July – A wrap around cover

19th July – “You can’t choose between life and death when we’re dealing with what is in between.” – A cover that is grainy or looks like ‘white noise’

26th July – “Ludo ….. down” – A cover that is Upside Down

2nd August – “There are children here somewhere. I can smell them.” A cover featuring children

9th August – “I’m disinclined to acquiesce to your request.” – A cover featuring Pirates

16th August – “The haft of the arrow had been feathered with one of the eagles own plumes” – a cover featuring feathers

23rd August – A cover that is a movie tie in

30th August – “I wandered lonely as a cloud” – a cover that is predominantly yellow

6th September “Warm September brings the fruit” – a cover that is seasonal for Autumn/Fall

13th September – Friday the 13th – unlucky for some!  A cover with ‘curse’ in the title

20th September – “Your hair is winter fire,January embers.” – A cover featuring hair

27th September – Freebie

4th October – “Feed me Seymour” – A cover that is 60s horror

11th October – ““And, though there should be a world of difference between the smile of a man and the bared fangs of a wolf, with Joss Merlyn they were one and the same.”  – a cover featuring an Inn

18th October – “It’s your favorite scary movie, remember? He had on the white mask, he stalked the babysitters.” – A cover featuring a scream

25th October – for Halloween – pick any scary cover you like

(I’m hoping that November will once again bring to us SciFiMonth – Twitter @SciFiMonth)

1st November – A cover that is predominantly grey

8th November – “big badda boom” – a cover that features an explosion

15th November – “No thinking thing should be another thing’s property, to be turned on and off when it is convenient.” – a cover featuring a robot

22nd November – A cover that is Futuristic

29th November – “When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.” – a cover that is 60s sci fi

6th December – Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this sun of York”  – a cover that puts you in mind of winter

13th December – A cover that features a temple/or religious icon

20th December – Longest Night –  a dark and foreboding cover

27th December – the festive season – a cover that is glittery or sparkling

(2020 – January is Vintage SciFi month so I’ll be including possible themes to take that on board.)

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams

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“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 Poison Song (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #3) by Jen Williams.  The conclusion to the series – I can’t wait and check out that cover:

the poison songFrom Jen Williams, three-time British Fantasy Award finalist, comes the electrifying conclusion to the Winnowing Flame trilogy. Exhilarating epic fantasy for fans of Robin Hobb.

Jump on board a war beast or two with Vintage, Noon and Tor and return to Sarn for the last installment of this epic series where the trio must gather their forces and make a final stand against the invading Jure’lia.

Due for publication :  May 2019

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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