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.


Throwback Thursday : The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams


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):


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.