The 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…
The Ninth Rain is the first book in The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams. Published on the 23rd of February 2017, the 544 page book could easily be every fantasy lover’s wet dream. My sincere thanks to bookbridgr and Headline Publishing for sending me a paperback copy in exchange for an honest review.
Since the Eighth Rain, which was the last time the Jure’lia attacked, Ygseril the tree-god and heart of Ebora has been dead. The tree-god’s lifeless form no longer producing its precious nourishing sap, the Eborans started to dwindle. But not before ravaging on human blood which fed them somewhat but also brought with it the crimson flux- a slow, horrible illness ending with death. Amongst the barely surviving Eborans are the still healthy Hestillion, her brother Tormalin the Oathless (Tor) and their cousin Aldasair. Hestillion is hellbent of fixing the tree-god and spends most of her time in the Hall of Roots. She is also a very experienced dream-walker. Tor, while heartbroken about Ebora’s downfall is unwilling to stay and slowly succumb to the crimson flux, so he sets out into the wild because his love for life, wine and women is stronger than simply rolling over and accepting his fate.
The Winnowry is an establishment of imprisonment. Fell-witches are brought here to live in less than hospitable conditions and are used for their powers of winnow fire. Some of the fell-witches are arm-twisted/brainwashed/blackmailed to become the Winnowry’s agents. These agents travel on gigantic bats to capture any fell-witches from their freedom. Our main character representing the fell-witches is Noon. With a bat tattoo on her forehead, as is custom for the fell-witches, she endures the life in the Winnowry until a horrific dream calls her to action…
For the human presence in this story, we have many different peoples. Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon is from a well-off family who run a vinyard. Vintage is a very inquisitive and intelligent lady. She is on a mission to find out everything there is to know about the Jure’lia, their Behemoths and the parasite spirits that roam the wild and tear people into pieces. She sets out on a journey to research the Behemoth wreckages and hopefully find some answers.
Jure’lia are the alien force that has attacked the lands over centuries, and every time Ygseril has provided war-beasts from his branches to fight back against the evil. Something happened during the Eighth Rain- Ygseril died, and the remains of Jure’lia Behemoths (I can only describe these as massive alien ships) are scattered around the land causing nature to suffer of it. The Behemoths are also where you are most likely to come across parasite spirits. These huge and dangerous beings are often odd-looking with their flashing lights.
As you can gather by now, The Ninth Rain has some interesting elements to it and I have nowhere near managed to give you the full picture of the threads that connect all of our characters in this fabulously imaginative fantasy. Laced with smattering of horror and occasional psychedelic-like descriptions, The Ninth Rain created a truly atmospheric visual and reading experience.
Jen Williams wrote a book that sits among the strongest of them, in my opinion. With a simple plot, complex delivery and solid execution The Ninth Rain will offer tried and tested fantasy/scifi elements in a completely fresh feeling mix. Not only will you get the adventurous events of the present timeline, but each paragraph starts with excerpts from the letters or journal of Vintage which provide that all important insight into the Jure’lia, Behemoths, fell-witches and Eborans. Essentially, this kind of format allows for the main storyline to fully focus on matters at hand without breaking your stride with infodumps.
I loved all of the characters in The Ninth Rain. Vintage reminded me so much of one of my old teachers: a thirst for knowledge, an air of gentleness and a good dose of ‘suck it and see’. Vintage is a character who also brings diversity as her love interest is a female Eboran. I shall tell you no more on this dynamics, nor on the matter of human versus Eboran relationship. Complicated at best 😉
Tor… oh my, now he was the entertainment. Vain, vampirish (red eyes, gorgeous) and being a sexual disciple, Tor adds a breath of fresh air as he assist Vintage in the research trips. Always interested in his looks, wine, and blood for sex trades, his retorts and occasional sarcasm during less than safe situations was a much needed relief.
Noon, the fell-witch certainly does have an interesting storyline. In the Winnowry since she was a child, Noon is not used to human touch or closeness. Not only because she’s been behind lock and key, under tight supervision, but also because her touch could mean the death of any other living, organic being.
Tor’s cousin- I have to admit- didn’t at first make sense to me, but having finished the book, I simply cannot wait to find out what happens to him next. With enough detail around his quirks and his personality, I would love to see him becoming more. Especially with a certain… other character… by his side!
All in all, the characters were believable. They all represented their own thought processes, their own troubles and I just loved to see the dynamics in between them all. There was a good number of big revelations that, upon finishing the book, made me look back on the overall picture and tie everything together with a nice bow. I loved the reasons and conclusions to the Jure’lia attack, what happened to Ygseril and the little visuals that certain capabilities of Behemoths created.
I fully, thoroughly and utterly enjoyed reading The Ninth Rain and I would warmly recommend it. It might be that I’m not that well read in the world of fantasy, but personally I found The Ninth Rain like a welcome fresh breath of air.
My only grievance with the trilogy is this: it’s not published in full yet! I love starting a new series but the wait… the wait will likely kill me because I cannot wait to continue The Winnowing Flame trilogy!