- The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame #1).
- Jen Williams.
- 544 pages.
- Fantasy / Magic / Epic Fantasy.
- My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5.
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…
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher through bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.
Ebora was once a vast and affluent city, now it is a desolate and unkempt area populated by the few remaining Eborans with the streets stalked by wolves. Eborans are long living with a life span upwards of 500 years, aided in keeping their youth and virulence by the sap from their tree god Ygseril.
Throughout the ages and generations Sarn has been attacked by the Jure’lia (the worm people). Each time that the Jure’lia have waged an invasion attempt on Sarn, the Eboran Empire has come to the aid of the humans and the defence of Sarn. Every war and invasion by the Jure’lia and their Behemoths has been countered by a ‘Rain’ from the Eboran tree god Ygseril, the rain in question being a rainfall of massive pods grown amongst the branches and leaves of Ygseril, from these pods are birthed massive Eboran mythical war-beasts to combat and repel the Jure’lia threat and each time they have succeeded up until the last rain, The Eight Rain.
At the end of The Eighth Rain, the Jure’lia queen vanished and Ygseril died. Now, for many years the Eboran tree god has lain dormant, unheeding to the Eborans pleas, with no sap to aid their longevity the Eborans turned to human blood however they paid a price, for with their penchant and need for human blood came the crimson flux, a disease that decimated the Eboran Empire and dwindled their numbers to barely a few.
Years have passed since The Eighth Rain, the Jure’lia are thought gone, the only remnants of them the remains of the crashed Behemoths left over from the previous Rains that are strewn across Sarn.
With Ebora a shadow of its former self Tormalin the Oathless leaves the crumbling streets, the shadow of the crimson flux and his sister Hestillion behind to flit away his days partaking in drunken debauchery (he likes his wine, glug glug). On his travels he finds work as a hired sword with the explorer Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon who has a fascination with the Jure’lia and the Behemoth remains, researching them and their secrets in her search for and pursuit of knowledge.
Along their travels the pair are joined by the Fell-Witch, Fell-Noon who has escaped from a decade of imprisonment in The Winnowry (Fell-witches are able to use winnowfire by drawing on life essence and due to this are deemed bad, vilified for their powers) and is now being hunted by an agent of The Winnowry and thus are trio of main characters are formed.
For the most part we focus on and follow the adventures and escapades of Vintage, Tor and Noon as they hunt and excavate the various Behemoth remains with a few visits to Ebora, Hestillion and her fixation with Ygseril thrown into the mix.
You know me and my blog by now and as such know that I’m not one to go into and give you long and elaborate explanations, detailing every aspect of the story, a book is a journey that you need to experience for yourself.
Suffice to say that the fruits of attempting to bring life back to Ygseril, the secrets hidden within the behemoth remains and the Jure’lia will all be revealed and what was lost and dormant will once again awaken and re-emerge, culminating in The Ninth Rain falling and the proverbial shit hitting the fan.
It took me a while to get into The Ninth Rain, from the start you are greeted with engaging characters and an intriguing premise, particularly with the parasite spirits that haunt the Behemoth remains. But to begin with it was just a book that I was reading and not a must-read – sorry Jen.
On occasion a book being a must-read from the very beginning can at times be detrimental to the overall story being told, you miss out on the ‘hook’ that singular moment when you are unwittingly pulled in, finding yourself loving the book.
For those unaware what a hook is, the actual ‘hook’ is the moment in a book that changes how you perceive it. The hook itself could be something massive that impacts the story in a huge way or something small and trivial with no overall effect on the story, a simple exchange between characters.
The hook will be different for each individual reader, it is that feeling you get when a book goes from being something you are simply ‘just reading’ to a ‘must-read page turner’ of a novel. It is an awesome experience, something to savour and that’s what happened with me and The Ninth Rain, after 50 pages I was completely hooked.
I can actually tell you exactly where it happened, that moment when I become fully immersed and invested in the story Williams was telling and from then on couldn’t put the book down. It wasn’t a story defining event of great importance, no, it was a just a simple exchange between Tor and Vintage. Vintage had me sniggering away and it was then that I realised she was a character I could really dig – get it, explorers ‘dig’ for buried artifacts! 🙂
‘Vintage!’ Tor put on his most outraged expression, and pulled the sheets around his waist. ‘This really is unacceptable. Unacceptable. How dare you interrupt -‘.
‘Darling, if I had to wait for you to voluntarily leave this good woman’s bed, I’d be waiting until the Tenth Rain. And stop clutching at yourself like a maiden, you’ve nothing I haven’t seen before.’
At the beginning of lots of the chapters you find excerpts from the correspondence and letters of Vintage, these are wonderfully informative additions adding extra layers and hints to the story and are a joy to read, giving you both a sneak peek into Vintage’s time before The Ninth Rain takes place and as a plot device to elaborate on the history of Sarn.
Williams has created a fully fleshed landscape with Mushenska and Sarn, steeped in history and lore it’s a living and breathing world that is brought to life by Williams writing. Revealing and explaining enough to draw you in she also leaves plenty left unsaid for elaboration in future books. With the locations used in the book Williams paints a vivid picture The Winnowry is an ominous, dank and dark place, you feel the once majesty of Ebora now gone to ruin and the wild with its overgrown vegetation and wildlife are all easy to imagine.
The trio of main characters are a great choice for the story to revolve around – (the important secondary characters are also all well realised). Each of the three main characters are individual in their own right but together the interplay and banter between them is second to none. All three are given plenty of fantastic lines and page time to shine. Tor is sarcastic with quips to spare and during the journey Noon transforms from the shy and reticent escapee to a dogged character coming into her own.
The star of the show however has to be Vintage, such a quirky character compared to the stereotypical norm, she is a middle-aged explorer and scholar, exuding charisma and personality each and every time she is on the page. Plucky and full of gumption with a heart of gold, she’s also a dab hand with the crossbow and has an eccentric and kooky persona, nothing gets in her way and she personifies determined.
There’s plenty of unique and original ideas sprinkled throughout the pages of The Ninth Rain, along with the unorthodox Vintage, you have the vampiresque Eborans, the Jure’lia, the parasite spirits with their lights, fronds and shifting gelatinous shapes that haunt the Behemoth remains and giant flying bats!
Lots of stand-out moments are found in The Ninth Rain and one of my favourites had to be the reveal of the true origins of the parasite spirits late on in the book. While reading I hadn’t guessed it, with what had occurred in the story I was unsure about the intentions of certain presences and when they did finally come to light, I thought the resulting disclosure was sublimely done by Williams.
My only gripe with The Ninth Rain, it has nothing to do with the story, writing or anything else that is included inside the pages, all that is top quality. It’s something that isn’t included, a trivial thing of little importance that might seem miserly but it niggled me, there is no map of Sarn in the book. I like my maps in fantasy books, when a story takes place over vast miles and various areas it’s nice to see a map depicting the world, it helps you picture the epic scope and scale of the created world.
Great pacing, top-notch writing, quality characterisation, plenty of action, fire – burn baby burn! Emotion, humour with a smidgen of romance added to the equation all make The Ninth Rain a truly enjoyable and absorbing read, come the final page you are left wanting more.
Fueled by winnowfire, The Ninth Rain is a flame that burns brightly as an exceptional start to a brand new fantasy trilogy.
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