Review: The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams (The Winnowing Fire #1)


Goodreads summary:

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…

Review:

The Ninth Rain rockets along like a train down the Winnowline (minus mutant bears). It embraces all the best traditions of fantasy past while driving firmly into fantasy future. The world of Sarn is huge, with varied cultures, climates and histories – and as our guide, we are honoured to have the kind, self-serving, practical, ambitious, scholarly wonder that is Vintage de Grazon.

Her companions are stroppy legend Tormalin the Oathless, and escaped convict and winnowfire witch, Fell-Noon. Along the way, we also encounter the peoples of this land – the nomadic, canny plains-people, the fearful city-dwellers, the isolated peoples settled in the Wild, and a considered introduction to the politics and prejudices between them. And of course, there’s the people that Tor left behind in Ebora. Hestilion, the cunning dream-walker desperate to revive the Eboran god and save her people. And Aldasair, who grows, honestly, from a mild irritation, into possible the character I love most (aside from Vintage, obvs), and certainly the one I fear for the most, even in the company of his new axe-wielding *cough cough* friend.

And then, on the other side, there’s the Behemoths. Huge beyond comprehension, sinister and mesmerizing, packed full of dark terrors and horrifyingly advanced machines of warfare. You can really feel how precarious human life is in Sarn – these people were never the apex predators, and their hold on survival feels increasingly tenuous.

This book is hecking long. And all the time jumps in the beginning did throw me a little until I got into the swing of the narrative. But that’s literally my only complaint – this is an epic story, and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. Although, given the length, I suspect it might be a while before we see the second in the trilogy… *cries*

Representation:

Vintage and Noon are both women of colour, and Vintage has a mysterious past involving an f/f relationship, which is a significant part of the story. I also suspect that Aldasair’s new friendship will become a romantic relationship in time, but if so, it’s a very lovely slow burn in this one. There’s also a one-line reference to a trans character in legend.


The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams was published by Headline in February 2017. 

I received a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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