Book Review: The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy Book 1) by Jen Williams (published by Headline)
Fantasy novel The Ninth Rain is set in an amazingly rich world with an intriguing past, curious creatures and gods, and with a touch of Sci Fi thrown in. It tells the story of an unlikely trio: a human, a fell-witch and an Eboran who are searching for an answer to the mysterious Jure’lia, or worm people, who invade their world every few hundred centuries flying in from the sky in great behemoths, woodlice-like creatures, that carry beetle soldiers. The last invasion, the Eighth Rain, was thought to be the one that ended them all, but all signs are pointing to a ninth…
The human, Lady Vincenza de Grazon, otherwise known as Vintage, is an eccentric, rich explorer who is determined to learn as much as she can about the worm people and all the behemoths and other debris that they left behind after the end of the Eighth Rain. She employs Tormalin as her bodyguard. He’s an Eboran, a vampire-like creature that lives for hundreds of years and is skilled with his sword. Eborans are rare now, because their tree God died after the end of the Eighth Rain, and the tree’s life-giving sap ran dry. Tormalin, not wanting to wait around in Ebora to die like all the rest of his kind, leaves his sister and his cousin behind for a last adventure and ends up as a servant to Vintage. They are unexpectedly joined by Noon, a fell-witch, who can shoot winnowfire from her hands.
Together they study behemoth wrecks, fight the gruesome parasite spirits who live close to these wrecks as well as dodge the worm-touched animals that have twisted into monsters following contact with the worm people. Then they make a discovery that leads Vintage to go off on her own and prompts Tor and Noon to return to Ebora.
This was a really enjoyable read, the world was so cleverly done and vividly described that I became deeply involved and could really imagine it. The different peoples are carefully thought through and presented intricately and everything felt just right.
However, for me, the plot didn't move along quick enough. At just after the half way point the trio are still investigating the Jure’lia and I switched off. I needed some clue to be discovered or a breakthrough to happen by that point. I didn't need a big reveal but just something exciting to mull over. I carried on reading though, and am pleased I did because the ending was intriguing and exciting and a lot of pieces fell together.
The reason this was not quite a four star for me is because I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. Yes, they were entertaining to read about and follow on their paths, but I formed zero attachment to any of them. Vintage said “my dear, dearest, my darling, dear” almost every time she spoke. Which quickly became tedious. Tormalin, the proud, pompous, skilled swordsmen Eboran was totally fine to be bossed about by Vintage and treated like a lowly servant there to fetch and carry things. Yes, I know she paid him but their relationship dynamic didn't quite sit right for me. Plus, I would've liked to spend more time with Tor, I wanted more of the story told from his point of view.
And at first, I really like Noon – a feisty woman who refuses to accept her terrible situation. Then she did something so unexpected that I lost all respect for her. Instead of doing what I hoped she would do (trying not to give any spoilers away here!) she went and had a long soak in the bath. Odd. Then she evolved into a bit of a sarcastic know-it-all which didn’t gel with me.
This is definitely a must-read for fantasy lovers for its elaborate worldbuilding and unique creatures and beings. I enjoyed the writing style, found the descriptive language perfect to spark my imagination and the story flows beautifully. I thought the pace was quite leisurely with moments of action, but then it really ramps up towards the end.
My rating: 3.5/5
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**My debut novel, an epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.**
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