The Ninth Rain (The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #1) by Jen Williams
Published by Headline Press
Release Date : 23rd February 2017
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…
“Life is suffering. Life is war, and sacrifice. Life is victory.”
The Ninth Rain is an epic fantasy with an interesting twist that constantly surprised me. A promising start to my reading year!
It’s been a while since I’ve felt this compelled to read an epic fantasy this chonky. I discovered The Ninth Rain when I started actively reading and I checked out many book tubers back in 2020. One book tuber, Elliot Brooks, was talking about this trilogy and when she held up the physical copies I knew I had to buy them. I might be a tad impulsive back then because I immediately caved in and bought the whole trilogy. As time goes by I didn’t pick up the book until December of 2021 when I was so burnt out from reading short books, I wanted to read something thick and epic, so I picked The Ninth Rain on a whim. I read one sentence and when I looked up again I already read over 100 pages. From Elliot’s description I didn’t understand what the book is about, it’s not that Elliot is bad at explaining but after reading a good chunk of The Ninth Rain I can understand why she was having trouble describing the story. Going into it blind I had to piece together everything to understand the premise of the story and oh WOW it blew me away.
“It was a simple choice, really – live as a prisoner for the rest of her life, or take the freedom she was offered. The consequences of a rebellion were … unthinkable.”
The Ninth Rain is the first book of The Winnowing Flame trilogy by Jen Williams. There was once a thriving and rich city called Ebora that has lost its glory after a war that left their tree god dead and their people dying a horrible fate. Tormalin the Oathless left his home to venture out into the world as one of the last surviving Eborans accepting an offer to work for an eccentric adventurer Lady Vintage de Grazon. Vintage has a curiosity for the mysteries that was left by an ancient enemy that has left alien relics all over Sarn hoping to uncover something that could help save their world from ultimate doom that’s looming on the horizon. That is a short summary I can give you all, if you’re interested in knowing more definitely check out the blurb. Though I highly recommend going in blind, as I did, without any expectations because I think it would be more enjoyable.
Jen Williams surprised me with The Ninth Rain as it marvelously blends fantasy and sci-fi together, it is truly genre bending at its finest. The charm that kept me turning the page is the mystery that fuels the plot and world building of the story. The clues that lead the characters to pin point the overarching plot are literally everywhere offered in bits and pieces throughout the story. Jen really did keep me on my toes with these bits of lore and discoveries but still managing to sprout more questions ahead of me that the 500+ pages felt like nothing. The writing is accessible, easy to digest, and full of charm that I just ate it all up ready for more. Williams prose and descriptions of the world is vivid and meticulously detailed down to the tea. The way Williams described the world is beautifully scrumptious and I could not get enough of it. Besides that there were a few body horror elements that can be found in the story so I will warn readers that are squeamish and has entomophobia (fear of bugs). For me, stories such as The Ninth Rain with drip feed world building and layered lore I’ve found to be something I’m particularly interested lately. Williams skillfully paced the story to meet that balanced spot of being mediumly paced, it is neither slow nor fast. Though I do think it can lean towards the slower side for certain readers but do not fear Williams makes it up with amazing reveals and plot twists to reel readers in for more.
“Judging by the constellations just starting to glint into life, the scent of the wind and the texture of the earth… I would say we’re precisely in the middle of nowhere.”
In The Ninth Rain readers will get to be introduced to a handful of characters but the characters that will be a constant presence in this book is Tormalin, Vintage, and Noon. With the occasional point of view from Hestilion. Williams characterization is amazing in all aspects from their personalities, their developments, and their interactions with one another. Hands down it was really easy for me to root for all of them. During the earlier chapters the character that immediately stood out for me is Vintage. She is a character that can command your absolute attention from the very first passage of her point of view. Her hunger for knowledge and bottomless curiosity just bounces of the page. The charming part that I mentioned before is from Vintage, her POVs are a treat that I just could not get enough of and I just wanted more from her, especially the letters she wrote. The relationship that was revealed between her and an Eboran woman is also one of the things I loved about her as well. Even though it was short I didn’t mind it at all because there are two more books that can feed my sapphic yearning for two smart lesbian adventurers.
“Not born of love, or affection, but a simple terrible need not to feel alone, just for a little while.”
Moving on to a character that got me screaming, Tormalin the Oathless. When I first read about this man I thought he was the typical reluctant hero that is a bit vain, slightly full of himself, and upper crust. But no, he proved me wrong by showing plentiful sides of himself that I found very interesting. Especially the part when Williams build up his background to be something that I did not expect which made me cackle like a crazy woman (if you follow me on Twitter you know which tweet I’m referring to). Lastly the character that has the most noteworthy development—Noon. She is a witch that broke down the walls that confined her and honed her ability to its fullest. What propelled Noon to become stronger is her relationship with Vintage and Tor. The trauma she went through in the story and her development to find trust in her companions is just heartwarming. To be honest, I had to do a lot of thinking about Noon to finally notice her progress. I was so engrossed in the mysteries of the world to notice the development of the characters but that’s just me. Readers shouldn’t doubt Williams by me saying that because I love every bit of the story and me saying that isn’t a minus at all.
Final thoughts, The Ninth Rain is a phenomenal start to 2022 for me. It is an phenomenal and intriguing read that got me excited to read the sequel The Bitter Twins (hopefully soon). Jen Williams has earned herself a fan for sure! I highly recommend this book for readers that are looking for a classic fantasy with a science fiction twist, compelling characters, and vivid world building.