"Will we get into trouble?"
–Jen Williams - The Ninth Rain - c.2017 (Prologue)
The Winnowing Flame trilogy ; book 1
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 blurb for this book is very accurate as to the tone and feel of the book. It has all those epic fantasy tropes – a once great civilisation fallen to ruin, a loner adventure – but then it undercuts that with the “talk about a guilt trip” and introduces a more real grounded feel to the story, plus a bit of humour. And if I had to describe The Ninth Rain in a few words, then epic fantasy with added humour, would certainly be a large part of it.
There is also plenty of action and swordplay, plus magic and witches, peril and adventure. It’s proper heroic fantasy, that doesn’t take itself too seriously. In other words, it is a really entertaining read.
I’ve read the first two books in Williams’ first series The Copper Cat trilogy and I will get to the final one. I did order it in the library, but I think the suppliers’ must have forgotten about it. I’ll have to follow up soon. I really enjoyed those books, but I think this is a step up for Williams. It feels much more of page-turner, and I really enjoyed the characters and their interactions. Noon especially I loved. But Vintage! I love this new development of epic fantasy having older women as heroes. We’ve had so many men who might be past their “prime” as heroes in popular culture, but very few women of a similar age. They still aren’t hugely numerous, but there was Kate Elliott’s Black Wolves had now this. More please.1 . It’d be nice if this was a trend that more stories took note of. Women don’t just disappear when they turn 262 .
I also really enjoyed the worldbuilding, the elvish/vampire culture that makes Ebora is really interesting, and gives a real sense of history to Williams’ creation. The Winnowry are pure evil, but also so believable, and somewhat understandable3 in a horrible way.
All in all The Ninth Rain certainly lived up to the pull quotes on the cover, as SFX said
A fresh take on classic tropes. Now I just have to wait for book two, and it doesn’t even have a publication date, this is the trouble with reading newly published books, but it is a problem I’m glad to have.
I’m sure there are more that I can’t think of now, Kameron Hurley’s Mirror Empire certainly had a wide range of ages, but is it epic fantasy? or epicly dark weird fantasy? ↩
not that 27 counts as older, but sometimes it seems that way ↩
and the locking away of women for being “sinful” is something that any Irish reader might be particularly sensitive to at the moment ↩