I LOVE tales like these. There were legendary wars many years ago where good prevailed, but no-one really remembers what really happened and now there are endless mysteries and the possibility of having to face an ancient enemy yet again.
Before you carry on reading, I feel the need to say that I have detailed most of the history leading up to the present day of the story below. I did this for two reasons:
1 – Because it is such a fascinating history and I think this serves as an excellent hook for a story by an author that is not yet widely read, but should be.
2 – Because it took me a while to get into this story, but I knew the author would deliver in the end and I do not want you to start and give up if you are not familiar with the author.
So, if you prefer gathering these bits and pieces of the background that are doled out sparingly through the book as it was written, and are happy to give this book a try, skip the not-really-a-spoiler below.
If you are unsure though, give it a read. I do not believe it spoils any of the story. If you are like me you will likely forget most of what is in this review anyway before reading the book so this serves only as enticement for the TBR pile. It already convinced my GF to read this! BTW – the author’s first series is great too and you should check that out!
Well that was a mouth full! Last chance to turn around! If you do turn around though, add this book to your TBR first. 😉
Here we go.
Once, before their fall, Eborans were respected and feared by all mankind. They were the most beautiful beings on Sarn. Superior to humans in almost every way, many believed them immortal.
When the Jure’lia, a hive minded alien species, first attacked, mankind threw all their might against them for the horrors these beings brought with them were almost unimaginable. But humans had no answer to the utter destruction these invaders visited upon Sarn. These Worm People, as they would come to be known, would have consumed everything in their path unopposed were it not for the ferocious fighting of the Eborans and the assistance of their tree god Ygseril. In the hour of Sarn’s greatest need Ygseril brought forth the First Rain and delivered the mythical creatures, magnificent warbeasts of every size and shape, which would defeat the Worm People time and again.
The war with the Jure’lia spanned many years. Whenever they were defeated, they would disappear back to where they came from and would not be seen for many years before once again descending from the skies and attacking , bringing forth a new assault in their attempt to consume all. Ygseril would birth a new Rain with every invasion to help repel the invaders, until eventually, during the Eight Rain, the Jure’lia Queen gathered her forces and made a massive assault on the home of the Eborans and their tree god.
The Jure’lia were defeated, but through the ages all knowledge of what exactly happened was lost. What is known is that the Jure’lia all died at once, their giant ships plummeted from the sky and crashed all over Sarn.
‘The Eighth Rain, when the last war-beasts were born!’ Louis stared up at the vast breadth of the trunk looming above them, a smile on his round, honest face. ‘The last great battle. My dad said that the Eboran warriors wore armour so bright no one could look at it, that they rode on the backs of snowy white griffins, and their swords blazed with fire. The great pestilence of the Jure’lia queen and the worm people was driven back and her Behemoths were scattered to pieces.’
While a huge victory for humans and Eborans, the fallout from the battle was disastrous. Wherever the ships of the Jure’lia violently met their end, some device or other machination of the defeated force caused a sort of infection or disease that corrupted the very place these vessels found their final resting place in. This ever-spreading corruption not only tainted vegetation, but also animals, resulting in monstrous abominations.
…what it had been, or what its ancestors had been before it had been worm-touched, she did not know. Something like a bear, perhaps; it was bulky, with a thick midsection and four short but powerful legs, and a long, blocky head. But instead of fur it was covered in pale, fleshy pouches of skin, which shivered and trembled as it moved, and Noon could see four circular black eyes along its head, clustered together and oddly spider-like. Its mouth, when it opened its jaws to roar again, was pink and wet and lined with hundreds of yellow needle-like teeth.
Attempts were made to get rid of the remains of these ships, but proved mostly impossible as the death tolls from these attempts were too high. Soon after the vessels crashed, dangerous beings called parasite spirits started inhabiting the areas close to and around these wrecks and would kill anyone they came in contact with. Impervious to weapons apart from Winnow-forged steel, they would roam seemingly aimlessly and kill anyone they came in contact with, with many a victim turned inside out.
She didn’t take her eyes from the parasite spirit. ‘If we can drive it back outside of the village, perhaps we can get a proper look at it.’ But it was too late. As they arrived, the spirit was bending down over the hapless Fera, who was still thrusting his pitchfork at it. Long tapered fingers closed over him – Vintage was struck briefly by how it looked like a child peering at a new bug on the ground – and then Fera was falling apart. He screamed as his body was unzipped, and Vintage saw a gout of blood and other fluids hit the dirt. The long transparent fingers were still moving though, and her stomach twisted as the man’s skin rolled back like a carpet being peeled away from a floor.
The direst consequence however, of the defeat of the Jurelian Queen and her people, was the death of Ygseril in the final battle. The tree god had delivered his final Rain and so begun the end of the Eborans. For while the humans believed Eborans to be immortal, their everlasting youth and health was derived from drinking the sap of Ygseril which they were now denied of. Eborans started slowly wasting away, until discovering that human blood was a suitable, if not nearly as potent replacement for the sap they so needed. What followed became known as the Carrion Wars, which at the height of it saw Eborans slaughter humans and drinking blood from their still warm corpses in the middle of the battlefields. Before things could get even worse though, what the Eborans believed to be their saving grace, became their eternal curse. A terrible, incurable disease, born of the drinking of human blood, befell these Eborans. They started dying slow and agonizing deaths and before long the Eboran population was decimated, with only a few Eborans escaping this fate. Reviled by humans, and as the last of their kind, they slowly disappeared until most people had only ever heard of them in stories, first as saviors and then as villains.
The plot of the book follows three different characters whose stories are destined to be intertwined.
A rich, inquisitive adventurer, called Vintage.
A Fell-Witch, called Noon.
And one of the last living Eborans, called Tormalin.
Vintage and her hired muscle, Tormalin set out to explore and gather information about the wreckage of the downed ships left behind by the Jure’lia and along the way are joined by Noon, a fell-witch recently escaped from the Winnowery (They are a cult-like group who believe that fell-witches are evil and should be imprisoned for life in order to protect society from their powers. Yep, Noon has the gift of Winnowfire). An unlikely alliance is formed, and as they travel to these sites and start exploring the secrets of the Jure’lia, they find mysteries wrapped within deeper mysteries. Before long, they realize that things might not be as they seem and that the threat of the Jure’lia might not be as confined to the history books as they would like it to be.
As stated earlier, I really liked this book, but that page turning fever that overcomes me when a story is unputdownable did not manifest itself until I had read quite a solid chunk. (Where the three main characters start their journey together.) Once there though, I was completely immersed and had a fantastic time. As with the Copper Cat trilogy, the author’s characters are wonderfully compelling creations who were fun to journey with. The story, once it hooked me, was enthralling, and I feel it is really going to shine in the next two books as the amount of worldbuilding Jen Williams had to do in this one was significant. It was well worth it though as this is a rich and vast world that we have been gifted and I can hardly wait to get my hands on the next installment.
PS: Jen Williams gets THE BEST covers.