Ever since I first read the Copper Cat trilogy, Jen Williams has been one of my favourite authors. It is no surprise then that I was very eager to read her next series – The Winnowing Flame trilogy. The Ninth Rain, being the first book in the new trilogy, lived up to my expectations, becoming one of my favourite books of 2017 and instantly propelling it’s follow up onto my most anticipated list. So when I was given the chance to be part of this wonderful blog tour I jumped at it and wasted no time in reading this second book.
The Bitter Twins starts off shortly after the events of the first book, and I will not go into details (not even gonna post that spoilery blurb) so as to keep this review spoiler free for those yet to start the series (DO IT NOW), but suffice it to say that the stakes are sky high, there is much hanging in the balance and the characters we have come to love as well as some new ones that we are introduced to, are walking a knife’s edge in trying to survive the terrible events that have been set into motion.
The plot is a scrumptious slow burn and features a well loved fantasy staple – the quest, which was a lot of fun to follow, but apart from that the author continuously caught me off guard with the direction the story went in and even had me wondering for a moment if I was reading a science fiction or fantasy novel! While the steady pace might leave some wanting (not this reader), the story is filled throughout with both exciting action and emotionally charged moments as it sets up everything for a wonderfully wild climax that had me squeezing the life out of my Kindle from sheer tension. Yes, it answered a lot of questions, but it asked even more of them and there is plenty of mystery left for the final book in the series.
Dialogue is once again excellent and delivers the delicious banter that always permeates the pages of a Jen Williams book, bringing humour and fun to counteract the vivid, nightmarish horrors that she extracts from the darkest corners of her mind to stalk the pages and haunt our dreams. *shudders
It is of course her characters and the way they
worm burrow work their way into your heart that stands out the most for me. Noon, Vintage, Tormalin, Hestillion, Aldasair, Bern, Eri, Vostok, Kirune, Helcate, Jessen, Celaphon, Sharrik – somehow they feel like family, which is apt looking at the themes throughout the book. Apart from her adeptness in conjuring up these endearing characters (and let’s not forget the loathsome ones as well,) Williams is of course brilliant in exploring relationships and she displays this to full effect in The Bitter Twins, always striving to give us a better understanding of everything that makes her characters who they are and what they aim to be. I feel that words such as complex and diverse are the order of the day and almost a default when I think about her characters, and as such I want to stray from the norm and use different ones, but, well, there is a reason they are so often used and that is because they just fit perfectly! I cannot say enough about it, but delving deeper will once again expose me to possible spoilers and I want to leave new readers with the chance to experience it all for themselves. So let me summarise that character development is of the highest echelon. I have become so caught up with how much I love the characters, that I have almost forgotten the worldbuilding which is so layered and thorough that it just blends into the story seamlessly, from the rich and evocative history of the Eborans and Sarn, to the mystery of the Jurelia. There is a vast world left to mine here in terms of stories untold, and I would not mind it one bit to spend many more books here.
Thinking back on everything that happens in the book, I am astounded that Jen Williams managed to fit it into one volume. This is a warbeast of a middle book in terms of content, and it delivers all the way, setting up the series for a gripping finale that cannot come soon enough.
“Get ready, my darlings. We are going to fuck them up.”
The Bitter Twins is a perfect sequel to the Ninth Rain – it took me places I did not expect in the least and surprised me continuously with it’s fresh storytelling, humour and exciting, genre-bending plot. Jen Williams, more than anything, writes fantasy with heart, and I could happily read her books forever.
On a final note, I must mention that the last book is called The Poison Song. What a beautiful title. I am already dreaming up how gorgeous that cover is going to be next to the already stellar artwork gracing the first two books of the series. *rubs hands in anticipation
Enjoy your reading and follow the tour for more reviews of The Bitter Twins via the blogs below:
I was given the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much to Phoebe Swinburn, Headline and Jen Williams for a magnificent read!
Reviewed by Eon