Kickstarting a new trilogy, Jen Williams’ The Ninth Rain finds us in a place ravaged by war and fearful of potential conflict on the horizon.
Ebora, a city long since left to decay by the world around it, used to be a fearsome stronghold, and some conspire to see it succeed once more. In the midst of it all are Vintage, a lady explorer; Tormalin, a hard-drinking Eboran in exile; and Noon, a runaway witch, who are initially questing for ancient artefacts, but instead find themselves caught up in something bigger.
Williams trusts the reader to keep up with the political landscape of her world, whether it’s in the decaying city of Ebora or the dank corridors of the Winnowry, dropping enough detail without straying into reams of exposition. The underlying mythology of the world is cleverly woven into the plot with a real weight to it, not only in the artefacts that Vintage hunts down, but in the legends told and memories of characters.
These individuals populating Williams’ landscape are similarly well-formed, each with their own scars and varying levels of optimism. Vintage, Tormalin and Noon are the kind of entertaining misfits you can’t help but take to your heart. One of its strengths is the way their dynamic develops organically throughout the narrative. Vintage is a particular highlight; she’s inquisitive and fiercely loyal, and has a wicked sense of humour.
The Ninth Rain is a fast-paced and vibrant fantasy romp through a new world, full of people you want to spend time with and enemies you’d happily run from. It’s an exciting start to the Winnowing Flame trilogy, and certainly worth your time.