I don’t know if I had ever read adult fantasy written by a woman before this but I never want to go back. All of the problems I have with adult fantasy written by men; token female characters, rape as a plot point, self-inserts and self-congratulatory writing- Jen Williams has none of that. Instead, you get fantasy that feels real, and accessible, and just bloody great.
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…
If you like quests for knowledge, daring escapes, dusty castles and monster corpses, have I got a book for you!
The Ninth Rain* doesn’t take itself too seriously. Jen Williams realises the narrative doesn’t have to be doom and gloom all of the time and you don’t have to study up on a thousand years of family trees and maps spanning entire worlds to know what’s going on. She welcomes you in with arms wide open and you’re there for the ride.
Don’t get me wrong though, this is a complex world. There’s dreamwalking, fire-witches, a sea-cult, a race of former immortals that are now dying out, and a vast history with different cities and regions. But it’s written in a way that eases you into it and doesn’t require a cheat-sheet to keep everything straight. You’re in the world and everything you need to know is explained in time. It took me a little while to visualise it, because it had been a while since I had read fantasy, but Ebora is my new fictional home.
The cast of characters is so wonderfully diverse and I love all of them. Queer people, POC, older characters that aren’t cast in the ‘wise elder’ role- you could play diversity bingo with this book but it never feels forced. It’s never shoved in there for the purpose of ticking a box. It’s as natural as, oh I don’t know, living in the real world.
I forced myself to not read the sequel, The Bitter Twins, until I published this review. So if you’re reading this anytime within the week of its posting, I’m probably back in Ebora and wishing away my life for the publication of the third book. I try to keep my reviews balanced but this is a complete rave. Jen Williams skyrocketed to my favourite authors in one book and I regret nothing.
“There is, it seems to me, a certain type of man who is terrified of the idea of a woman weilding power, of any sort; the type of man who is willing to dress up his terror in any sory of trappings to legitimise it.”