*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of NETGALLEY arc The Bitter Twins – Book 2 of The Winnowing Flame Trilogy by Jen Williams


There has been much excitement amongst the book-blogging community about this one, as Jen Williams has become a solid favourite among epic fantasy fans with her unique blend of clever pacing, vivid characters and the sheer energy of her writing. But what had everyone waiting for this one was that twist at the end of The Ninth Rain – see my review here – that turned this into a genre mash-up.

The Ninth Rain has fallen, the Jure’lia have returned, and with Ebora a shadow of its former self, the old enemy are closer to conquering Sarn than ever. Tormalin the Oathless and the Fell-Witch Noon have their hands full dealing with the first war-beasts to be born in Ebora for nearly three hundred years. But these are not the great mythological warriors of old; hatched too early and with no link to their past lives, the war-beasts have no memory of the many battles they have fought and won, and no concept of how they can possibly do it again. The key to uniting them, according to the scholar Vintage, may lie in a part of Sarn no one really believes exists, but finding it will mean a dangerous journey at a time of war…

For starters, if you’ve picked this one up without having first read The Ninth Rain, then put it right back down again and rush off to get hold of the aforesaid first book in the series. It took me a while to get into this one, because I don’t reread books and as The Bitter Twins picks up more or less where The Ninth Rain left off, I was frankly floundering. If I hadn’t read the first book in this series, I think it would have taken me far too long to sort out who was doing what to whom to fully appreciate the writing and the story.

However, once I was back in the groove – this one was a joy. The characters are nuanced and three-dimensional, so that our gutsy heroes and heroines have flaws and weaknesses, and even characters we have written off as wrong ‘uns are capable of selfless acts. I loved the storyline regarding the origins of the Eborans, which worked really well and nicely mirrored what is happening on the Corpse Moon where unsettling transformations are taking place.

One of the recurrent themes within the epic fantasy genre is the role of history and how it defines people’s own identity within their culture and race. Williams treatment of this theme in this series is an interesting one, overlaid as it is by the insertion of another genre and how that both plays with and subverts the idea of cultural identity, particularly by the Eborans, who are teetering on the verge of extinction. As the inferior race, the human protagonists within the story have their own baggage and, in some cases, scores to settle. My favourite character is Vintage, the delightful human scholar whose insatiable curiosity has hauled her right into the middle of the current mess.

I don’t want you to go away with the idea, however, that this book spends pages discussing or worrying about the above, as it’s all about the adventure and such considerations are fully embedded within the plot. Events are moving fast, threats abound, and our intrepid band of protagonists are constantly having to react to yet another sticky situation. The pages flew by as I found it hard to break off and get on with the growing stack of chores – so I didn’t. After all, this was a Jen Williams read – which means it’s something special. While I obtained an arc of The Bitter Twins from Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.

16 responses »

  1. Ooo, this sounds promising! Book 2s are NOT usually the place to step into a series, to be sure. Once had a friend do that with James Bond. Her first ever James Bond movie was Quantum of Solace. Of aaaaaaall those films, she had to first see the ONLY Bond film that directly ties to the previous film’s storyline. Needless to say, she was confused as all get out…

    • lol… oh dear! I can imagine! And yes… I’m a bit of an idiot – some of my book blogging buddies are a bit gobsmacked at my habit of crashing midway into series. But I still contend that in a less than perfect world, authors need to be prepared for the likes of me to pluck one of their books off a shelf and open it without bothering to trudge off to find Book 1! And it works more often than it doesn’t…x

  2. I can’t deny that it’s taken me a little time to get into this one – moreso than any of Jen Williams’s previous books, but, I’ve finally got into it and I’m really enjoying it. I’m having a very bad reading week though – just lots of things going on and taking me away from my books. It happens.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yes… it took me a while, but once I did, I was hooked:). And it goes on just getting better. I just wish there wasn’t such a wait for the final book in the trilogy. Sorry to hear you are having such a frustrating reading week – last week was a bit of a ‘mare for me. I had a DNF, which is unusual and I REALLY wanted to like it… As you say – it happens.

  3. The Ninth Rain is the next book on my reading pile! And I absolutely can’t wait to get to this. I don’t know if it’s the beautiful artwork on the covers or Jen Williams’ wonderful writing but I honestly can’t get her books out of my head! 😀

  4. I read your praises of this book, I remember your recommendation of The Ninth Rain, and I really want to try this series, but after the let down that The Copper Promise was for me, I’m just too scared I’ll be disappointed.

    • Yes… it may well be that this writer misses you. I’ve recently read several authors that folks have raved about and found the experience… ordinary.

      • Which is part of the pull and excitement of opening up a new book. Sometimes I come across a gem that I’ve stumbled across myself and just as often it’s a recommendation – but it’s never a done deal. If it was, I would find reading such an addictive adventure:)

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