Name: The Ninth Rain
Author: Jen Williams
Number of Pages: 544 (Paperback)
Published: February 23rd 2017 by Headline
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… – from Goodreads
Whrere to begin? Someone asked me what I was reading recently and I launched into a ramble about Sarn, worm people, parasite spirits, Eborans, and a fascinating explorer called Vintage. Cue bemused expressions and a polite smile. That was when I realised just how vast and well-created the world of The Ninth Rain is. I’d been totally immersed in the story for so long that I just assumed anyone else would know what I was talking about. Such is the talent of Jen Williams in creating such a vivid world, with such memorable characters. There’s a long history of Sarn, fraught with danger and destruction as the alien Jure’lia return wreaking havoc every so often, laying waste to all before them with their monsters.
In the past the Eborans have battled and defeated these invaders, but the Eborans have fallen on dire times. Their tree-god has apparently died, and it was from him they drew their strength and longevity, and he also provided the mythical war-beasts which accompanied the Eboran warriors into battle.
As an alternate source of power the Eborans used human blood to replenish their strength, which spiralled out of control and led to the humans turning on those who had once fought for them. It didn’t work out so well for the Eborans in the long term either, with them suddenly becoming all too mortal and succumbing to a lingering death via the Crimson Flux. And so their majestic city fell to ruin and desolation, and the last few Eborans await their fate.
But now there are ominous dreams, and whispers that the Jure’lia may return again, and suddenly the need for the great powers of a bygone age are more essential than ever.
That’s a basic idea of the story, but there’s so much more to discover.
For as great as I found this book, in the first chapters it didn’t grab me straight away, it was more of a slow burn, but once I was hooked, well, I was in it to the end with the group of central characters that I came to love. You know you’re on to a good character when you’re willing them to make it out alive, and for me that applied to all three of our leads.
There’s Lady Vicenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon, an eccentric explorer with a fascination for all things Jure’lia that inspires her to venture into all manner of perilous situation with her crossbow at her side and her companions/accomplices following in her wake.
I loved Vintage. She was courageous, inquisitive, kind and determined. Her warmth and wit were great, as were all the extracts that appeared throughout the book, detailing so much of her own life – letters to her nephew, letters to a lost Eboran companion, Nanthema, and accounts of episodes of previous invasions and history. All these gave life to Sarn and it’s great history without becoming overwhelming.
Tormalin is an Eboran who left his old life behind when he saw the hopelessness of the situation, venturing out into the world beyond Ebora, where he found Vintage and became her hired protector. Through him we see the vampire-like race. Once unbeatable, almost immortal, their circumstances have vastly shifted, but he’s still a formidable match for most things the Wild of Sarn can throw at the group, including the menacing parasite spirits which attack them throughout.
Noon is a Fell-Witch who has been imprisoned in the Winnowry for the last ten years but is driven to escape after her nightmares leave her convinced that the Jure’lia really are coming back. Noon has the gift of Winnowfire, and draws energy from living things in create the powerful green flame so capable of causing utter destruction.
The trio, driven by Vintage’s determination to find answers to so many questions about the Jure’lia – where do they come from? who are they? how to stop them? – venture to places where remains of the Jure’lia ships can be found and explored, gathering knowledge. The revelations they discover along the way, and the relentless pursuit of those from the Winnowry who are determined to see Noon made an example of for her escape, plus all the monsters and creatures out in the Wild make this a fantastic journey.
The Ninth Rain features great world building, well written characters and such an exciting finale that I can’t wait for the next instalment of the series.