The Ninth Rain Read-along: week one

The Ninth Rain - A Wyrd and Wonder Read-along

The Jure’lia have always returned, and the Eborans have always fought them off. But Ysgeril the god-tree whose sap gave the Eborans eternal life is dead. The desperate Eborans have become as deadly to humanity as the Jure’lia. Who will stand against the Jure’lia when they return?

This isn’t my first outing with Vintage de Grazon, Tormalin the Oathless and Fell-Noon: I read The Ninth Rain two years ago and was bowled over by the big heart nestling within its bleak world-building. Now I’m rereading it with my Wyrd and Wonder companions, and I can’t wait to see what they make of it!

1. ‘You travel with an Eboran, and you explore the Wild, and you’re looking for things that might kill you. None of it makes sense.’ – what are your first impressions of Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon?

I remember being ever so excited on first reading that one of our protagonists was to be a middle-aged academic and a woman of colour; and then she put her brother in his place and gave young Bernhart some sage advice about how to talk to women in their forties (yes, I’m a woman in my forties) and she had my heart on the spot.

This time, I’m really appreciating her sly sense of humour and the way she weaponises charm. She could easily come across as condescending; but she has a way of listening and seeming to care that puts people off-guard and gives her a chance to talk them round to her way of seeing things. Her interactions with Tor, on the other hand, are more like a sheepdog keeping her herd on track. No nonsense, no temper, and a delightful lack of interest in his buff, self-assured manliness.

But Noon’s not wrong. Vintage de Grazon’s obsession may be academically sound and sort of practical (if you look at it from the right angle), but she also lacks any sense of self-preservation. Even if she has an Eboran along for protection.

Favourite Vintage moment this week: she makes them climb back down into landslip to retrieve her hat. Why yes, I’m seeing a fedora, aren’t you?

2. Not your traditional Elves, eh: how do you feel about Ebora and the Eborans?

I always thought that the one thing that would really rattle an immortal was an appreciation that they could, in fact, die. Jen Williams runs with that idea and oh my word her response is pitch black. Bloodthirsty Elves, who have discovered that their substitute elixir of life is in fact toxic.

On the one hand, you get a glorious Tolkien-esque air of nostalgia for beautiful, haunted Ebora – all amazing architecture and dusty hallways (although perhaps C S Lewis’s Charn is a more appropriate analog). Hestillion sweeps through the lonely corridors in her gorgeous silks like some Pre-Raphaelite inspiration.

But let’s not feel too sorry for them. The Eborans were quite comfortable slaughtering human tribes for their blood when they discovered it would prolong their lives. Hestillion still places no value on human life if it can’t save her people. Lord Moureni blames his victims for having dirty blood and wants to slaughter them in punishment. And Tor… well, Tor’s a dilettante, happy to appreciate human beauty in exchange for the occasional nip to keep him going. Bloody Toreador.

3. Parasite spirits, mutant animals and really big grapes: would you live safe behind city walls, or would you make your home in the Wild?

I mean, the wine sounds good? And I’m not convinced the walls would actually keep the parasite spirits out; it’s just that the settlements that have flourished are far enough away from any ruins to attract any.

I am curious about one dichotomy though: the Wild breeds mutants; worm-touched implies huge and ravening. Yet the Winnowry has those really big tame bats. Maybe they’re a natural species, but I can’t help but wonder what else could be tamed… (this isn’t particularly relevant speculation, it just occurred to me as I reread!)

4. In a nightmarish world, a few bad dreams are to be expected. Or are they? How much are you reading into them?

I recall my views on the dreams being evenly split between ‘obvious red herring’ and ‘obviously prophetic’ on my first read. But I’m ever so curious to see what everyone else thinks.

Round the fire

I’m (re-)reading The Ninth Rain as part of the Wyrd and Wonder Read-along. See what my fellow readers had to say:

Read-along Discussion Schedule

  • THURSDAY 9th: Beginning through end of Ch10
  • THURSDAY 16th: Chapter 11 through end of Ch23
  • THURSDAY 23rd: Chapter 24 through end of Ch36
  • THURSDAY 30th: 37 to the end

Already read it? Feel free to join in in the comments on our blogs or on Twitter – but please, no spoilers.

See you next week!