The Ninth Rain Read-along: week two

The Ninth Rain - A Wyrd and Wonder Read-along

Unexpected team-ups make for uneasy alliances, especially in the Wild. But when you’re a wanted woman with a bloodthirsty fell-witch on your trail, it’s better to have friends… even if one of them is a bitey elf with an attitude problem.

Welcome to the Wyrd and Wonder read-along of The Ninth Rain: we’re discussing a quarter of Jen Williams’s award winning fantasy each week, so do expect spoilers! I’m so happy to share this firm favourite with some amazing blogger friends (and even happier that everyone is loving it so far) – my reread is an absolute delight. Although bloody hell, the Jure’lia don’t get less creepy second time around.

1. Vintage’s journal entries at the start of each chapter seem to be filling in more backstory for our heroine, but what do you think of this approach to providing information about her? Are these entries fascinating, or distracting?

…I can be really cold about long blurbs to start chapters off these days (although I loved them when I was younger), but I am powerless to resist Vintage’s tone of voice. It’s a sneaky but effective way of setting some context – it shades in the world-building and gives us a double-helping of Vintage’s attitude and opinions, which I am RIGHT HERE for.

What’s the Winnowry? Let me tell you darling, it’s a fucking horror. Hold on just a moment while I get my angry feminist boots out and stomp all over the way an organised religion has decided it needs to control women’s lives just because they can set fire to things. Oh, and coincidentally turn a profit (yes, I love the layers and layers of comment and calling out the Winnowry got treated to). The Jure’lia? Well yes, they tended to try and kill everyone but they are FASCINATING my dear, let me give you nightmares.

It makes me curious to meet her nephew Marin – we didn’t exactly get the best of impressions of his Dad, but Vintage is clearly very fond of him. And as for Nanthema… <waggles eyebrows>

2. More details emerge about what happened at the end of the Eighth Rain… What do you think happened to (or between?) the Jure’lia queen and Ygseril?

It’s terribly interesting – and awfully inconvenient, of course – that nobody still living seems to know how the Eighth Rain ended. It sounds like proper Hollywood blockbuster drama: the Jure’lia getting right to the gates of Ebora, the end at hand, Eborans dying in droves, you can hear the epic soundtrack, right? – and then all those horrifying insectile alien invaders just drop dead and nobody saw how it happened.

Obviously that’s not true. It’s just that the Eborans all subsequently drank themselves to death, I suppose. And I can’t imagine Tor sitting still for many history lessons back in the day, can you?

And that’s as far as I go as I know what happened. And soon, my friends, so will you.

3. And now it seems that the god-tree still lives. Or does it? What’s your take on what Hestillion is doing, and what do you think she’s going to do with her surprise guests?

OHMAGAWD HEST. Can I start my inappropriate Hestillion fangirling yet? Wait, did I start it last week? I didn’t, did I?

…I got to this point in my first read, and the penny dropped and my jaw hit the floor and I thought NO. SURELY NOT. DID SHE? DID SHE REALLY? And I was quietly impressed. And that was the point where I started worrying that she was planning the all-time biggest-ever human mass sacrifice to try and wake Ygseril up.

I know it’s bad and wrong to love a character who starts the book by cold-bloodedly killing a little boy, but I love how utterly uncomfortable her point of view is. Hest is not likeable, or relatable, and it’s very hard to figure out what the hell is going on in her head. Yet she’s not totally unsympathetic. She’s not uncaring: she doesn’t abandon her dying elders, and there’s clearly exasperated affection in her relationship with Aldasair. She’s obviously lonely. But let’s be clear: I don’t feel sorry for her. She’s too… remote? Superior? Unnerving?

I think what I love best about Hest is that her frame of reference is so delightfully other – in a way that Tor’s isn’t – which for my money makes her a brilliant depiction of a non-human character.

4. Make love, not war. Or, if you’re Tormalin the Oathless, do both. How do you feel about the particular mixture of Tor’s skills, and what do you make of his interactions with Noon so far?

Tor isn’t quite as self-centred as he sometimes seems – he’s got protective instincts, at least – but my word he can sulk. And snark. I love him just about as much as I love his sister, to be honest. Plus I cannot stop giggling at just how much the narrative centres his looks. The descriptions of him and Lusk are entirely different to the descriptions of Noon and Vintage, and I’m quite certain it’s a deliberate inversion.

He’s not like the other boys, after all. He just happens to be devastatingly good in bed as well as peerless with the blade (oh stars help me, we’re back to men and their swords and euphemisms, I’m NOT SORRY). He’s one of the last of his kind, and beneath his brusque manner he has a soft heart just waiting for someone to melt his defences. Like… a fire witch? A fire witch who has an ingrained fear and hatred of Ebora? A fire witch whose fire is waaaaay better at burning things when she’s taken some Eboran life energy?

I should be rolling my eyes and snarking, but it’s clearly going to be a highly entertaining journey through the Wild.

Round the fire

See what my fellow readers had to say this week:

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 beyond the current week.

See you next week!