The Ninth Rain Read-along: week three

The Ninth Rain - A Wyrd and Wonder Read-along

The Wild is terrifying, but it can’t hold a candle to the inside of a Behemoth. Exploring a walled-in wreck in the Greenslick, have Vintage and her little band stumbled on a clue to the origins of the Jure’lia – and a cure for Ygseril? The race is on to see which of the Eskt siblings can bring back the god-tree first…

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 and we’re past the halfway stage so spoilers will abound!

An island prison. A religious leader. A witch-powered steam train. Giant bats. I think it’s time we talked about the Winnowry! What do you think creates a fell witch? Where does their power come from? Why are they all women? Is the Winnowry a despicable organisation profiting from controlling women or keeping the world safe? 

Jen Williams paints a damning picture of the Winnowry: their offshore retreat looks like a house of horrors (oh wait) and their leader is a cold-hearted religious fanatic who likes to sit in a tank of water and cut children’s fingers off (not at the same time). Add in an organisation that is a little too fond of controlling women for profit and hurting them if they feel like it and I most certainly do not approve. That said, the Drowned One does seem to believe her batshit faith; I don’t actually think she’s a hypocrite. Just a complete monster.

On the other hand, STEAMPUNK TRAIN. I may hate how the Winnowry treats the witches, but I have to admire the lateral thinking that dreamt up this bit of engineering. If only it was a genuinely caring organisation trying to help the witches control their powers rather than hurt and take advantage of them.

I’m thoroughly curious about the fact we only see and hear about female fell-witches (including a trans fell witch whose powers only manifested after she was recognised as female). Where are the male fell witches? I smell world-building details and I want to know all the things!

“There’s a world in there.” Ravening insectile hordes, battle moons (or Death Stars, if you prefer), fertiliser to drive you Wild – and this week we venture inside a Behemoth. What do you make of the weird and creepy world of the Jure’lia?

I thought last week was creepy: the details of exactly what happens when the Jure’lia return took our dark fantasy thoroughly into the realms of horror. I… had mostly blocked out exactly what the Jure’lia are like. Vintage gave us a thorough education in what to expect last week – the insects that eat you from inside and turn you into a zombie; the monsters that sick up resin and drown you (leaving you glassy-eyed and staring up through the slick green depths) – and honestly it didn’t set my nerves well for venturing into a Behemoth. Besides, the sacs of golden goop just scream Prometheus. Drink this, you too can be a terrifying mutant.

The parasite spirits are terrifying (and heartbreaking, because I Know What I Know) and the spooky organic lighting and heart-rending discovery at the heart of the Behemoth shredded me. And in spite of all that, the glimpse of the alien world in the crystal is sort of magical. Is it real? Is it really where the Jure’lia are from?

Hats off to Jen Williams for the atmosphere, and for crafting a truly alien horror that feels original even while I track its parallels and influences.

Where do you think Vintage has gone? …and what do you think is going on with Noon?

I was so angry with Vintage for the way she abandoned Noon and Tor. It doesn’t matter that I know why; or maybe it does – I don’t think it justifies abandoning her companions, having led them into danger. I have loved Vintage’s empathy and affection to this point in The Ninth Rain, whilst recognising that it was to an extent self-serving and distanced; this week drives home just how unattached she truly is.

Poor Noon. Effectively alone, guilt-ridden and haunted – and the one person who has shown her kindness in the past decade turns her back.

Tut, Vintage, tut. You don’t walk out on friends in need. As tests of character go, this one is a fail for me (I mean, I still adore her, but I can love her and disapprove all at the same time).

Two siblings determined to save their god. What do you think is going to happen in Ebora?

Poor Tor. He’s taken quite the knock to his confidence; and the goop has given him a cause for hope that he’s denied himself for centuries.

But I cannot envisage any return home for Tor that doesn’t involve Hest giving him a hard time for leaving; and given her ambitions to be Ebora’s great Saviour, I can’t imagine her welcoming his Jure’lian fertiliser with much enthusiasm.

It’s not going to end well, is it?

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!