Series: The Winnowing Flame Trilogy #2
Published by Headline on March 8, 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Epic, Science Fiction
Our reviews of this author: The Silver Tide
The Bitter Twins is the second instalment of Jen Williams’ Winnowing Flame Trilogy and is an excellent second in series that demonstrates William’s ability to create a richly woven world, full of history and religion and characters that are a delight to read and fall in love with.
Before reviewing The Bitter Twins I would point out that it is necessary to read the Ninth Rain first. The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of No.1 and there is no recap of previous events so if you haven’t read the first book then I strongly recommend you stop right here, don’t read this review, simply go and pick up the first book. The other thing that I would mention is that this is a book that is a little difficult to review without giving away spoilers for the first book or indeed for the content of The Bitter Twins so I’m really going to avoid discussion of the plot and limit my review to the writing, characters and world building.
Once again the story brings our favourite characters to the table. Lady Vincenza, or Vintage, again plays a key role. Not to be deterred by her lack of either magic or super strength Vintage isn’t prepared to take a back seat but once again manages to find herself in the thick of things. Finding herself at the heart of Ebora and with her long missing love interest returning to the scene Vintage has a few harsh truths to face, not least of which is her own mortality and the knowledge that whilst she has physically aged her lover has not. What I love about Vintage is she brings her own brand of upbeat realism to any situation. She’s intelligent enough to be able to work things through sensibly and resourceful enough to not panic when faced with danger. Alongside Vintage we share a few moments when all the characters are briefly reunited before they split into different groups each with important quests. Noon and Tormalin go in search of ancient knowledge that might assist the war beasts who are suffering from memory loss. Their adventure leads them to discover an archipelago of small islands some of which are more dangerous than first glance reveals. They go in search of artifacts but instead find much more uncovering an astonishing revelation regarding Eboran history and finally coming to terms with their feelings for each other.
Aldasair and Bern have their own mission which involves a good deal of drama and the discovery of Hestillion aboard the Corpse Moon. What a storyline this is. I read it in mounting disbelief. I wanted to shout at Hestillion and at the same time I just couldn’t believe half of what I was reading. Hesillion what are you thinking? I can’t say more other than that this is one of those parts of the story where you can’t but help be riveted to the page and your horror is only matched by your desire for the character in question to snap out of it.
We have the addition of a number of other excellent characters. Eri, a young Eboran boy who has been living in seclusion and the arrival of a group of characters that seemed to have their own agenda. Again, I’m amazed at how well developed all of these characters are, they may have secondary roles and in some cases not much page time but I felt myself really caring for them.
What really surprises me again and again with Williams is her ability to make you love her characters. Even the ones that you only briefly meet or are newly introduced to – they’re just so very well drawn and display all sorts of emotions that make them jump off the page with anger, passion and self doubt. It’s easy to fall for these characters and it makes the switch between different storylines incredibly easy to to enjoy because each story is equally heart wrenching.
The other thing that totally blows me away about Williams writing is the way she is able to create such an amazing world using both fantasy and science fiction to give it a different twist. It reminds me a little of Anne McCaffrey who also conjured remarkable worlds by marrying epic fantasy with science fiction to create something incredible. It gives the world such a wide range of possibilities.
In terms of criticisms. I would mention that I thought the first half of the story was a little slower in terms of pace, of course this really helps in terms of character development and also in forging relationships that are believable but be aware of this when you start. I find, and I think I mentioned this when I reviewed the Ninth Rain, that the plot isn’t really the main focus of the story, which isn’t to say the plot isn’t good but just that there’s such a lot of depth, not just to the characters, but to the world itself.
There’s a lot of history explored in this instalment and some of it I think will have a big impact on the final book of the series. And then of course there’s the conclusion – which is a thrilling, action packed ride that really packs an emotional punch. I didn’t see some of that coming and it really hit me I must confess.
The Bitter Twins is an excellent second in series, it may have had a measured start but the tension steadily grew and eventually culminated in an explosive finale. And, of course, no review would be complete without mentioning the war beasts. Such magnificent creatures, I absolutely love them.
If nothing else, I hope I’ve convinced you to read this series. This review feels a little light on information but that’s simply a reflection of my desire not to give away spoilers. Put simply, if you love epic fantasy you simply have to read The Winnowing Flame trilogy. It’s an absolute must read series.