Fiction Reviews

The Poison Song

(2019) Jen Williams, Headline, £14.99, trdpbk, 568pp, ISBN 978-1-472-23523-7


From the British Fantasy Award-winning author, Jen Williams, comes the electrifying conclusion to the 'Winnowing Flame' trilogy, which started with The Ninth Rain, and continued with The Bitter Twins.

All is chaos. All is confusion. The Jure'lia are weak, but the war is far from over.

Ebora was once a glorious city, defended by legendary warriors and celebrated in song. Now refugees from every corner of Sarn seek shelter within its crumbling walls, and the enemy that has poisoned their land won't lie dormant for long.

The deep-rooted connection that Tormalin, Noon and the scholar Vintage share with their Eboran war-beasts has kept them alive so far. But with Tor distracted, and his sister Hestillion hell-bent on bringing ruthless order to the next Jure'lia attack, the people of Sarn need all the help they can get.

Noon is no stranger to playing with fire and knows just where to recruit a new - and powerful - army. But even she underestimates the epic quest that is to come. It is a journey wrought with pain and sacrifice - a reckoning that will change the face of Sarn forever.

Join forces with the heroes of the Winnowing Flame trilogy as they strive to silence the Jure'lia's poison song once and for all.

How many times have you read the last book in a series or the last book in a trilogy and found it to be a disappointment, a let-down? Well, worry ye not, fantasy fans, because we are in very safe hands here. Jen Williams wrote one of the best fantasy trilogies with her previous 'Copper Cat' books, and they were always going to be a tough act to follow, but she’s blown all expectations away with a very satisfying conclusion to The Winnowing Flame trilogy and set the bar awfully high for whatever she does next, but we’ll worry about that next year, or the year after, when her new book appears.

Our heroes got away with surviving and saving the city - just - at the end of book two, but there is no time to gloat, or celebrate and hardly enough time to regroup as the Jure’lia are relentless, almost unstoppable and come in a variety of horrible insect-like forms, and all that stands against them is a mixture of stubborn races, led by characters we have come to know and love in the previous two books, but they are broken, and incomplete, haunted by their past and recent events. Somehow they have to work together if they are going to make another stand, and survive.

For a book that is almost – gulp – six hundred pages long, this is compulsive, page-turning stuff, filled with compelling characters that are never whiter-than-white, but range from slightly off-white, to grey to the deepest, darkest black. Characters who are faced with the end times, unless they can triumph through some epic battles that take place in the air and on the rubble-strewn streets of Ebora. Yet, it is not a tale without some humour and cutting banter between the main protagonists as they try to deal with the horror all around them. Expect blood – not all of it red, and guts - not all of them human. Expect personal journeys to come to an end. Expect things to happen that you wish didn’t happen. Above all, expect to be royally entertained by arguably, Britain’s best fantasy writer of recent times. Given that Games of Thrones has finished on the small screen and The Shannara Chronicles stuttered and died after just two series, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see the work of Jen Williams on a big screen or a small screen anytime soon.

Ian Hunter


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