A return to Sarn with more fleshed out characters and world, Jen William’s brilliant humour and imagination, and the building blocks in place for an exciting finale
When I wrote my review for The Ninth Rain, I asked readers who prefer fast paced books to stick with it as it begins slowly but heats up the pace. I’d say The Bitter Twins had a sort of slow feel through most of the book. Please don’t confuse the word slow with boring or dull; it’s the opposite of those things. The focus is predominantly on fleshing out the characters and the world of Sarn, immersing you within the world and bringing you closer to the characters. There is just not quite as much action as you might expect. Conflict and dilemmas, certainly, but if you were expecting an all out war throughout the book then it’s actually more of a calm before the storm.
Ultimately, when judging the merits of the trilogy as a whole, this slower character and world building will massively go in its favour as the emotional investment in The Poison Song will be cranked up to 11 due to the love that’s been expertly built up for the characters here. New relationships are built, old ones are weakened, there are moments that make you smile and cheer the characters, and ones that pull at your heartstrings (including one particular sadness and anger-inducing moment).
A character I was intrigued by in The Ninth Rain, Bern, really comes into his own here, possibly now my favourite character behind Vintage. Speaking of whom, she’s even more awesome and is one of my favourite characters in all of popular culture. She has so many amazing lines, including this particular gem:
“You might be strong, darling, but I suspect a bolt in the middle of your forehead would still ruin your afternoon.”
I don’t need to convince you to read the book; if you enjoyed The Ninth Rain, you’ll enjoy The Bitter Twins too. If you thought The Ninth Rain was a little too slow, perhaps you might struggle to breeze through The Bitter Twins. The slower pace does make it more of a relaxed read best enjoyed with a hot drink and time to spare cosied up under a blanket rather than one of those books you pick up for ten minutes here and there when you’re busy. You’ll appreciate it more if you let everything build around you, with the trilogy I imagine being much richer for taking the time to make you care, to build the world and the characters within it.
One of the ways this is done is introducing new groups with new motivations, and new locations to explore. This builds the immersion and scope and gives that expansive ‘living, breathing world’ feel that we all love, whether it’s a book, video game or film. It’s why people can spend hours playing Skyrim or The Witcher and why it’s enjoyable spending hours in The Winnowing Flame Trilogy. I love what Jen Williams has created and I love her own personality shining through in the writing.
I have a bad habit of even when I’ve absolutely adored a book, taking a lifetime to actually get onto the second in a series because I want to greedily sample everything the genre has to offer. This is the first time since I’ve been reviewing that I have moved into a second book and now I’m really looking forward to reading book three. The Poison Song sure is set up to be one hell of a finale!