THE POISON SONG / AUTHOR: JEN WILLIAMS / PUBLISHER: HEADLINE / RELEASE DATE: 16TH MAY
Trilogies are strange things. Each individual book may be exceptional, but when brought together as a whole, the overall story may fail. The Poison Song is a very strong and welcome conclusion to the exceptional Winnowing Flame Trilogy.
The world of Sarn is still in peril. Despite the best efforts of the heroes from the previous book, the strange and alien Jurelia invaders are still a threat. Though they are reeling from the events of the last book, the world-devouring monsters are not done yet.
The Poison Song is a very rapidly-paced novel. Little time has passed between the start of this novel and the end of the last one, and the rag-tag team of heroes who are defending Sarn have barely had time to recover. The Jurelia are still reeling from the improvised (and rather lucky) attack from the protagonists, yet the heroes aren’t really in a position to exploit this pause.
The Poison Song is, as you may expect, mostly about endings. The various characters have the consequences of their actions to deal with, even though none of them seem at all ready for this. The marvellous adventurer-archaeologist Vintage is still riddled with trust issues, the renegade witch Noon has seemingly accidentally started a revolution and become a folk hero, and the dark and brooding Tor has begun to sink into old habits, though in new ways. The price of his life as essentially Sarn’s greatest mopey goth has begun to show signs.
Meanwhile, their enemies are finding new purpose, and we get reacquainted with other villains from the series. In short, everyone we’ve met so far gets their story told. Most interestingly of all, however, is the tale of the alien Jurelia. These sinister monsters are meant to be a mix of Giger-style horror and Fey-like strangeness. One of the clever ideas behind this book is that the hive gets multiple perspectives fairly early on. They are an utterly evil force, dedicated to the selfish destruction of all life, and yet we can’t help but feel for them. Their very nature is the thing that traps them in one path, and this makes for a compelling sort of villain.
The Poison Song is much more than the sum of its parts. Well paced, tightly written, filled with compelling characters and some rather lovely prose, this final instalment brings it all together very well, making the whole experience rather worthwhile. Jen Williams is a genius, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.