The Bitter Twins is a stunning sequel of staggering inventiveness and imagination.
I am in awe with the direction the story took after the unexpected turn of events at the end of The Ninth Rain. Instead of suffering from the middle book syndrome, The Bitter Twins continued to captivate me with its eldritch worldbuilding and engaging characterisation. I had to keep this review a bit shorter than usual, as there’s simply too much potential to accidentally spoil the numerous surprises that I kept encountering during my read.
There is a compulsive quality to these books which make it so unputdownable. Again, I place it squarely on Williams’ diabolically devious skill in laying the breadcrumbs. One of the main plots in the sequel is a quest to locate a hidden island in the Barren Sea which may unlock the lore and mystery of the Eborans. Quests and adventure-type narratives are one of my favourites especially when it involved potential discoveries of long lost secrets or history. And then there is the other major plotline of a ‘hostage situation’ within the enemy lines so to speak which enabled the reader to gain further understanding about the strange (and rather disgusting) Jure’lia. The alternating POVs of these different plotlines just kept the pages turning, and sometimes at a rather frantic pace because I just had to know the what, the why and the how.
I was stunned with the level of imagination that Williams applied into the worldbuilding and plot development; some which are dark and horrible. Aside from the feeling of foreboding that things will not go down well, I pretty much couldn’t predict what will happen or even speculate on the possible outcomes. The revelations and truths took my breath away, and in some cases so horrifying that I felt a bit sick. It does feel that Williams poured her heart and soul into writing these books, and having a whole lot of fun doing it. Seriously, who thinks of having giant slug-like airships that excrete big bugs, who then, in turn, expel green varnish as an invasive manoeuvre.
While this book is longer and has slower pacing throughout, the unpretentious writing just draws you right in with ease. Jen Williams has a knack for character interaction and dialogue that are laced with just the right amount of levity and gravity to make it feel completely natural and real. These characters all have their flaws and strengths; quite a few have endured enough to be even considered as broken. Regardless, every one of them had to rise above themselves and rely on one another to face the looming threat that was unleashed during the Ninth Rain. The bonds and relationships fostered between our primary characters are beautifully rendered throughout the story which made for some truly poignant and emotional moments.
The Winnowing Flame falls within my favourite genre category of classic fantasy, but with some serious inventiveness which resulted in something quite unlike any other that I’ve read. With the final book coming out soon, I am hoping that the conclusion will firmly place this trilogy on the mantle of my all-time favourites.