Click here to return to the main site.

Book Review

Book Cover

The Poison Song


Author: Jen Williams
Publisher: Hodder
568 pages
RRP: £14.99
ISBN: 978 1 4722 3523 7
Publication Date: 16 May 2019

All things must end and so we come to the last book in the Winnowing Flame Trilogy, written by Jen Williams. The Poison Song (2019. 568 pages) brings the story of Fell-witch Noon, Tormalin, and Vintage and their fight against the Jure’lia invaders to a satisfying conclusion...

If you have not read any of the previous two books, you really have missed a treat. Williams takes us to the planet of Sarn, which is not a faux Earth, but a completely different solar system. The planet was invaded many thousands of years ago by the Jure’lia. These are an insect/slime Borg-like collective, which is controlled by a queen.

Every few centuries the Jure’lia rise from their place of hiding to conquer Sarn, but are always beaten back by the War Beasts, ridden by the vampiric Eborans. At the time of the story, the tree which birthed the War Beast barely functions and only handfuls are birthed, not enough to protect the planet.

Williams spends more of the book's time with the Jure’lia and we get to know a little more about how they function collectively. This is help by the Hestillion’s defection, along with her War Beast. In many ways the Jure’lia are only powerful due to their numbers and their technological superiority. Otherwise they are insular to their own detriment and have barely changed through the many centuries of migration through space.

Where the series has shined is in its ability to produce depictions of strong women, without making the mistake of having them take on male roles and male propensity towards violence. This is exemplified in the character of Vintage, a deliberate Indiana Jones clone. While she may have started out with this as a rough concept Williams has made her clever, resourceful and funny. Ok! She does carry a wicked crossbow, but in the main, Vintage is more likely to use her brains than her crossbow.

Much of the trilogy has followed the trials and tribulations of Noon, a Fell-witch, who is able to summon fire. In many ways I felt that she was the less interesting of the two women. She is driven by anger, she is powerful and headstrong all the usual tropes. That is not to say that Williams does not provide her with a good character arc or that she lacks character development.

The other thing that the trilogy does well is to try and ground a fantasy/science fiction in some level of science, which demonstrates some internal logic and not rely on the idea that it’s magic, so does not need to be explained. To this end, not just content in bringing her tale to an end, Williams has Noon take a detour, which introduces a new character and sheds light on why the Fell-witches are able to produce fire.

This trilogy has been strong for many reasons. The world building is extremely satisfying, characters act and behave in a logical manner and apart from Noon, none are so over powered that there is little chance of them loosing. At many points in this last book Williams brings them to the precipice and even up to the end the outcome of the fight remains in doubt. In the end Williams has not only produced an artful and satisfying conclusion to her trilogy, she has produced a trilogy that deserves a much wide audience.


Charles Packer

Buy this item online

Kindle edition
Kindle edition