The Poison Song by Jen Williams @sennydreadful @annecater

Posted May 16, 2019 by midnightreview in Book Talk / 0 Comments


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.

PRAISE FOR THE WINNOWING FLAME TRILOGY ‘Williams excels at eldritch world-building’ THE GUARDIAN ‘An addictive and coherent fantasy world filled with all sorts of deliciously interesting things within it… Fantasy adventure at its very best’ STARBURST ‘Incredible heroines… incredible fantasy… Escapism at its finest’ STYLIST ‘Full of people you want to spend time with and enemies you’d happily run from’ SCIFINOW


I haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading Jen Williams book’s, something I plan to rectify as soon as possible. Instead I have some cracking content for you. I’ve really enjoyed reading this list. Although, I do agree kids have some cracking cartoons these days. However NO ONE should be subjected to Peppa Pig and Paw Patrol on repeat…. I don’t think that’s what Jen means though.


Treasures I Have Collected Along the Way

It’s a weird thing coming to the end of a trilogy. It’s especially weird coming to the end of your second trilogy, and then having to think of sensible things to say about the experience. Honestly, I feel like I might have broken time somehow. I could have sworn it was only yesterday that I scribbled the pitch for The Ninth Rain onto a Post-it note during a tea break at work. Yet here I am, with The Poison Song winging its way into the world. I’m not sure what I can say about it apart from that I’m very proud, and happy, and slightly bamboozled – none of which makes for an especially scintillating blog post. So, I thought I’d take a look at what I’ve learned over the last few, terrifyingly speedy, years and give you seven things I’ve discovered about writing and art, fantasy and confidence, editing and cartoons.

1. Your first draft can’t be, and probably shouldn’t be, perfect. Don’t worry about it, just get it out. There are lots of lovely analogies for this, but one of my favourites is the idea that your first draft is for shovelling all the sand into your sandbox, for making a big impressive heap. And then editing is when you give that heap its true shape – squeeze the sand into turrets, poke shells into the side to make windows. The main thing is, the sand needs to be there in the first place, or you can’t build anything – so get shovelling. The key reason this is important is that books almost always change wildly while you’re writing them – they’re slippery like that – so if you’re agonizing over the first chapter and it’s stopping you from getting anywhere, please remember you’ll probably change it in the edit anyway…

2. One of the odd (and alarming) revelations about adult life is the realisation that no one really knows for certain what they’re doing; to some extent, everyone is making it up as they go along. The second part of that is: everyone also believes that everyone else has it figured out. The joy of this slightly crackers aspect of human nature is that you have the chance to create yourself… At a convention many years ago, I was drinking with a dear friend of mine, and I told them about how I’ve always been shy, and never had much confidence. He scoffed at me and said: ‘Are you sure that’s not just the story you’ve always told about yourself?’. What if you told a different story? If you’re a shy person pretending to be outgoing, who will ever know the difference? Remember, everyone already thinks you know what you’re doing. And eventually, some of that fake bravado starts to rub off, because really, it’s not as difficult as it looks.

3. The cartoons being made at the moment are magical works of genius and we are very lucky to have them. They are, largely, better than the ones we grew up on because, I suspect, those kids who were obsessed with the original iterations of He-Man, She-Ra and Voltron grew up and threw their passion into animation. I firmly believe we’re living in a golden age of Saturday morning cartoons and I’m thrilled for the kids growing up with things like Avatar: The Last Airbender, Adventure Time, Stephen Universe, The Dragon Prince, (and, of course, She-Ra and the Princesses of Power). If you’re not watching them, get them in your eyeballs.

4. Keep a notebook close to hand, preferably one in each handbag. You won’t remember to have a pen in there at the same time, but it’s the thought that counts. And while we’re at it, you can never have too many pPost-it notes, because you never know when you might need to scribble a pitch on one during your tea break.

5. My one piece of editing advice is: take out anything that doesn’t a) move the story forward and/or b) reveal character. Now, the sneaky thing about this advice is that it’s not nearly as harsh as it seems, because an awful lot can be saved under the banner of ‘Reveals Character’. One of my favourite things to write are scenes in which everyone pauses to eat together, or share a bottle of something on a dark night… These are scenes where the action is put on hold, but they’re also the spaces into which you can place a great deal of information about who your characters are, and what they’re feeling. Who doesn’t have an appetite? Who can’t make eye contact? Who is drinking more than they should? Which of your characters has a great love for cheese pastries, because it reminds them of their father’s kitchen? I live for this stuff.

6. Chunky Peanut Butter KitKats are a vital writing aid.

7. If there’s something you want to make, make it. Even if it doesn’t work out how you planned (welcome to all creative endeavours!), even if no one else ever sees it but you, even if you never finish it… the joy of making is its own precious reward, an act that brings a bit more light into the world. And who knows, it might lead somewhere entirely unexpected. Over a decade ago, I came home after an especially frustrating day at work and decided that, just for fun, I was going to write a little scene I’d had in my head about a girl-witch, a dark ritual, and an unknown power. Through that little scene I realised that I was supposed to be writing books, and that girl-witch – whose name was Noon – eventually found her own story, which finishes with the last book in the Winnowing Flame trilogy, The Poison Song. We’ve come a long way, baby.

Author Bio:

Jen Williams started writing about pirates and dragons as a young girl and hasn’t ever stopped. Her short stories have featured in numerous anthologies and her debut novel, The Copper Promise, was published in 2014 to huge acclaim. Jen was nominated in the Best Newcomer category at the 2015 British Fantasy Awards and her following two novels, The Iron Ghost and The Silver Tide were both shortlisted for the British Fantasy Awards Novel of the Year. Jen lives in London with her partner and their cat.

Share this...
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on Facebook

I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave me a comment