Read-along: The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams (week 3)


Banner by imyril from There’s Always Room for One More

Oh boy, I think this book might just destroy me …

Prompts this week are from the inimitable imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and, as always, beware of SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS!!


Week 3 – Chapters 23 to 34 inclusive

What do you think the Jure’lian Queen is trying to achieve with Hest and Celaphon? … speaking of Hest. We Need To Talk About Hest.

Hmmm, I think the queen is thinking of fighting fire with fire, so to speak. She has acknowledged that everything is different this time round, and has shown that she is experimenting with the new creepy flying human-shaped creatures, so that I imagine Hest and Celaphon are also experiments. But, man, poor Celaphon. Not only in pain all the time and paired with Hestilion, but also now able to see from his encounter with Bern and Sharrik and Aldasair and Jessen just how different he is from what a war-beast should be. He nearly broke my heart when he spoke of hearing the song, but not hearing it properly. And he is so alone. Hest hasn’t bonded with him the way, say Noon and Vostok and Aldasair and Jessen have, so that they can sense each other’s reactions and feelings. I feel like whatever is in store for Celaphon it’s going to break my heart. All our hearts.

And Hest. I still don’t know what to make of Hest. She has an utterly pitiless side that makes me hate her (you don’t care about Celaphon’s pain? What the heck are you, bitch?!), and yet she seems afraid and lonely and lost sometimes too. I get the feeling she just makes it up as she goes along, desperate to survive (desperate too for acknowledgement, for some sense of being special … her little rant about Ygseril having ignored her despite being alive suggested an ego as big as a house inside that beautiful, blonde-haired brainbox). I think she just wants to be on the winning team and if that means siding with an enemy that grosses her out then so be it. She and Aldasair were alone for a long time amidst the dying in Ebora … I wonder if it didn’t leave her nuttier than him in the end.


Finneral: a fine place for a visit – with a hint of romance? Time to flail about Bern taking his boy home!

Oh my goodness, this was just the loveliest thing at first with Bern’s parents being all welcoming and accepting and fabulous (all the love for Bern’s parents, Bern the Elder and Rainya – I do love such bluff and hearty older couples who don’t moon about, and who give each other stick, but clearly love one another nonetheless … both IRL and in books). Bern the Elder’s comment to Aldasair about family made me feel all warm and sparkly inside, and Bern the younger being all embarrassed by his parents was adorable.

And there were so many other things in Finneral I want to know more about: the ancient stone maidens all facing out to sea, Valous the Stone Talker and her two Wild-touched boars Peren and Nevin, the Sorrowing Woods and how the Wild has touched this part of Sarn, and the beliefs held by Bern’s people about the stones being sacred guardians and repositories for the will of the people. There is so much detail, even in these brief sketches, that I wonder how much work Williams put into the creation of Sarn that we will never see just to make it all appear so believably real.


That said, this week is not the week of romance running smoothly. Tor and Noon can’t get a moment; Vintage has some discouraging realisations about Nanthema; and Bern and Aldasair don’t end up in the honeymoon suite. Any thoughts to share about one or all almost-couples? Do you think we’ll get any happy ever afters?

Ha! Yeah, Tor and Noon aren’t getting much chance to get at it again are they? (Kirune’s comment about Vostok preventing Tor from “humping the witch” had me in stitches). I can’t say I mind that, but I am interested to see what will become of their relationship. They are clearly attracted to one another, and there’s some fondness there, but does that equate to love? And if it did, what then?

I was much more upset for Vintage in her little spat with Nanthema. I mean, that’s got to be pretty heart-wrenching, not only to know and feel you’ve aged while your partner hasn’t, but also to realise that you are not quite as important to them as they are to you … and after you worried over their disappearance for so long. Poor Vintage. She doesn’t deserve that, for all her faults. I feel that that’s maybe not a relationship that will survive the trilogy.

But for Bern and Aldasair, even though things seem pretty dire right now, I feel there is plenty of hope. No, war time is not the best of times to fall in love, but they’ve got each other’s backs and they’re the nicest people and Bern’s family were all ready to bring Aldasair into their family it seemed and surely that all has to count for something, even in Williams’ world?


Origin is home to more riddles than answers. What do you make of Micanal and Arnia? Do you believe the tablets are at the bottom of the gorge? Do you believe anything they’ve told us?

Oh boy. Bad, bad, bad. No, I don’t believe that the tablets are at the bottom of the gorge. No, I don’t believe a word of what Micanal and Arnia have said. Micanal seems to be an Eboran with a guilty conscience, and Arnia seems like another Hestilion, (Eboran females – are they all sinister secret-keepers? Do I need to be more worried for Vintage than I already am, and for a different reason?). She’s definitely not trustworthy. Well, neither of them are I don’t think, but for different reasons. I’m pretty sure Arnia is getting blood from somewhere to be so young looking while her brother is so aged. Did she *shudder* bring her own blood bank with her? Is that what’s on the other side of the island? And have these two lost their marbles? I mean, they have been alone together on Origin for centuries – and if there’s any conclusions we can draw from Williams’ story so far it’s that all quiet and no company make Eborans go doolally, (The Shining anyone? I’ waiting for the axe-wielding to begin!).


…and of course anything else you’d like to talk about!

What’s with the shimmering weather wall thingummy around Origin? It sounds very sci-fi, is this another alien artefact? Has more than one type of alien visited Sarn? Or was there some sort of ancient race that built it and we are just witnessing ruins like with the stone maidens?

When are the Winnowry going to turn up again? I don’t think we’re done with them and their lack of appearance so far in The Bitter Twins is starting to make me nervous.

And, maybe this is a pointless observation, but here it is anyway: book one was named for the Ninth Rain of Ygseril, but also for Tor’s sword, and book two is named for Bern’s twin axes, but also Micanal and Arnia are possibly the Bitter Twins; book three is The Poison Song which Celaphon has now mentioned (he can hear a song shared between the war-beasts, but his version is a poison song, something that separates him from them). So the Ninth Rain is a weapon, the Bitter Twins are weapons, is the Poison Song a weapon too? And is it Celaphon’s weapon, or the war-beasts’? Am I overthinking this whole thing?



The next post for this read-along can be found here:

Week 4 – Chapters 35 to 46 inclusive



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