Read-along: The Bitter Twins by Jen Williams (week 5)

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

Wow. Just … wow. These last few chapters have left me near speechless (ha! Not likely!!) and utterly gobsmacked. So without further ado, let’s tackle the most excellent imyril’s (There’s Always Room for One More) prompts. You know the drill by now, I think: SPOILERS alert!


Week 5 – Chapters 47 to the end

So many betrayals, Which one surprised you the most/least?

So many! I’m not even sure where to begin. I was least surprised by Tyranny’s betrayal, and yet there were quite a few details I’d not guessed, like her being a Winnowry agent (!!), Okaar being an assassin (kicking myself that I didn’t see that though, the whole skilled at healing/skilled at killing thing being a dead giveaway after the fact), and who she’d roped into helping her (!!!). Because I didn’t see Nanthema’s betrayal coming at all. Yeah, I was already thinking that she and Vintage weren’t going to remain a couple, but heck that was cold. Any tattered remnants of sympathy I had for her are now gone. And while Vintage hasn’t lingered over this betrayal (having other things on her mind, for sure) my heart bleeds for her.

Micanal and Arnia’s secrets on Origin were also surprising in places. I’d figured that Arnia was both feeding on the humans on the other side of the island and using them as a workforce, but the manner in which she was doing this (and had been doing it for centuries), and the … technicalities … of the feeding were way darker than I’d imagined, (oh, Poinsonless, right, now I get it). And that Micanal was feeding from them too, albeit less greedily, was a small cold little shock of its own. I thought he was just broken by his discovery that Eborans weren’t special.


The Jure’lia have been fended off… for now, at least. What do you think the future holds for Sarn? What do you think Bern’s action has done to the hive mind?

Future Sarn? Well, I don’t see any way in which Sarn can return to what it was. At best some will survive, but what will be left of their planet is anyone’s guess.

I’m not sure whether Bern’s actions have just temporarily confused the hive mind, or whether he has wrought some more profound and lasting damage. I still don’t truly understand exactly what the crystals mean to the Jure’lia. I get that they bind them together and that they kind of immortalise the last, best home they made for themselves, but I don’t know what that means. All respect to Williams for creating such an utterly alien race.


The war beasts have forged a bond and found unity in love and vengeance. Are you okay? Would you like to talk about it?

No. No I’m not OK. I may never be OK again. I cried so hard. I don’t know how it happened, with all the chopping and changing points of view and multiple storylines, but I came to care very much for Eri. He was so gentle and forlorn, and so innocent of all the history of his people, and he and Helcate had just the loveliest friendship, the sort that children form where they don’t need anyone else and almost live inside each other’s heads. He didn’t deserve to die. And he certainly didn’t deserve to die like that. It was horrific and heart-rending and I’m going to start crying all over again …

Yet I’m glad that the war-beasts have found something to unite them. I wish it could have been something, anything, else, but I can still rejoice that they can now all sense one another and feel that they are a family. And the battle at the end of the book shows just how far they have come since Chapter 3.

And it seems fitting that Vintage should ride Helcate. Having experienced her own loss (twice over) she has perhaps the most compassion. I was so sorry that she didn’t get her own war-beast and I hope that they will remain a unit. They can be a comfort to each other at the very least, surely?


Bring it all: what are your impressions overall? Favourite moments? Disappointments or quibbles?

Overall impression? The Bitter Twins has been a rollercoaster ride and I am beyond impressed that even amidst such a barrage of developments and discoveries Williams still found time to throw in little details that fleshed out her world and made me want to know more.

Favourite moments? Every moment we got to spend with Aldasair and Bern was awesome. Kirune’s excellent timing always gave me a chortle. Micanal concluding matters on Origin – is it wrong that I enjoyed this? – was … appropriate. The sense of cost that the author is always able to convey even as she’s dragging us from momentous thing to momentous thing without pause.

Disappointments or quibbles? There’s been way less Vintage than I’d have liked. I didn’t like her not being a part of most of the action and I missed her regular journal entries; and while her two letters to her nephew Marin and the one to her brother Ezion were touching, they didn’t give me even half as much Vintage as I wanted.

And Celaphon *shaking head sadly* I’m not sure I can feel much of anything for you right now. I had so much sympathy for you, and now … now … you are so much less than I thought you were going to be. I know it’s not your fault (in so so many ways), but I don’t think I can forgive you.


Finally, I’m left with a whole host of questions:

Big questions like: What about all the thinks Eeskar didn’t tell Tor? Why was he so afraid of Noon? He recognised her, but how is that possible? Why didn’t he answer Tor’s question about the green fire? And what of the “spirit of great energy and vitality” that enabled the Aborans to travel to other worlds and seemingly left them on Sarn? Is this where the Winnowry and fell-witches will re-enter the story?

And smaller questions like: Were the Yuran-Kai just a red herring in the pod-stealing episode, or will we see them again? What will become of the people of Firstlight and Origin – will we ever know? Will Noon and Tor get a happily-ever-after? (Is that even possible?) And why are Eborans in general such arseholes?


I have my copy of The Poison Song ready and a holiday fast approaching, so at least some of my questions will be answered soon, I hope. Now excuse me, I have to go breathe into a paper bag for a bit!





    …I forgot to write about that, and now I am kicking myself. From Eeskar’s reaction, I have to link it directly to the origins of winnowfire, but it very much begs many questions and I am so impatient to get answers.

    But first – hugs all round. That battle. Oh, Eri. Eri. Helcate, whose first word that isn’t “Helcate” is “Eri”. I AM STILL IN BITS. Our poor boy most certainly didn’t deserve that – nobody deserves that – and I hate that in spite of myself and how sad it makes me, I’d have been even more distraught if it had been anybody else (except maybe Tor, actually. Huh. That would have had a narrative weight all of its own, and played into… anyway, that’s not what happened, so).

    But mostly I am impressed all over again at what an epic job Jen Williams has done with these books.

    So – the proposal around the group is to hold off until September for reading The Poison Song (Lisa needs to catch up, and Annemieke and I both need a couple of weeks to catch our breath). We will understand if you can’t wait – Nikki has already devoured book three to get to the finish 😀

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