Read-along: The Poison Song by Jen Williams (week 2)

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It’s the final volume of the trilogy, and yet things continue to get more and more complicated. Get ready for more new characters, more surprises and more feelings in this week’s garbled and emotionally-driven responses to the prompts posed by the most marvellous Lisa of Dear Geek Place … and if you don’t already know the deal: Warning – SPOILERS all the way!


Week 2 – Chapters 10 to 20 inclusive

Noon meets ‘She Who Laughs’, after a rather unexpected departure in the middle of a battle… What’s your take on this strange ‘goddess’ and the lore drop she brings with her, and what do you think this meeting will lead to? Do you have any thoughts/suspicions about the significance of what happened in Noon’s past?

If Jen Williams’ has taught me anything over the course of this trilogy it’s that no new knowledge comes without a hefty price tag. And that no being with interesting powers is uncomplicated. And that I should never trust anything that seems promising. With this in mind, I am extremely wary of She Who Laughs’ motives in summoning Noon. I’m glad to finally make sense out of the Aboran reaction to Noon back on Origin, but I can’t help feeling that She Who Laughs wants to use Noon in some way that isn’t going to be pro-Noon. She seems far too keen to flatter Noon, telling her how good she is at figuring things out (she’s positively obsessed with this aspect of Noon’s nature, in fact … hmmm) and how clever she is. SWL was used as a power source by the Aborans – how? How did they harness something so powerful? Does she lack something in the figuring-things-out department? She’s delighted by “Words and skies and chairs and feet …” and she’s made a grey glass castle out in the desert (with not quite functional stairs…), but she is essentially an alien intelligence. Maybe reasoning and deduction is beyond her or something? I don’t know, I’m just spit-balling here …

As for the second question: I’ve always thought Noon’s past was exactly what it appeared to be: a tragic memory that she has suppressed, because after everything else Noon’s been through, that seemed like enough, you know? Now I’m suspicious – because why is SWL so insistent that Noon remember? – but there’s no real shape to my suspicions yet, just a general lump of anxiety in the stomach.


This isn’t so much a question, as just a chance to check in with him, but: what are your thoughts and feelings on Tor’s reaction to Noon’s disappearance? Clearly our boy is not taking it well…

Awww, I think Tor loves Noon more than I realised. More than he realised even. It’s interesting that he has gone back to his old drinking habit – something he indulged in when he previously felt there was no hope. Even after all he learned on Origin he didn’t stoop so low because he still had Noon. Which leads me to think that Noon has come to represent capital-H Hope for Tor. She inspires him to action despite himself.

I am excited though, that even in this monumental funk he’s worked out that the Jure’lia always retreat in the same direction. Seriously, this dude would be formidable if he didn’t sabotage himself so much.

And I’ve got to mention Vostok here too. She is so clearly as lost without Noon as Tor is. What? No, I’m not crying … I’ve just got something in my eye, OK?


Onward to Tygrish, where Vintage and Chenlo … do not precisely receive a warm welcome. What do you make of the situation here under the rule of Queen Tyranny (and Queen Windfall!)? Is this royal partnership going to last, do you think?

Tyranny’s got herself a war-beast bat! Woo! I’ve been missing Fulcor something fierce, so more bat characters is awesome! Although Queen Windfall has got an attitude to rival Vostok’s it seems. Be interesting to see how things go if the two of them ever meet.

Nah, I don’t see Tyranny and Windfall’s reign lasting. I’m not sure Tyranny would be able to hack it long term, and both she and Windfall are strong characters (I’d like to see a bit more of their relationship – what’s that bond really like? And how will it stand up to being a part of the larger bond between all the war-beasts, if that even happens?).

Was I the only one who had a Bond-villain moment here? Tyranny, in all her new finery, taunts Vintage and Chenlo in her throne room. Then they’re taken away while she decides on a suitable way to have them both killed, as a further display of her power. So, what? She’s going to drop them into an alligator pit or something? … it’s all just a touch too theatrical. I’m not sure Tyranny is handling being a Queen.


That’s it for my questions, but as always your extra musings/suspicions/discussion of favourite bits/general flailings go here!

It’s all bad feelings this week!

Firstly, I’d completely forgotten that the last time we saw Okaar he was badly injured. (Should have done a quick re-read of the previous books before we started this, I see that now). It kind of hurt to see him so damaged, I liked him.

Secondly, I don’t feel good about SWL’s disregard for all the suffering that has happened to so many fell-witches. When Noon challenges her for only caring about those who celebrated winnowfire, she says she only gave it to the strongest (so they could take it) and that she herself has persecuted no-one. It’s not a great argument – ‘yeah, I knew a lot of people I gave this to were incarcerated, beaten and degraded, but I did nothing’ is akin to ‘yeah, I knew my neighbour was beating their puppy with a stick, but I did nothing’; SWL has clearly never been to the “with great power comes great responsibility” school of thought.

Thirdly, I’m troubled by Chenlo’s whole “we were sisters once” and “After all I did for you, you don’t trust me?” comments to one of Tyranny’s fell-witches. I mean, I get that she was by no means one of the worst Winnowry agents, but she was still an agent. One who hunted down women and brought them back to the Winnowry and a life of imprisonment. I don’t know why she can’t see that no one who knew her then is going to think well of her now.

Fourthly, I’m starting to feel terribly sorry for Sarn itself. Not the people, but the planet and all its other lifeforms. It sounds like a beautiful, various planet teeming with life, but thanks to the interference of two alien races (one that thinks it knows better and one that functions like some sort of cancer) it’s been scarred, tainted and poisoned beyond recognition. (Anyone see what I’m seeing?)

And finally, did anyone else catch that slip by the Jure’lia Queen?: “That which is not Jure’lia seems riddled with uncertainty, and I fear the crystal memory has infected me with such … I am certain nothing else could have touched me in such a way. Us, in such a way.” (yeah, it’s not uncertainty, it’s love that Bern put in the crystal methinks, you stone cold bitch … but thinking of yourself as a separate entity? Interesting side effect …)



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

Week 3 – Chapters 20 to 30 inclusive



  1. OH MY WORD I TOTALLY MISSED THE QUEEN’S SLIP! That’s so revealing – and I’m also intrigued that of all things it’s love that has given her a sense of individual identity when we think of love as bringing us together – but to love someone, you have to recognise that they are not you, I guess.

    As for Chenlo, she’s rather naive in some ways, isn’t she? Chenlo enabled a system of abuse – arguing that she minimised how awful it is rather than challenging it head on to create wholesale change is both true and so very thoroughly Not Enough (and if I feel there’s a certain amount of gazing over the glasses in a ‘see where I’m going with that’ way in this series and especially in this final book, I don’t mind in the slightest).

    And yes, Bond villain 🙂 Tyranny is so over-the-top!

    …besides, she pales into insignificance besides She Who Laughs, who is mysterious and powerful and oh hell no I don’t trust her at all either. And oh, poor Vostok. She is completely lost without her bright weapon. As is Tor, of course – you’re spot on with how impressive he’d be if he didn’t sabotage himself. Here’s hoping they get their beloved fell-witch back in one piece!

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    • Yes, yes, yes – that’s what I’ve been trying to put into words since I posted this: that “to love someone, you have to recognise that they are not you” – THANK YOU! 😀

      So many people not to trust now … man, I can barely breathe!


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