Read-along: The Poison Song by Jen Williams (week 5)

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

This is the end, people *sniffle*. And it really looked like it might be the end of everything for a minute there … but I’m getting ahead of myself. Thank goodness for prompts, that’s all I can say, because without this week’s prompts, as posed by the most laudable Lisa of Dear Geek Place, I’d just be a gibbering wreck.

So, before we go on, the usual warning: there will be SPOILERS. Only this week those spoilers are about the absolute end of the whole series. The things that get talked about this week do not get undone or prove themselves later to be some sneaky sleight-of-hand by the author. This is the end. These spoilers are the worst ones. *sniffle*


Week 5 – Chapters 43 to the end

It’s all about endings, now… First up, Tyranny and Windfall. How do you feel about the way the self-made Queens of Tygrish went out?

I was kind of glad to see them back after thinking they’d died horribly last week. Sure, Windfall has lost an eye and Tyranny is all kinds of shook up, and they haven’t really come to help out at all, but their survival still felt like a little victory. And yet … and yet … it felt weird too. I mean, it was a pretty awful way to go after they’d sort of come back to fight on the side of right, but before that – and even with Vintage summing up Tyranny’s many crimes against team Ebora – the queens of Tygrish were accepted into the fold very easily. It was just a bit quick, you know?

Then again, their deaths also made the Jure’lia queen suddenly a heap more terrifying. Like I suddenly saw her in close-up right then. Not that she wasn’t already a scary-creepy-awful amorphous blob of vicious black goo …


After all this, both of the Eboran siblings survived. Tor gets to live with his grief, but live he shall. Whereas Hestillion gets to live with her guilt. Do you think Hest’s fate was deserved? And do you think she’d ever own her mistakes, even now?

I didn’t see it coming. I was pretty sure Hest would go down with the Jure’lia in the end, and I figured Tor would get to go out in his blaze of glory like he wanted to, (never underestimate a fell-witch, I guess).

It’s hard to think about Hestillion in terms of what she may deserve. She’s made incredible, stupid, horrifying decisions right the way through the trilogy, but she’s been so hard to fathom too. Everything she’s done has had a clinical, assessing edge to it. What kind of justice should be meted out to someone who hasn’t operated out of malice so much as out of a powerful self-preserving logic? Someone who really doesn’t seem to have any compassion at all? Can there be justice for someone who doesn’t feel they’ve done anything wrong?

Underlying it all has she just been terrified of the unfixable, uncontrollable nature of the crimson flux? Or more broadly, has she been afraid of not having control? If so, perhaps a wandering, aimless life is the most appropriate fate for her. All I know is she’s alone again at the end, just as she was, drifting through the ghost-palace before this all began. That seems … poetic, if nothing else.

Every time I’ve thought I was getting to grips with Hest’s motivation Williams added something more to the mix that threw me off. She’s a masterpiece of complexity. I tip my hat most respectfully to Jen Williams.


Celaphon makes a final choice in the final battle, after telling Hest that what happened to him wasn’t her fault. Do you agree with that? And what do you think of his apparent reason for his choice to turn on the Jure’lia at last?

Of course it was her fault! *stamps foot* Don’t try to make her feel better about any of what she did to you, Celaphon!

But, oh, Celaphon. You poor beautiful-ugly mixed up soul you, I knew you’d break my heart, but it didn’t make it hurt any less when it came. Even at the end you weren’t able to become the perfect, pure beast you should have been, but in your own way you stuck it to the Jure’lia queen and I was so proud of you. You tried. There was still some warped thinking at the back of it, but you tried. And yes, my darling, we all saw how mighty you are. Were. *sniffle*

I couldn’t really pinpoint what made him attack the behemoths right then, though. Windfall and Tyranny had just died and if he could still feel the war-beast connection he’d have felt that. Then Hestillion is knocked unconscious by Noon – would he have felt that? And the queen had reached the gates of the palace, so it was all getting a bit desperate. After hanging back for so long, did he choose that moment to prove how mighty he was? Like a final defiant flip of the bird to his brothers and sisters even while helping them out? It’s in keeping with his slightly petulant nature. Anyone else got any thoughts on this?


And finally … Noon makes the ultimate sacrifice, to save Ebora, to save her family, to save the world. How many pieces did this final act break your heart into?

All the pieces. So small they were as dust and blew away. I have no heart now.

I should have seen it coming. I think it felt worse because of that. I was blindsided by Tor’s illness and didn’t see Noon’s death coming until it was too late.

And I am in awe of just how far Noon has travelled. When we first met her I had no idea she was going to be the absolute heroine that she became. I’ve loved every surprising, delightful, awesome step of her journey.

‘Only the strongest, she said, could possibly keep it inside themselves, could live with the green fire in their guts. Only the strongest.’ Abruptly, she found that she was grinning. ‘And it’s fucking true, isn’t it? I’m standing here, and I can see it when I look at you. We’ve survived, we’re still here, and we are the strongest. All the terrible things the Winnowry did to us, all of the terrible things that people have said and done, all the people who have hated us because of what we are … and we live, still. The power is still ours. The flame never died.’


Any final thoughts? Overall impressions? Leftover feelings to mop up? Do share!

Noon’s insight into the Jure’lia at the end when she was sucking up their life juice was a confirmation of things implied along the way, but was still fascinating.

Vintage and Chenlo’s happy ever after (and Aldasair and Bern’s) makes Tor’s loss that much more heart-breaking, at the same time that it gives me something to cling to so I don’t cry about Noon forever.

I was so glad that we got to see one last letter from Vintage to Marin before the end. And it occurs to me only now that as these letters are purportedly from the private letters of Master Marin de Grazon that kind of implies that he’s alive. Which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy for Vintage. *happy sigh*

Vintage also had some of the best lines yet again. My favourites? “Fuck my old boots” and “That particular monster can fuck right off” – tell it like it is, Vin darling.

And finally, did Noon teach She Who Laughs compassion???!




Next week Wyrd and Wonder’s 13-day-long Spooktastic Reads event begins, hosted by Lisa of Dear Geek Place, imyril of There’s Always Room for One More and Jorie of Jorie Loves a Story … so I’d better slap out of this glumness fast so I can get reading about ghosts and ghouls and things that go bump in the night!



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