THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS
As a huge fan of Jay Bell I could not wait to start Rain, even though William is far and away not my favorite character. However, Bell has a knack for taking characters you may not have liked in previous books and giving them their own compelling stories. He did this before with Tim (Winter), and Kelly (Lightning), and to a certain degree, though I never ever found him unlikable, Nathaniel (Thunder). I think by and large he succeeds here in exploring William's POV re: his relationships with Kelly and Jason, and as always he adds more depth to the character. I'm not sure that he was AS successful in making him more likable as he did with Kelly and Tim, but then perhaps that was not his intention. But, I did came away with a better understanding of William. Rain is the longest of Bell's books so far and while I absolutely fell into it (as with all of his books), I do think it was a bit too long. I enjoyed relieving his and Kelly's relationship from his perspective, as well as the beginning of his and Jason's, but I would have trimmed some of it, particularly the time devoted to the book's two big surprises (without giving away too much, but for those who have read it, one involved Boston, the other Daisy).
It was wonderful to see the old familiar faces, especially Ben and Tim. Seeing them through William's eyes--his downright infatuation with them--was hysterical and I think speaks to how so many of us see Ben and Tim. It was also really great to spend time with Jason and Kelly again, and I did enjoy the new scenes that we got between each of them and William, particularly William and Kelly's parting scene in the car on their way to the wedding. As with all of Bell's books there are plenty of twists and turns and surprises along the way, though as I alluded earlier these were less successful than in prior books. The first (involving Boston) seemed to go too far in keeping our characters connected, but then remarkable coincidences have been a hallmark of these books from the beginning so I guess it shouldn't have been that surprising. It involved my least favorite character in the series however, and did nothing to make me like him or William anymore than I did before. The second surprise (involving Daisy) came out of left field and frankly I thought it was forced and offered too many complications, putting William and Jason in what is essentially a no-win scenario that is still not entirely resolved at the end of the book. It also didn't make a lot of sense at that point in William's character development (and while I'm sure it wasn't yet a twinkle in Jay's eye when he wrote Spring, it really does feel like something Jason should have been more conflicted about at that point in the story.) It added unnecessary conflict to a book that was already very long and overly conflicted. In addition, it did nothing to enhance the story or William's character. In fact I would say that this second surprise is the first subplot that ever temporarily took me out of one of Jay's books, and is almost the sole reason the book gets 4 stars instead of 5.
Don't get me wrong. I very much enjoyed this book and loved returning to this wonderful world Jay has created. His writing and ability to propel a story forward have in no way diminished and as always he writes stories that provoke many different emotions and reactions. However, it was my least favorite in the series so far. For it to have been so long, it left William and Jason's story in limbo and created a situation where it will be impossible for them to remain together unless one of them finally gives and agrees to give up something pretty major (which again, may have been the point). I recommend it if you are a fan of the series but would not start with this one if you've never read any of the previous books.