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The Rain Heron

A Novel

Robbie Arnott


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A gripping novel of myth, environment, adventure, and an unlikely friendship, from an award-winning Australian author

Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup d'état. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting, farming, trading, and forgetting the contours of what was once a normal life. But her quiet stability is disrupted when an army unit, led by a young female soldier, comes to the mountains on government orders in search of a legendary creature called the rain heron—a mythical, dangerous, form-shifting bird with the ability to change the weather. Ren insists that the bird is simply a story, yet the soldier will not be deterred, forcing them both into a gruelling quest.

Spellbinding and immersive, Robbie Arnott’s The Rain Heron is an astounding, mythical exploration of human resilience, female friendship, and humankind’s precarious relationship to nature. As Ren and the soldier hunt for the heron, a bond between them forms, and the painful details of Ren’s former life emerge—a life punctuated by loss, trauma, and a second, equally magical and dangerous creature. Slowly, Ren's and the soldier’s lives entwine, unravel, and ultimately erupt in a masterfully crafted ending in which both women are forced to confront their biggest fears—and regrets.

Robbie Arnott, one of Australia’s most acclaimed young novelists, sews magic into reality with a steady, confident hand. Bubbling with rare imagination and ambition, The Rain Heron is an emotionally charged and dazzling novel, one that asks timely yet eternal questions about environment, friendship, nationality, and the myths that bind us.

Praise For The Rain Heron: A Novel

“In this lush and harrowing novel, Ren joins Harker, a soldier, in her search for the mythic rain heron and both are forever changed by the quest. Robbie Arnott chronicles their voyage through a harsh and wondrous landscape in gorgeous, lyric prose, while his plot moves with the swift elegance of an expertly-crafted page-turner. The Rain Heron is a potent fable that speaks urgently to our present times.” --Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold A Wolf by the Ears

“Astonishing...With the intensity of a perfect balance between the mythic and the real, The Rain Heron keeps turning and twisting, taking you to unexpected places. A deeply emotional and satisfying read. Beautifully written." --Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne

"The Rain Heron is a patient and rooted fable told as naturally as a tree grows. With timeless and captivating prose, Robbie Arnott has a talent for making it look easy. I was transfixed." --Catherine Lacey, author of Pew

"The Rain Heron is fantastic. The ripping pace of a thriller combined with the emotional complexity of a Shakespearian tragedy, delivered in diamond-sharp prose. It pulls you into a world of myths come to life, where environmental destruction collides with socio-political decay, and you can't help but feel for all the characters as they navigate through the wreckage. Highly recommended." --Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors

"A quietly unsettling fable . . . Arnott writes vibrantly about the harsh wonder of nature, his vivid characters becoming almost animal themselves." --Ben East, The Observer (London)

"An evocative and poetic ecological myth set in a post-war world of climate disaster . . . mesmerising and beautifully written . . . Each narrative thread could stand as a shocking, beautiful and moral short story in its own right, but Robbie Arnott weaves them seamlessly together into a satisfying whole." --Kirsty McLuckie, The Scotsman

"The Rain Heron is literary art. Robbie Arnott has deftly crafted an audacious idea into an original, compelling work…Arnott blends his genres impeccably. Nothing is overdone or superfluous…When the northerner, the seeker of squid ink, views a painting of the ocean, he is entranced by the quality and depth of its brightness and texture. It is “an artwork laced with ink”, a perfect metaphor for this luminous tale." --The Australian

"Arnott’s vision coalesces into an affecting narrative, charged with symbolism and characters who hold trauma, pain and cruelty in the same space… Arnott is uncommonly adept at imbuing his work with a rich, lived-in feel, a world close to our own, filled with parallel myths and coinciding calamities. And as he did in Flames, Arnott reminds us he is one of the best prose stylists currently working in Australia…His is a lyrical, natural style that combines the expansiveness of a fable with fully realised detail. Arnott’s sentences are truly a pleasure to read and the characters finely studied." --The Saturday Paper (Australia)

"Arnott weaves a narrative that feels both timely and timelessly engaging. A powerful meditation on human greed and frailty, The Rain Heron also leaves room for redemption. This bracing follow-up to Flames will reinforce Arnott’s reputation for unusual, risk-taking literary fiction." --Laura Elizabeth Woollett, Australian Book Review

"A searing exploration of the entanglement of internal and external nature, and the human mind’s unconscious pull towards dominating [nature]…Arnott is brilliant at writing the natural world." --Kill Your Darlings (Australia)

"Robbie Arnott’s writing is as refreshing as a wash of rain; no-one is producing fiction quite like him . . . The Rain Heron reads like a fable, exquisite and melancholy, and Arnott’s love of landscape and nature is the most striking aspect of the novel . . . The Rain Heron is a climate novel disguised as a folk tale. Arnott should be commended for this rare skill of blending what feels like timeless mythology with a dire warning for our future." --Georgia Brough, ArtsHub (Australia)

"A strange and curious book…The craft is extraordinary." --The Bookshelf, Radio National (Australia)

"A story of survival, an ecological thriller weighted with a mythological perspective, and a dystopian adventure…This is a novel that beautifully captures people at war with themselves, with each other, with nature—and it’s a taut, tense thriller at the same time…It is the perfect book to read now. It brings us closer and it steadies the world just a little."--Readings (Australia)

FSG Originals, 9780374539306, 288pp.

Publication Date: February 9, 2021

About the Author

Robbie Arnott is the author of the novel Flames, which won the Margaret Scott Prize, was short-listed for the Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Fiction, the Guardian Not the Booker Prize, and the Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, and was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. In 2019, he was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist. He lives in Tasmania.