Review: The Cloud Roads, Martha Wells
Moon has spent his life hiding what he is — a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success.
Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself… someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community.
What this stranger doesn’t tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power… that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony’s survival, and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save and himself and his newfound kin.
Series: Books of the Raksura #1 of 3
Genre: High fantasy
Published: Night Shade Books, March 2011
My copy: Library
Moon has spent his life hiding his true nature from those around him. A shifter with two forms, the only other creatures he has encountered like him were the evil Fell, and he knows he’s not one of them. When he is betrayed by one of the groundlings he has been living among, he is rescued by another just like him. Soon he is among the Raksura – his own kind, although he has no idea how to behave around them. He discovers that there are several types of Raksura, and that he is a Consort, a fertile warrior able to provide Queens with a clutch of babies. The Indigo Cloud court is in danger from the Fell, and they must relocate to a safer location. Moon finds himself helping them with their mission and must decide if he fits in enough to join the court, or fly away to solitude once more.
The Cloud Roads is a shifter story, but without all the bothersome were-creature antics. There aren’t even any humans in the Three Worlds – the different races of groundlings are humanoids but differ by their blue, green or other coloured skin and various combinations of spines or claws. The Raksura are interesting creatures as well, with their Matriarchal society ruled by the physically dominant Queens – more like bees than humans.
There are quite a lot of characters both among the Raksura (who all have short, confusable names) and among the other races, some more developed than others. The Raksura warriors and Queens had very enjoyable banter and relationships, although I felt that Pearl and Jade’s differences were solved a little too easily towards the end of the story. Moon himself was quite grumpy – I couldn’t really understand why he was so desperate to get away from the Indigo Cloud court after being on his own for such a long time, but I did feel for him.
All the interesting creatures presented in this world make this story a fascinating read. Places and people are described quite well and I found myself transported to a world of high mountains, floating islands and wooden airships. On the whole this is quite a light read – just the sort of story that transports you to another place and leaves you hoping that the good guys will win. In some ways, I found myself thinking that the story had the potential to be expanded to a much more epic tale if the motivations of the Fell were explored more, and if more than just a couple of nights was spent in each location. The story didn’t feel rushed, I just might have liked to hear a bit more about the floating islands and rotating city – fascinating and imaginative elements that were slightly glossed over.
There is just enough information given through dialogue about the society of the Raksura to get the gist of the way things work and move the story forward at pace. The ending tied ends up nicely, but I still went and requested the next one at my library right away! I’m really looking forward to getting back to the Three Worlds to see what the future holds for Moon and the Indigo Cloud court.
If you’re after a fresh, unique fantasy with plenty of action, put The Cloud Roads on your reading list!
Warnings: Graphic violence, sexual situations (not graphic)
Books of the Raksura
What did others think of The Cloud Roads?
- “A hive-like society, an orphan in search of his people, and a world populated by strange races, none of them human. The Cloud Roads is recognizable fantasy, but with a fresh spin.” – Janicu’s Book Blog
- “The Cloud Roads is a terrific fantasy novel that stands out due to imaginative world-building, accomplished writing and engaging storytelling.” – Fantasy Book Critic
- “Once in a while it’s refreshing to read a book with a clear good side and a well-meaning main character to root for, and The Cloud Roads is one example of a book that both does this concept very well and adds some originality with the world-building.” – Fantasy Cafe