The Books of the Raksura
By Martha Wells
The Cloud Roads
The Serpent Sea
The Siren Depths
Please, please, let there be more coming soon!
So I started reading The Cloud Roads on the recommendation of an online friend and thought it was decent but not fabulous. My ambivalence was mostly due to the fact that most of what should have been unique about the world building, I’d seen before in either George Lucas’ Star Wars or in Bujold’s Sharing Knife series. The characters seemed a trifle flat, although nothing out of the ordinary when the focus is on world building. The plot and character interactions were still fun, and I enjoyed it enough to check out the second book.
Half way through the second book, I put a request in at my library for book three. Then I finished book two, which ended perfectly satisfyingly with no cliff-hanger in sight, and yet I still desperately wanted to see more of these characters and this world, both (all?) of which had finally come into their own.
And then the third book was just as awesome as expected. Awesome!
And now I want more, more, more!
Anyway: the world Wells created is a complex one with an unknown number of sentient species all living in their own communities and groups, but also very much interacting. The bar in Star Wars, where Luke and Kenobi meet Han Solo would not be out of place in one of this world’s cities.
Our main character, Moon, is introduced while living with yet another group of people, trying to fit in with a species not his own. The trouble is that Moon doesn’t know what species he is. He lived with only his mother and siblings before he was able to care for himself, and they all died when he was still quite young.
In The Cloud Roads, the first book, Moon discovers his own people. Or rather, he is discovered by his own people. In The Serpent Sea, Moon settles in and finds his place among his own kind. And in The Siren Depths the comfort that he has found is challenged.
One of the things that particularly impresses me with Wells is the way she introducing the reader to a person and a culture who are decidedly not human and yet are completely sympathetic. Each book adds more layers of complexity and subtlety over the cultures and individuals, making them increasingly enthralling. I also love the way Wells plays with gender roles and how societal expectations vary from society to society and how even societies with established hierarchies always have to deal with a few exceptions. And Moon, as both our main character and an outsider to all societies, gives the reader a wonderfully bemused perspective on it all.
If you want a taste of these books, the first chapter of each book is available online. In addition, Wells has posted a short story, The Forest Boy, which shows Moon as a kid, before the start of the books. (She also has other short stories and missing scenes posted, but the others should wait until you’ve caught up to those events in the books.)
Overall, they’re just kind of adorable books with wonderfully nuanced takes on some standard tropes. And I really hope there’s more soon.