Audiobook Review: The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells
Series: The Books of the Raksura #2
Publisher: Night Shade Books (January 3, 2012)
Tiara’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Last year, the first book in this series, The Cloud Roads, was easily one of my top reads for 2015. Wells presented a wonderfully creative world with races who fall outside of human norms. This year, I said that I was going to continue this series. I want to finish up the main trilogy as well as the short stories in preparation for the upcoming fourth book in the series, The Edge of Worlds.
Readers are introduced to the Raksura in The Cloud Roads, a shapeshifting race that possess both a draconic form and a groundling form. They are a matriarchal race of people with complex court laws. In this story, we meet Moon, a Raksura who’s spent most of his years living among groundlings after the destruction of his court when he was a young child. Because of Moon’s ignorance of much of the Raksuran mores, following him through this book is perfect. The readers experience the world as Moon experiences it, learning as he learns, which means that nothing feels like filler.
Book 2 picks up almost immediately after The Cloud Roads. After an attack on the colony, the Cloud Indigo court moves back to the place where their lineage started, a mountain-tree nestled in the forest. Upon arriving there, they soon find out that the tree is dying because its heartseed has been stolen. This leads them to seek out the assistance of another Raksuran court. The neighboring court is unable to provide them with another seed. However, they are able to help the colony scry for their missing seed which leads Moon on a dash to retrieve it.
I am still charmed by this story of the Raksura and the world they live in. Wells introduces new and fascinating races such as the waterlings in this installment, continuing this flair that feels fresh and original. Raksuran politics continue to be a complex weave of laws. While in-fighting was common in the last book, in this book, they have to contend with another court, which sheds even more light on how Raksura are expected to behave with one another. Readers learn how tenuous the ties between various courts can be and how the smallest things can be perceived as insults and power plays to force a rival’s hand.
I appreciate that Moon is still learning and still wary, even though he is now the consort to the sister-queen of Cloud Indigo. Readers are allowed to continue this journey with Moon as he shares his uncertainties, triumphs, and losses. There are always new things for him to learn. He doesn’t automatically want to know everything about Raksuran politics. In fact, much of the culture makes him uncomfortable. He concedes that he should be learning things about the court, but he continues to live outside their societal norms for a consort. It doesn’t help that the mentor-like person who brought him to the court is allowed the freedom to do as he pleases due to his age, which Moon is emulating in his own way. Moon becomes very aware of how he differs from other consorts when visiting the neighboring court. Where Moon is quick to protect what is his, he finds that other consorts are little more than arm decoration. Moon has never lived a pampered, spoiled life, and he doesn’t intend to start living one (but he does give a little when it really counts).
Wells also introduced more magic into this world. There are tastes of it in the first book via the mentor-caste in the Raksuran court who can heal, have visions, and perform augury (more like divination/scrying than reading omens due to birds’ flight patterns). In this book, groundling magic is introduced, especially as one character struggles with the fact that he’s no longer a mentor but is starting to exhibit strange powers more like groundling magic. However, the magic in this world is subtle and downplayed, and it never detracts from the Raksura who are the heart of this story.
Chris Kipiniak continues to narrate this series, and I don’t think there’s anything that I can say about his narration that I haven’t said in my review of The Cloud Roads. His characterization of Stone and Moon continues to be two of my favorite voices in the series. I may not be overly impressed with his female voices, but I’ve gotten used to how he voices women.
I enjoyed this book maybe only slightly less than the first. There’s a bigger spot in my heart for the first one. Maybe because of the way it completely enthralled me with this new setting and characters, but this book is a fitting continuation of the story that balances politics, action, and story in the world the Raksura inhabit. A part of me wishes I’d read these books sooner, but another part of me is glad that I started later, as there is plenty more for me to read and I don’t have to anxiously await a next book.