Audiobook Review: The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 4 of The Books of the Raksura
Publisher: Audible Studios (Audiobook: June 15, 2016); Night Shade Books (Hardcover: April 5, 2016)
Length: 16 hrs and 59 mins; 388 pages
Narrator: Christopher Kipiniak
The Edge of Worlds is the fourth novel of Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura. I haven’t actually read any of the previous installments (unless you count the short story collections), so I had some initial concerns about jumping in mid-series despite it being billed as a new adventure. Happily though, this turned out to be a pretty great place to start my Raksura journey, and I would strongly encourage others to try it out as well.
The story begins with a shared nightmare. Moon wakes up from a dream about an attack from the Fell, the enemy of the Raksura, and finds out that everyone else in Indigo Cloud court also experienced the same visions. No one is sure how to interpret what they saw, but they do know that an omen like this cannot be ignored. Soon, their worries are compounded with the arrival of a groundling emissary who tells them that the people of Kish have discovered an ancient sealed city by the sea. Callumkal, the leader of the groundling expedition, intends to find a way into the city and has come to the Raksura asking for help in this endeavor.
The Raksura are torn on how to move forward. There are fears that this ancient city may have been built by the forerunners, distant Raksuran ancestors, and no one could forget that the last sealed forerunner city they encountered was actually a prison for a monstrous creature of evil. In the end though, the Raksura of Indigo Cloud court decide to help the groundlings, splitting themselves up into two groups. One group would remain behind to guard the colony, while the other one would accompany the groundling expedition to investigate the mysterious city.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again; the Raksura are one of the most original fantasy races I’ve ever encountered in fantasy fiction. For those who are unfamiliar with them, taking in the sheer amount of information about Raksuran culture, physiology, and social hierarchy will probably be the most overwhelming aspect should you decided to start the series here. The truth is, the plot of The Edge of Worlds is actually quite simple and straightforward. But the Raksura themselves? Not so much. There are a lot of characters to meet, details to learn. I think I would have struggled more had I not received a crash course about the Raksuran race back when I read volume one of Stories of the Raksura.
Basically, the Raksura are shapeshifters whose physical characteristics remind me of bird-people, but their societies are reminiscent of insect colonies. There’s a queen who rules, and she and her mate called a Consort will produce royal clutches composed of Queens, Consorts, as well as Warriors that are infertile males and females who defend the court. All three of these types are capable of flight, and they are called the Aeriat. Then there are the Arbora, who are Raksura that have no wings but are capable climbers. They are made up of Teachers who oversee the young, Hunters who provide food, Soldiers who guard the colony, and Mentors who are seers with magical abilities.
It’s a bit overwhelming at first, but all the information about Raksuran ways can be picked up on the fly (no pun intended). Wells was clearly writing with new readers in mind, because she provides plenty of information for us to understand what’s happening. Presumably, this book also takes place after the events of the previous novel The Siren Depths, so there’s a lot of recap about what went on in the Raksura’s previous encounter with a sealed forerunner city, along with the history of the Fell.
And speaking of the Raksura’s enemies, I loved the suspenseful build-up to their arrival at the ancient city. Martha Wells fills the expedition’s journey with interesting events, so that even the parts that involved traveling were enjoyable and engaging. As I said, the novel’s plot is actually very simple, but you get an incredibly rich experience nonetheless thanks to the fantastic world-building and smooth pacing.
This was also the first time I got to have quality time with Moon, the series protagonist. I only got to know him briefly from the first anthology, so I really enjoyed seeing him as a more fleshed-out character here, settled into his life at Indigo Cloud. From the short stories, I was able to glean some details of Moon’s past, so I know that he grew up very differently than his fellow Raksura and therefore still has much to learn about the culture of the court, as well as how to be a Consort. His behavior and ways of thinking make him something of a wild card among his peers, and it’s fascinating to see how that affects the social dynamics.
In sum, I can personally attest that The Edge of Worlds is a good starting point for readers new to the world of the Raksura. Taking in all its beauty and wonders may take some time, but it’s worth it. There’s certainly no lack of creativity in this series, making it perfect for fantasy readers looking to escape into a totally original tale and setting.
Audiobook comments: The audio edition of The Edge of Worlds is narrated by Christopher Kipiniak, who also provides his voice for all the other audiobooks in the series. I’ve long heard about his excellent performance on these books, but this is the first I’ve ever listened for myself. He has a very rich and powerful voice, and I think much of the atmosphere I felt from the story was thanks to his superb narration. Some of his voices for female characters sound awkward to me, but I’m still beyond impressed by the huge range of voices he is able to perform. I never had any problems distinguishing who was talking, and considering the large cast of characters in this novel, that’s no small feat.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Wendy’s review of The Cloud Roads (Book 1)
Tiara’s review of The Cloud Roads (Book 1)
Wendy’s review of The Serpent Sea (Book 2)
Wendy’s review of The Edge of Worlds (Book 4)
Mogsy’s review of Stories of the Raksura: Volume One