Backlist Burndown: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
As book bloggers, sometimes we get so caught up reading review titles and new releases that we end up missing out on a lot previously published books. As a result, one of my goals this year is to take more time to catch up with my backlist, especially in my personal reading pile. And it seems I’m not the only one. Backlist Burndown is a new meme started by Lisa of Tenacious Reader. Every last Friday of the month, she’ll be posting a review of a backlist book and is inviting anyone interested to do the same. Of course, you can also review backlist books any day you want, as often you want, but be sure to watch for her post at the end of the month to link up!
This month, I’m reviewing…
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Books of the Raksura
Publisher: Night Shade Books (March 1, 2011)
Length: 300 pages
Finally making good on my promise to go back and read The Books for the Raksura from the beginning, I decided to pick up The Cloud Roads with the SF/F Read-Along group. Up until this point, I had only read one volume of the Raksura short stories as well as The Edge of Worlds which is formally the fourth book of the sequence but can also be read as a jumping-off point for a new era of the series. As such, I started The Cloud Roads with the advantage of being already familiar with the characters and the world, but being able to go back and read the first book to see how everything started was a great experience nonetheless.
Here we are first introduced to Moon, an orphaned shapeshifter with no idea who he is or what he is. Long ago he had tried looking for others like him, but gave up after years of no luck. Since then he has been living among the terrestrial races in their villages, disguised in his groundling form to look like them. However, one day he slips up and inadvertently exposes his flying form to a village girl, who mistakes him for a member of one of the malicious enemy races called Fell. The groundlings incapacitate Moon and eject him from their community, but that very night he is rescued by another winged creature that looks like him, a creature who is also a shapeshifter with both flight and groundling forms. And thus, Moon soon learns he is a Raksura and begins his journey of discovery to find out where he really comes from.
Any hopes Moon has of finding a new home are soon dashed though, when he is met with hostility among the other Raksura. His rescuer is part of a court named Indigo Cloud, a colony which has been suffering a lot of hardships as of late, including having no breeding pairs and having their existing clutches and young dying. This has made them especially suspicious of strangers, especially a lone Raksura like Moon. Raksura are gregarious creatures by nature and thrive in large social groups, so a finding an individual living in solitary in the wild usually means bad news. However, Moon happens to be a Consort, a special type of fertile male Raksura able to provide a Queen with new clutches, and that means things are more complicated than they appear.
The first thing that struck me was how different Moon was from the later version of Moon I had gotten to know from The Edge of Worlds. This Moon here was younger and less experienced of course, but his attitude was also so much more cynical and aloof. For someone who knows he doesn’t belong anywhere and yet still yearns for being a part of a community, this makes sense. His nomadic lifestyle of moving from one groundling village to another is a temporary solution, one that I think he is aware of, but since there are no better options for the time being Moon has no choice but just to accept this reality. It’s a very lonely existence, one that would make even a young Raskura feel world-weary and pessimistic.
Moon’s introduction to Indigo Cloud court was also an interesting process. I had known that he was an outsider and that he didn’t grow up with the colony, but the extent of Indigo Cloud’s initial hostility towards him in this book was a surprise to me. Also, Raksuran culture and politics are complicated, but because Moon was completely new to all of it, his gradual exposure to the court also allowed the reader to learn everything along with him. Not going to lie; navigating the strange and wonderful world of the Raksura can be a little daunting, given the massive amount of information to take in, but Wells does a phenomenal job presenting her unique setting and characters without completely overwhelming her readers. Furthermore, it’s always a challenge when a book’s main characters are predominantly or a hundred percent non-human, but in spite of the Raksuran’s “otherness” I still found them easy to relate to because of their very human emotions.
As an introduction to the world of the Raksura, I have to say The Cloud Roads was as tantalizing and eye-opening as I had thought it would be, though given this is Martha Wells I would have expected nothing less. I’ve always been curious about the circumstances behind Moon’s arrival at Indigo Cloud court, and I’m glad I finally got the chance to read the full story. This book sets the stage nicely for a lot more to come, and I’m looking forward to continuing with the next book.
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 The Edge of Worlds (Book 4)
Mogsy’s review of Stories of the Raksura: Volume One