The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells
Series: The Books of the Raksura #1
Published by NIght Shade Books on March 1, 2011
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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.
I don’t have a lot of experience with Martha Wells – one short story (of the Raksura) and that’s about it. So, I had no real expectations as to how I would enjoy this book.
And I did. By the end of the book, I found The Cloud Roads very, very interesting indeed. The first 100 pages or so didn’t go as smoothly as I’d liked and I found Moon to be shy, skittish, aloof, moody and TSTL.
Yes. I said it. Moon behaves much in the way a TSTL Romance heroine. He had a constant monologue running in his head “Should I stay? Should I go? Should I try? Should I not?” It’s all quite frustrating for a reader who hates TSTL heroines (and now add heroes to that list). I sympathized with Moon – he’s had a hard and lonely life. Moon’s entire family was killed, he doesn’t know what he is (let alone who he is) and most of the time he gets kicked out of whatever settlement he’s living in just when he feels like he’s found a place of his own.
All of that must play havoc on the soul (and the attitude), so I gave Moon some leeway. But still…
The Cloud Roads has a very slow start and build up. I was over 100 pages before I started to feel…compelled to read. Sadly, up to that point I was rather bored of it all (but determined to finish). Once I got over that slow hump, I was pretty much hooked, however. I love the way Wells switched gendered politics. I love that the Raksura are ruled by Queens and that the Consorts are… “high-strung and shy with delicate sensibilities.”
“You were expecting a consort from Star Aster,” he said, “a sheltered, spoiled consort with a perfect bloodline. Are you asking me to believe that it wasn’t a shock when Stone showed up with me?”
“I’ve known Stone all my life. I’m not surprised at anything he shows up with. You can’t have come from the bad bloodline; you’re strong, healthy, and your conformation is perfect.” Jade lifted her brows. “And you’re high-strung, shy, and have the same delicate sensibilities of every gently bred and sheltered consort I’ve ever met.”
I think the biggest issue I had with The Cloud Roads is…the lack of emotion and relationship building. I didn’t really see Moon develop a relationship with Jade or almost anyone besides Stone and Chime (and maybe Flower). So it was difficult to understand why Jade was so interested in him (outside of him being the only consort around, that is).
As much as I think Moon is a bit TSTL, he has an incredibly generous soul. He wants to help people and would probably give up the shirt on his back to someone in need. He’s the type of guy you want in your corner when the shit hits the fan.
Even Especially in a crisis, Moon has your back. Even though he felt like an unwanted outsider, Moon was ready and willing to fight on behalf of Indigo Cloud with no questions asked. Loved that about Moon.
I did like the other members of Indigo Cloud – what little I got to know of them, that is. Most of the characters are lightly sketched in but this does NOT feel like the characters are poorly done, more like the reader is limited to what Moon knows and Moon is shy and moody.
I never truly understood or liked Pearl and I hated the way she treated Moon. I still am not sure why she was so nasty to him to begin with – jealously doesn’t seem to apply.
Moon was terrified of not fitting into the court, so afraid that he was willing to let Pearl force him out, when instinct said to fight to stay.
By the end of The Cloud Roads, I firmly believed that Moon is TSTL (OMG, I wanted to choke him at the end when he pulled one of my most hated TSTL heroine moves. Slowly. Choke.) but I wanted to just hug his stupid neck. I was also totally in love with the kiddies and starting to warm up to Jade (who has my favorite quote in the book).
[Redacted] grinned at Jade, her jaw distended to show a startling array of teeth. “Come now, we’re kin. We should be friends.”
Jade grinned back. “I’m going to rip your womb out and eat it.” Then she launched herself at [redacted]’s throat.
I [still have] a few questions: I’m not quite sure about the Abrora – do they shift (as well) but without wings? And if they are fertile, why are they bothered about queens and consorts? And can only consorts mate with queens or is it that only consorts and queens make royal clutches?
Even with those questions, I totally plan to finish up this series. The world building is fascinating; the characters are layered and I enjoyed the writing (once Wells decided to get moving). I do recommend this book with the caution that it will be a slow start.