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The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura) Formato Kindle
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Wells did a fantastic job with the world-building in this book. Where most fantasy consists of humans as the dominant race of the world, the world contained within these pages has no humans. It has ground-dwelling races with a humanoid forms, but none of them are what we would call human. Each race is new, different, each with its own distinct culture and features. There are a good many races that aren’t even close to being humanoid and yet bear just as much intelligence and creativity. I want to give serious kudos to Wells for not falling into the trap of making, for example, the race of giant insectoid people as a barbaric and primative culture. Neither were the Raksura presented as the pinacle of society. They were one race among many, as were all races, and it was a treat to see this set-up done so well.
Moon was a good choice for a blank-slate protagonist, the kind who is unaware of his past and people. This gave the author a good way to explain Raksuran culture and physiology to the reader without having to make most of it part of the narrative. More than that, the information was presented naturally, subtly in places but more straightforward in others, and it worked very well. I’m a bit leery of blank-slate protagonists, as very often they’re little but an excuse for the author to wax eloquent about their newest cultural creation. But in the context of the novels, info-dropping was done well. It wasn’t only that the Raksura had to explain themselves to Moon, but Moon conveyed information to them about the groundling races they were ignorant of. The info-dropping went both ways, and never was it disruptive to the flow of the story.
So Wells clearly excels at world-building, culture-building, and has a fantastic ability to convey and alien world in such a way that the reader will not only find it entertaining but will also be hard-pressed not to relate in some way. But no book is perfect, and the biggest flaw I found in this one was the foreshadowing, particularly in the connection between the Raksura and the Fell. I won't say much here to avoid spoilers, though.
Though it may seem like a relatively minor flaw, the poison was a major plot element in the novel. The fact that the Fell were trying to join with the Raksura was a big thing, as were theories that they might be able to cross-breed. Moon is presented as a sharp-minded individual who is inclined to think and say things that others wouldn’t; for him to not have even mentioned a possible connection seemed like a poor set-up for that revelation. It bothered me, and that frustration is what made this book sink from a 5-star review to a 4.
But in spite of that, I can still say with utter certainty that this is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time, and Martha Wells has found herself a new fan. I’m eyeing my copy of the sequel as we speak, wondering if I can manage to fit it into my reading schedule, because I don’t want to leave that world behind that the moment. If you’re looking for a richly-developped fantasy novel that’s still also a nice light read, then absolutely get yourself a copy of this book. You won’t be disappointed.
I have decided to do three. While the whole series is one long story, each novel stands on its own, too, and I feel it's only fair to review them individually.
So, the Cloud Roads. I saw an ad for this particular book on another site and liked the cover, so I decided to check it out on Amazon. The first thing that attracted me to it was the fact that it didn't take place on earth and that there were no humans. There are groundlings. But there's no race called 'man' or 'hume' or any other permutation of the word, and there is no one race that has essentially become dominant, as I find so many fantasy books featuring humans have. Groudlings are simply ground-bound sentient beings, and there are many, many races of them that the main character, Moon, encounters on his travels.
In any case, when I discovered that the main character was not human, I thought I'd give the book a try. The price was high, which caused me to hesitate and read the reviews before I purchased.
I mention the reviews, because I urge people to follow the five-star ratings if you're thinking about buying. There are a few reviews that state that the world is flat, and one even states that the book is more like an outline than a finished story. The people who are stating this want more elaboration on every little thing, where no elaboration is needed. I don't need to know the life history of the animals Moon is killing to eat, nor do I need to know all the customs of the groundlings with which he is staying. In fact, I applaud the way that the author doesn't stop every five pages to describe something completely unnecessary, like so many younger authors tend to do. I like to see a world built around me, and this book has it. What I don't like to see is Eragon-esque prattling on for 20 pages as the author describes something as insignificant as a footprint.
The setting is brilliant, and tells me enough throughout the book that makes me want to know more about the world in which these characters live. It's expansive. Huge. So large that one species might go their entire lives without knowing another species on the other side of the world exists. That's the sense I get anyway. It is revealed in little snippets that make this world seem extremely old. Ruins abondoned years ago are now reoccupied by entirely different races, who know nothing of the people who built them. Floating cities glide through the skies, their buildings long-empty. A mystery. In subsequent books, more is revealed about the world, but in The Cloud Roads, most of it is still unknown.
The story isn't totally unique. A loner, Moon, is trying to discover who he is. He knows no other of his kind, and for a while, I thought this was going to be a situation where Moon really was the last. I was pleasantly surprised when that wasn't the case. He is a Raksura, a race of winged shapeshifters with a very strict social structure. None of the members of the Raksura look down on the other castes, but instead, each work closely together to maintain harmony and productivity. They have Rules (with a capital R) that all members tend to adhere to... Except for Moon, who can't remember his early youth within a colony.
And, The Cloud Roads isn't just about Moon finding his place, but about his new colony, Indigo Cloud, finding their new place as well. The ruins in which they are staying has been plagued by illness, death, and low birth rate for years, and they need to move. The story focuses not only on the move, but on the reason for the problems they've been having. While I'm normally not shy about putting spoilers in reviews, I am refraining here because the book is just so good that I really hope everyone reads it.
Moon's character development is somewhat stagnant through most of the book. He hesitates to change, because he's been rejected for so long. He looks like a creature called a Fell. Fell like to prey on groundlings and steal what they have to survive, and if people see Moon in his true form, they tend to think he's going to kill them. Though he's been living amoung groundlings for years (and has, indeed, given up his search for anything greater at the start of the novel) he doesn't form attachments. Through much of The Cloud Roads, he doesn't allow himself to consider himself a Raksura, or part of the colony. The other Raksura must learn to accept him as he is, and in that way, they, too, are able to grow.
The book left me wanting more at the end. Not in a bad way... All the story points were wrapped up somehow in the book. But I wanted to know more, which is exactly what a good author should do. Read this book. You won't regret it.
Well, there's absolutely nothing amateurish about this novel. I had never heard of Martha Wells, but she's actually a Nebula nominated author with several published books out there (including a well-regarded fantasy series). And, it shows.
This book is really fast-paced, with a lot of action scenes and solid dialogue. In fact, I couldn't put this book down! Literally. I sat up reading until about 2 a.m., and honestly I didn't even notice the time flying by--which, I think, is the very highest compliment any reader can pay an author.
Additionally, the novel has very original creatures and a likeable main character, and a truly cool world concept. The characters themselves are very well-fleshed out, and the society/world appeared pretty detailed and thought out to me.
Frankly, this is hands down the best freebie fantasy I've read, and easily out-shined the works of quite a few of the famous SciFi/Fantasy writers I've been reading lately. it was good enough where I went right ahead and purchased a few of her works after I'd finished reading this one. [A side note to the authors/publishers out there: See? Offering me an awesome free book will lead me to purchase the author's other books... So, please offer more freebies :)!!]
Can't wait for the sequel, and would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for some adventure.
The characters are not human, and the world is completely alien,but Wells writing makes it easy to step not only into the Three Worlds but into the character, culture and concerns so that we, for all-too-short a time, can live in that other reality.
If you've read her other books you have an idea what to expect. If not, this is a good book to start with. In either case, if you are reading this book for the first time I would envy you the experience except that every time I have read the series has been.... Huh. So much for my inflated vocabulary. Give it a try. You'll understand :-)
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