The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

The Cloud Roads

The First Book of the Raksura

The Cloud Roads is an imaginative experience that surely stands out from its fellow fantasy novels. At the heart of the book is the tale of a character trying to find his place in life, but around him is a setting that is profoundly different from anything in the real world. It is a place inhabited by strange humanoids, flying islands, and a nefarious race of flying creatures called the Fell. Most of the inhabitants can fly, some can shapeshift, but the one thing they all have in common is that none of them are normal.

The book stars Moon, a shapeshifter whose family died when he was young. He doesn’t know what kind of creature he is, and he’s never met another member of his own kind. Living with groundlings (people who do not have wings), he tries to fit in, but it never works. Yet his life changes when he meets Stone, a shapeshifter like him. Stone tells Moon what he is, where his people can be found, and about their way of life. This new knowledge begins to spark a kernel of hope in Moon that he might finally find his place in life.

The story is interesting in that it has a slow, steady pace throughout that remains engaging and entertaining. It’s not exactly a page turner in that you can’t put it down, but it’s one of those books you have to come back to. The world Martha Wells creates is pure food for the imagination. This is partly because it is so unlike any other. There are floating islands in the sky, kingdoms on or under the sea, and no familiar land masses or cities. The people come in all colors. Many of them have unique features like tails, tusks, scales, or wings. The one thing there is none of is humans. A lot of the fun in the story is the exploration of this world and its inhabitants. The other half of the fun is Moon’s journey.

The action in the book is centered on the conflict between everyone and the Fell. The Fell are a race of creatures that destroy everything they encounter. Like ancient Rome, they do not invent their own things, but take from others. They come in several different types: dakti, kethel, and rulers. They all have wings and they’re all destructive. If one of their kind dies in combat, they won’t hesitate to consume the corpse. The more powerful Fell can even influence other races’ minds. Through the story, Moon learns that the Fell are threatening his people. If he wants to find his place in the world, he’ll have to fight for it.

I loved the inventiveness of the book and how fresh it was from typical fantasy. There isn’t much that is normal about the story. I also liked how the tone of the story stayed mellow. It wasn’t a dark tale or a lighthearted, happy story. Instead it was somewhere pleasantly in the middle. The characters were fully fleshed out, believable, and realistic in their decision making and actions. Moon’s adventure was also thoroughly enjoyable. Best of all the ending was not a cliffhanger. It was substantial enough that the reader can stop right there. Of course there are two more books in the series, so if the reader wants to continue he journey, the option is available. If you’re tired of elves, dwarves, orcs, and humans, then The Cloud Roads is definitely a fantasy story worth checking out. I give it a superb five out of five metal bikinis.

You can dive deeper into the world of the Raksura via The Three Worlds Compendium which has info on the books as wells as artwork and additional stories.

Reviewed By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

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  1. […] If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to check out, this one is well worth a try. Click here to read our full review of the first book in the series, The Cloud […]

  2. […] further reading, you can check out our reviews of The Cloud Roads and The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells, Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey, and Hounded […]


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