Review: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells (The Books of the Raksura #1)


My experience with Martha Wells until now hasn’t been the most positive. I have only read The Wizard Hunters, which I found aggressively boring. But after much prodding, I decided to give her books another chance. And luckily, The Cloud Roads was a hit! I couldn’t stop reading. Unique worldbuilding, a broken cinnamon roll of a protagonist, found families…I would have never in a million years called it boring.

Moon is a shapeshifter. He doesn’t know what he is and has long since given up on finding his people, but has learned to hide and live among ground-dwelling species. He’s lonely and hungry for companionship. After being run from yet another settlement because someone saw his other, winged form, he finally discovers another like himself.

Okay, it’s probably obvious by now that I love, love, love broken protagonists, especially the kind who never give up and try their best regardless. The trope is my catnip. Cazaril from The Curse of Chalion, Miles from Witchmark, Maia from The Goblin Emperor…and Moon is much the same. Having to constantly hide what he is and being chased away from so many groundling communities made him anxious, high-strung, and a little paranoid. He lost any hope that he’ll ever find a place he’d belong long ago and when he’s finally faced with one that wants him, he struggles. As someone who spent a long time being an outsider, I could relate to a lot of it – from the sheer desperation for any sort of companionship no matter how shitty and conditional, to the fear and anxiety when you finally do find a group.

The worldbuilding is interesting too. It’s set in a world without humans, but a lot of various sentient species. The Raksura and their social structure were especially interesting (very insect-like in some ways! Plus, matriarchy).  Pretty much the only thing that bothered me was somthing common to a lot of fantasy books – having one race or species (the Fell) that’s evil across the board, no exceptions. The more I read, the more the trope annoys me, and in general “you’re born that way and you can’t change it” has some…rather unfortunate implications. Since being born for a certain role is common to the Raksura as well, I hope the concept is going to be explored further, with more nuance and depth in the sequels.

Definitely a series worth continuing.

Enjoyment: 4/5
Execution: 4/5

Recommended to: fellow suckers for broken cinnamon rolls
Not recommended to: those who don’t like it when entire species are evil