The Serpent Sea is a wonderful and spellbinding sequel to The Cloud Roads, which was one of the best fantasy books of 2011. It gloriously continues the saga of the shapeshifting Raksura. (Note! The Clouds Roads and The Serpent Sea form a duology, so it's important to read The Cloud Roads before The Serpent Sea.)
In the first book (The Cloud Roads) Moon was banished from his home for being different, because his companions feared him and his ability to shapeshift. He found out that there are other beings like him and he found himself a new home among the Raksura of the Indigo Cloud Court. This was the fascinating start of an excellent fantasy series, which continues to gather more depth in this sequel.
Here's a bit of information about the plot of The Serpent Sea:
- In The Serpent Sea Martha Wells reveals more things about the Three Worlds and its inhabitants. The events take place shortly after the events in The Cloud Roads.
- The Serpent Sea tells how the Raksura arrive at the old colony tree of the Indigo Cloud Court. They notice that somebody has stolen the seed of their colony tree. The seed is important for the Raksura, because it turns a normal tree into a colony tree (without the seed the tree will rot from the inside), so they decide to find the stolen seed.
- There's much at stake in The Serpent Sea, because the future of the ancestral home of the Indigo Cloud Court depends on how well the quest to find the stolen seed succeeds. The quest takes Moon across the Serpent Sea.
That's all I'll write about the plot, because I don't want to write spoilers. I'd like to write more, but I think it's wise not to spoil anybody's reading pleasure by too many revelations.
I like the Raksura characters very much. Martha Wells has created complex and intriguing characters, which keep on evolving in this book. It's actually amazing how easily and enchantingly Martha Wells writes about her characters. The character development is exquisite, because Martha Wells brings lots of depth to her characters with carefully chosen words and phrases, which reveal how the characters feel and what's happening to them (she brings her characters to life and deepens them fluently). Martha Wells' characters aren't stereotypical fantasy characters, because they're totally realistic and believable characters. Because the characters are realistic, it's easy to care about them and their fate.
In the first book, Moon was a lonely hero, but now he has gradually begun to accept his new place within the court as a consort to Jade, who is a sister queen of the Indigo Cloud Court, but he still has some problems with certain things (he thinks about what being a consort means to him etc). It's wonderful to follow Moon's character development in this book, because he's an interesting character and it's easy to identify with him. His place as an outsider in the court adds nice tension and depth to this book and his relationship with Jade is interesting.
The Raksura are an interesting and exotic species, because an individual's place in the society is determined by his/her biological abilities (readers, who aren't familiar with the first book, don't probably know much about the Raksura, so I think it's good to mention that they're able to change their appearance and have two different forms). This biological approach to social things reminds me a bit of insect world, because certain insects act in a similar way (for example, bees have various types of communities and colonies). I think it's great that the author has been able to create these charming shapeshifting creatures, because they're unique inventions.
Although the Raksura are nothing like humans, they're amazingly humane and complex beings. They can be fully compared to human beings, because they have their own feelings, traditions and laws (I think that all the readers will be able to care about the Raksura and want to know what happens to them, because they're fascinating beings). Their exotic culture differs greatly from human cultures and that's one of the reasons why I love this book so much: it's interesting to read more about their social behaviour and how things are handled within the Raksura court.
In my opinion there's an amazing amount of richness, style and depth in this sequel. The first book was a rich fantasy book, but this book is even richer, because more things are revealed to the reader. The richness of this book comes from wonderfully and vividly created characters and fine world-building. This book is full of small details, which are revealed bit by bit as the story goes on. I loved this kind of storytelling in The Cloud Roads, but I love it even more in this book, because I'm familiar with the characters and the strange world. I'm sure that other readers will also notice that the storytelling feels more powerful now than before.
The world-building works perfectly in this book. Three Worlds is a vast place and there are several different intelligent species. Now the readers will get to know more about this world and its different locations. It was interesting to read the ancestral home of the Raksura and the quest across the sea, because the descriptions of the different landscapes and vistas were beautiful. The ancestral home was quite a sight to behold, because the author described it beautifully.
The story is exciting and the plot moves fast forward, which is nice, because there aren't any dull moments. The Serpent Sea differs nicely from The Cloud Roads in terms of plot and world-building, because there's more action, character development and world-building. That's why I think it's fair to say that The Serpent Sea is a perfect sequel in every possible way. It's also good to mention the writing is as good and nuanced as in the first book, so readers who have read the first book will feel instantly familiar with the writing style.
The Serpent Sea can be read as an entertaining fantasy adventure, but if you analyze its content closely, you'll notice that it's actually much more than simple entertainment. To be short, it's a story about survival. It's also a story about saving a home from a bad disaster.
Here's a few words about the cover art and the appendixes:
- I have to mention that I love Steve Argyle's astonishing cover art. His painting looks amazing, because the vivid colour tones are perfect and the flying Raksura look stunningly beautiful.
- It's nice that there are three short appendixes at the end of the book. These appendixes may be useful to the reader, because they contain information about the Raksura and their enemies (the Fell) etc.
Some readers may probably wonder if this book is truly as good as I say it is, because I've praised it a lot (I think I've probably praised it a bit too much, but in my opinion it deserves to be praised). I can say to these readers that there's nothing artificial about The Serpent Sea, because everything is totally believable and several things are explained in an interesting and entertaining way. I can also add that this book truly is an amazing achievement and worth praising, because it isn't often that you get to read this kind of highly imaginative and original adult fantasy.
I think that Martha Wells should be applauded for writing the Books of the Raksura series, because it's one of the most imaginative and gorgeuosly written fantasy series available at this moment. She is a rare fantasy author, because she always writes fresh and unconventional fantasy. No matter what she writes about, she writes quality fantasy and avoids clichés. If you've never read anything by Martha Wells, you should start reading her books as soon as possible, because she is one of the best fantasy authors (when you've read a couple of her books, you'll wonder why you haven't read them before). This series is a good starting point, because it features an exotic world and fascinating characters, so do yourself a favour and buy both books.
The Serpent Sea is a beautifully written fantasy book for adults. It's without a doubt one of the best and most satisfying fantasy novels of the year. It's perfect entertainment for fantasy readers, because Martha Wells uses all her writing skills to create a memorable story. She has created a fascinating story and captivating characters, which will keep the reader glued to the book. She combines almost seductively different elements from sublime character development to excellent world-building and makes sure that the reader is hopelessly hooked and can only keep on reading until he/she has reached the final page. (I have to admit that I can hardly wait to read the third Raksura book, because this series is simply amazing. I'm sure that Martha Wells has plenty of surprises and revelations in store for her readers.)