- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Night Shade Books; 1 edition (3 Jan. 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1597803324
- ISBN-13: 978-1597803328
- Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.2 x 22.2 cm
- Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,995 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Serpent Sea (The Books of the Raksura) Paperback – 3 Jan 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
Moon, now a somewhat established member of the Indigo Cloud Court, faces new challenges together with his fellow Raksura - their new home is dying. To save it he and several allies and not-allies must venture yet further into the unknown, to find thieves of a species they've never met before. Will they make it back in time; and will Moon survive the trip, or get backstabbed by one of his fellow Indigo Cloud Raksura?
Basically, it's like the first book, only even better! The author introduces all characters from the first book with just enough reminders to jog your memory without being too on the nose, and then a new adventure starts. In other words, exactly what a good sequel should be. The world continues to be well thought out and fascinating, and all new elements that are introduced make sense in the context of this particular world. I loved getting a closer look at Raksura culture and getting to know yet more about the other inhabitants of the Three Worlds!
Don't think I can wait for the library to get the 3rd and 4th book - I'll go buy them tomorrow and get all the short stories in ebook form, because I am hooked!
This is a great book, but it does not have the satisfying conclusion of a final book in a finite series, neither the temporary conclusion of a book in an unending series.
There is apparently a third book in the works, making this a middle book in a trilogy. Unfortunately it hasn't been sold yet, so there is no guarantee that the 'real' ending will ever be available.
The story arch is not as strong as the fall of ile-rien trilogy.
Great worldbuilding. Fantastic characterisation
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.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Because the Books of the Raksura contain some of the most original, exotic, and beautiful fantasy worldbuilding I've ever seen. Those of you who complain that there's nothing new in fantasy, read these. Here is plausible ecology and biology mingled with magic in a way that feels almost science fictional. Here are created, magical races drawn with believable complexity -- none of that essentialist "always chaotic evil" crap we're so used to seeing in fantasy, and plenty of diversity and history and mystery. That the Raksura resemble shapeshifting dragons is irrelevant; they're people, human without being human, and Wells does a marvelous job of treating these people as well-rounded and flawed characters whose struggles you can't help but care about.
In this outing, Moon -- recently and uneasily accepted into the Indigo Cloud court -- travels with the group to their ancestral home, where they mean to make a new start after nearly being destroyed by the Fell in the last book. They find a paradise of giant mountain-trees and forests that stretch for miles, waterfalls and plentiful game, and unearthly beauty. However, the seed which keeps their mountain-tree alive has been stolen, and Moon -- as the member of the group with the most experience at dealing with other races -- must help his new tribe track it down before the tree dies.
If there's any critique I have for these books, it's that the characters are sometimes sketched a little thinly -- but given how much time and attention has been given to the setting, I'm not sure that's really a flaw. My sense is that some of the thinness I feel is actually Wells trying to convey that the characters really aren't human. For example, Pearl's behavior frequently makes no sense (the other characters comment on it) until you realize that this is how queens are supposed to act; it's one of the ways they maintain dominance over others. The only reason we don't understand it is because Moon, a stranger to his own people, doesn't understand it. As he gains understanding, it all fits together.
Spoiler: I especially liked those chapters wherein Moon and Jade visit the Emerald Twilight court, and Moon must find a way to master consort etiquette -- when a just few months before he didn't even know the name of his own species. I also loved that we get to know more about characters who intrigued me in the first book: Flower the acerbic and grandmotherly mentor, Stone -- snarkier than ever in this outing -- and Moon himself. I love that we get to see a "real" solitary, and gain more understanding of why the Raksura are so suspicious of them. And holy crap, Jade. I love watching her play diplomat and maneuver her way through various politically-delicate scenarios, but there's a chapter near the end of the book in which she basically cries havoc and lets slip the claws of war, and it's beautifully bloody. I've always loved the treatment of gender in this series: women who are stronger than men and the men who love them for it; gender roles that are neither stereotypical nor simple reversals. All Raksura are formidable, but it's made very clear in this book that the role of a queen is to be the baddest mf on the planet. I see now why Moon loves her.
So read this book. And go tell your friends to read it, because I want it to sell well so we can get a third visit to the Three Realms.
If you haven't yet read The Cloud Roads, I'd recommend starting there. You'll be missing a lot of the fun if you don't know the backstory as you begin this book. There are clues and reminders of past history, so I think it's probably possible to start here, but I don't know why'd you'd deprive yourself to do so.
In this book, I enjoyed seeing Moon develop his relationship with Jade and the others of Indigo Cloud. I loved the new locations they visited, especially the Indigo Court old home location and the new city. (Trying to avoid spoilers here.) I enjoyed the humor, which isn't "jokes" and usually not even witty banter, but humor that groups naturally out of the interaction between characters.
I'm usually not a big visual imagery person, but I'd love to see this series made into a movie.
The plot is a well-executed quest story to save the beautifully-described ancestral home. Moon and Jade and a handful of other people end up on an adventure to a really weird city. Moon is useful to the group, which makes him feel like he might actually get to stay. He still feels threatened and edgy, but Jade is pretty clear about her feelings for him.
I thought the resolution was nice, in that there's no drastic cliffhanger, but you would like to know how act three is going to go. My one complaint is that I would like to know more about what's going on in Stone's head. I find him pretty interesting, and he was obviously thinking a bunch of stuff, but I don't know what it was.
Read if: You are a fan of the first book, or Wells' ongoing exploration of what it means to be part of a community. You love worldbuilding that has many very different cultures. You'd like to see Moon's relationship with Jade evolve.
Skip if: You haven't yet read the first book, or you don't like people floundering to find out who they are.
In the Cloud Roads, drifter & shape shifter & loner-not-by-choice Moon is reunited with his species/people The Raksura, even if the Indigo Cloud Court were not his home court (who he thinks were all murdered when he was very young). He learns that he is a Consort of his species, destined to be the mate of a Queen. Jade, sister queen of Indigo Court, woos and wins him despite his trust issues. The Indigo Cloud Court has been apparently cursed with mysterious deaths & declining numbers and a strong faction including Jade want the colony to return to its roots in the Western Reaches. Moon is instrumental in making that happen, playing a particularly significant role in the rescue of members of his new colony who were kidnapped by the dreaded Fell/Raksura hybrid queen and her minions. The Cloud Roads ends with the entire Court's successful return to their original home place, a huge tree in the Western Reaches.
In the Serpent Sea, Moon becomes part of the investigative team sent out to replace/find the missing heart stone/seed/nut of the home tree that is dying. He is still insecure about his place in the colony and his relationship with Jade and he is painfully aware that he doesn't react or behave the way a proper Queen's consort is supposed to react or behave. But Moon's seeming mis-steps give the investigative team & the Court the advantage in eventually achieving its aims.
What I really like about Martha Wells writing in general and The Raksura series in particular is her sheer imaginative world-building genius. I've been reading fantasy for more than 5 decades now and it was so overwelmingly refreshing for me to find a 'new to me author' whose work was well, so completely fresh and new. Moon and the Raksura are shape shifters, yes, but that is the first & last resemblance between The Raksura and the masses of shape shifter dreck that is published on the fantasy market today.
Second, I found the characterizations to be 3 dimensional, with fully developed primary and secondary characters. No Raksura is portrayed as 1 dimension stick figure. Even Moon's non-fans in the Indigo Cloud community, such as River, are provided depth and motivations and character growth. And while the evil Fell in the Cloud Roads may at first seem to be only stereotypical ultimately evil bad guys (and a bit over the top); upon reflection, I consider they are hugely innovative stereotypical bad guys (an oxymoron, yes, but it works). The bad guys in The Serpent Sea are wizard types and I was a little disappointed with them, but again the world building & characterizations lift them out of the ordinary at the same time that the wizards' "island" world had me thinking of Terry Pratchett's universe (that's the only spoiler hint I'll give). And anyway, I have never been a member of the bad guy fan club that demands the author to ratchet up the badness & evilness with every series installment until finally one is reading farce and not fantasy.
Since reading The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea, I've gone on to read Wells' earlier novels, The City of Bones and The Wheel of the Infinite. I give them both 5 stars. I am currently reading her 1st novel The Element of Fire and I've just ordered her novel The Death of the Necromancer. It's been a wonderful few weeks of reading and I will be sorry when I've exhausted her back list. I am eagerly looking forward to a new entry in the Raksura series and wish there was also a new entry in the City of Bones universe (that leaves the reader with a strong sense that more is in the offing).
The Serpent Sea - Highly recommended fantasy, 5 stars.
And THANK YOU to the internet & Amazon that Wells and/or her publishers are able to e-publish her backlist. I missed her when she started writing in the 90s and I am so pleased to have this opportunity to make up for the error of my reading ways :-).
In both The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea, Wells creates a society that is different from human (as winged creatures must be) yet at the same time likable enough that you want to follow their adventures. Those among the Raskura who can fly don't look down upon those who can't because their society has clearly developed through the fusion of two complementary peoples.
The story is fast-paced, full of twists and turns, but since I'm not into spoilers, I'm not going to say much more than that. Moon is still having some trouble fitting in with his adopted people, still doing things that confound his contemporaries, and still being an honorable guy. He's also reasonable, a trait his hotter-headed compatriots don't always share. (Since he's had to get along with 'groundlings' all his life, he's learned to think on his feet.)
We're also left with a few questions (some involving Moon's origin, and some involving the origin of another male), which I expect will be solved in the next book. I wish I could get my hands on the third now, but alas, we must wait...