Monday, October 28, 2019

Review: The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells
Published: Night Shade Books 2012
Series: Book 2 of the Books of the Raksura

The Book:

Moon, once a solitary wanderer, has become consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court. Together, they travel with their people on a pair of flying ships in hopes of finding a new home for their colony. Moon finally feels like he’s found a tribe where he belongs.

But when the travelers reach the ancestral home of Indigo Cloud, shrouded within the trunk of a mountain-sized tree, they discover a blight infecting its core. Nearby they find the remains of the invaders who may be responsible, as well as evidence of a devastating theft. This discovery sends Moon and the hunters of Indigo Cloud on a quest for the heartstone of the tree—a quest that will lead them far away, across the Serpent Sea. . . .” ~Night Shade Books
Here continues my reviews of the Books of the Raksura.  I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I plan to at some point!

My Thoughts:

The Serpent Sea picks up where The Cloud Roads left off and continues directly into a new adventure.  There is a bit of recap at the beginning to orient the reader, but I would strongly recommend reading the series in order. If you have already read The Cloud Roads, then you basically know what kind of book you’ll be getting withThe Serpent Sea. Moon is still trying to fit into his new community, Indigo Cloud court still has internal problems, and a new external problem requires adventuring and combat.  This new problem comes in the form of a lost treasure, the heartstone of the tree, which our characters must journey to recover. I had been hoping for more focus on problems internal to the court, so I was a little disappointed when I realized this was the direction the story would take. I intend that as a compliment towards Wells’s world-building with the Raksuran court, not as a slight of this book.

The group of Raksuran characters interact with several new societies in the process of the search, and I enjoyed seeing a bit more of this vast world.  It was interesting to see them interact with another Raksuran court, and the floating city on the sea where much of the action took place was creative, though fragile-seeming.  Their interactions with groundling species drive home the fact that, while they aren’t the Fell, the Raksura are pretty terrifying and dangerous as well. I’m looking forward to seeing if there is more cooperation between the Raksura and certain groundling societies in the future books.  Whether that happens or not, I get the sense that there’s still plenty of room in this world to explore in the rest of the series.

The writing style is similar to the first book, concise with a focus on actions and dialogue.  There are again many named minor characters to keep straight, but the story is fast-paced and suspenseful.  I also enjoyed the way this book focuses on Moon’s experiences as a solitary. One of my favorite parts involves him using his skills at blending into groundling societies to infiltrate a magister’s tower.  We also get to see part of the basis for the prejudice against solitaries in Raksuran society. The ending is exciting, and my only complaint would be about a random combat scene that happens in the denouement.  It felt strangely jarring, since it happens after the main conflicts have been resolved. I suspect it might be intended to foreshadow conflicts that will arise in the next book. I guess I’ll see sooner or later!

My Rating: 4/5

The Serpent Sea is a fitting continuation of the story that begins in The Cloud Roads, and I expect fans of the first will also like the second. Most of the long-running conflicts in the Indigo Cloud court are still present, but the theft of their colony tree’s heartstone presents the immediate problem that must be solved in the arc of this novel.  I enjoyed seeing more of the world, and getting the chance to see Moon’s particular skills benefit his new community. I’m hoping for more focus on the court itself in the next book, The Siren Depths, which I am definitely planning to read!

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