The Cloud Roads Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
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Audible Audiobook, Unabridged
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Moon has spent his life hiding what he is - a shape-shifter able to transform himself into a winged creature of flight. An orphan with only vague memories of his own kind, Moon tries to fit in among the tribes of his river valley, with mixed success. Just as Moon is once again cast out by his adopted tribe, he discovers a shape-shifter like himself... someone who seems to know exactly what he is, who promises that Moon will be welcomed into his community.
What this stranger doesn't tell Moon is that his presence will tip the balance of power... that his extraordinary lineage is crucial to the colony's survival... and that his people face extinction at the hands of the dreaded Fell! Now Moon must overcome a lifetime of conditioning in order to save himself - and his newfound kin.
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|Listening Length||15 hours and 7 minutes|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||November 04, 2011|
|Best Sellers Rank||
#49,736 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals)
#2,073 in Epic Fantasy (Audible Books & Originals)
#2,404 in Literary Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
#4,049 in Science Fiction (Audible Books & Originals)
Top reviews from the United States
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I have decided to do three. While the whole series is one long story, each novel stands on its own, too, and I feel it's only fair to review them individually.
So, the Cloud Roads. I saw an ad for this particular book on another site and liked the cover, so I decided to check it out on Amazon. The first thing that attracted me to it was the fact that it didn't take place on earth and that there were no humans. There are groundlings. But there's no race called 'man' or 'hume' or any other permutation of the word, and there is no one race that has essentially become dominant, as I find so many fantasy books featuring humans have. Groudlings are simply ground-bound sentient beings, and there are many, many races of them that the main character, Moon, encounters on his travels.
In any case, when I discovered that the main character was not human, I thought I'd give the book a try. The price was high, which caused me to hesitate and read the reviews before I purchased.
I mention the reviews, because I urge people to follow the five-star ratings if you're thinking about buying. There are a few reviews that state that the world is flat, and one even states that the book is more like an outline than a finished story. The people who are stating this want more elaboration on every little thing, where no elaboration is needed. I don't need to know the life history of the animals Moon is killing to eat, nor do I need to know all the customs of the groundlings with which he is staying. In fact, I applaud the way that the author doesn't stop every five pages to describe something completely unnecessary, like so many younger authors tend to do. I like to see a world built around me, and this book has it. What I don't like to see is Eragon-esque prattling on for 20 pages as the author describes something as insignificant as a footprint.
The setting is brilliant, and tells me enough throughout the book that makes me want to know more about the world in which these characters live. It's expansive. Huge. So large that one species might go their entire lives without knowing another species on the other side of the world exists. That's the sense I get anyway. It is revealed in little snippets that make this world seem extremely old. Ruins abondoned years ago are now reoccupied by entirely different races, who know nothing of the people who built them. Floating cities glide through the skies, their buildings long-empty. A mystery. In subsequent books, more is revealed about the world, but in The Cloud Roads, most of it is still unknown.
The story isn't totally unique. A loner, Moon, is trying to discover who he is. He knows no other of his kind, and for a while, I thought this was going to be a situation where Moon really was the last. I was pleasantly surprised when that wasn't the case. He is a Raksura, a race of winged shapeshifters with a very strict social structure. None of the members of the Raksura look down on the other castes, but instead, each work closely together to maintain harmony and productivity. They have Rules (with a capital R) that all members tend to adhere to... Except for Moon, who can't remember his early youth within a colony.
And, The Cloud Roads isn't just about Moon finding his place, but about his new colony, Indigo Cloud, finding their new place as well. The ruins in which they are staying has been plagued by illness, death, and low birth rate for years, and they need to move. The story focuses not only on the move, but on the reason for the problems they've been having. While I'm normally not shy about putting spoilers in reviews, I am refraining here because the book is just so good that I really hope everyone reads it.
Moon's character development is somewhat stagnant through most of the book. He hesitates to change, because he's been rejected for so long. He looks like a creature called a Fell. Fell like to prey on groundlings and steal what they have to survive, and if people see Moon in his true form, they tend to think he's going to kill them. Though he's been living amoung groundlings for years (and has, indeed, given up his search for anything greater at the start of the novel) he doesn't form attachments. Through much of The Cloud Roads, he doesn't allow himself to consider himself a Raksura, or part of the colony. The other Raksura must learn to accept him as he is, and in that way, they, too, are able to grow.
The book left me wanting more at the end. Not in a bad way... All the story points were wrapped up somehow in the book. But I wanted to know more, which is exactly what a good author should do. Read this book. You won't regret it.
It's very different in setting and feel from Murderbot, with only rare character moments that shared some of the same attitude. Yet, like Murderbot, this is intelligently and skillfully written with a sympathetic main character who is hard on themself. One thing discomfited me a bit, and I'll put it after a spoiler warning.... The repeated interest of powerful females in mating with Moon, potentially without his consent, disturbed me (which may well have been what Wells intended). When I say that it disturbed me, I mean in a more visceral way than I am usually affected by, say, the slaying of one's enemy in a fantasy novel. Other than that discomfort, and the slight delay before the book hooked me, I'd highly recommend this. I've already ordered the next several books.
About my reviews: I try to review every book I read, including those that I don't end up enjoying. The reviews are not scholarly, but just indicate my reaction as a reader, reading being my addiction. I am miserly with 5-star reviews; 4 stars means I liked a book very much; 3 stars means I liked it; 2 stars means I didn't like it (though often the 2-star books are very popular with other readers and/or are by authors whose other work I've loved).
Top reviews from other countries
I enjoyed that this was SFF where the volume had been turned up. Where Wells shrugged and said I want to write about shape-shifting bird people who live like bees. I want to have flying boats, cities with a giant waterwheel walls and massive ruins of dead civilisations. To hell with Medieval Europe lets push some boundaries. She creates a really beautiful world on a vast scale in technicolour brightness.
The characters are simply brilliant. Which comes as no surprise to Martha Wells fans. What I loved however was how deeply and brilliantly over the course of the series she manages to evoke a realistic community. One with its own internal tensions and faultlines, where people squabble and frustrate each other, yet which always comes together in adversity.
There is plenty of action and adventure. But like all good SFF there is a depth to it too. The fact that she borrowed a bee-like social structure gives this series a really interesting perspective on gender roles.
If I were looking to find fault I would say that these books don’t have quite the mastery of pace that the Murderbot ones do. But I wonder if that is simply due to them being novels rather than novellas.
Overall if you are looking for a comforting, interesting, well-written and entertaining fantasy world. Then I would highly recommend the Raksura books.
The second thing you should know is that none of that matters.
The world is a unique blending of hundreds of different species, all with their own cultures and quirks. Don't worry, the world building is excellent and goes on in the background while the focus remains firmly where it should be - on the plot.
Moon's journey from involuntary nomad with no idea of what he really is (at least he knows he's not a Fell) to being an outsider in a colony of his own kind is somewhat tumultuous. But we're right there with him, exploring a place he'd given up hope of ever finding and wanting it to work out just as much as he does.
The characters are brilliant. The humour is excellent. The writing is superb. There's a reason Martha Wells is one of my favourite writers and this book is the epitome of everything I love about her.
Real world concepts like xenophobia and racism are looked at through the lens of the fantasy world that Wells draws.
The characters are relatable and the plot keeps you turning the pages.
For me though, the plot felt a lot like "He or they went to this place - insert big description - they did this thing. They fought this creature. They moved onto a new place. Repeat."
It was because of this that, while the descriptions were heavy, I never really got a sense for each location and the characters moved on before I got a chance to really get immersed.
That being said, I've ordered the sequel hoping that the first book was more a laying down of foundations and the following story to be a little more rich.
After hiding in his human form and constantly travelling between different races of humans, Moon is finally caught out. Having been spotted transforming, Moon is discovered for what he really is: a creature who can shape shift from human to a being with black scales, wings, claws, and a tail. The group of superstitious humans he has been living with mistake him for a demon race known as the Fell. Poisoned, tied to a post in the middle of the forest and left to die, Moon is rescued by a stranger, named Stone, who turns out to be a shifter like him - not a Fell, but a Raksura, the people he has been searching for his whole life. But when Stone takes Moon back to his court, it's not the happy homecoming Moon has always hoped for. Tensions rise at his arrival between two Queens, the ruling Queen Pearl and her sister Jade, while other court members are trying to discover why all their new born children seem to be dying, and what is causing the court to sicken. Moon must help strengthen his new home and defend his people from a Fell invasion.
Books like The Cloud Roads remind me of why I love fantasy. The world building and detail that are included are simply beautiful, and after reading it I still want to know more about the many different races of creatures mentioned. The way the world was presented was both skillfully done and revealed slowly in an almost frustrating way. Martha Wells teases her readers with glimpses of one race/culture that you can't help but want to know more of, only to then show you another, equally as fascinating. I hope for many more books in this series, just to see every part of the Three Worlds - sea, land and sky. One of my favourite parts was the flying islands, but I would also love to see more of the sea creatures, as this was only briefly touched upon in book one.
As for the story itself, I liked Moon from the beginning and loved Stone. In fact, my only complaint with this book was that Stone wasn't featured as much as I would have liked. There wasn't one character I disliked, and found them all to be detailed and three-dimensional. Even the arrogant, slightly unstable Queen Pearl had an understandable motive for her actions. I enjoyed the growth of Moon, as this is a coming-of-age story, though a more mature one that usual, as the protagonist is about 30 instead of an adolescent. This creates an interesting mix, as Moon is learning who he is, but in some ways he already knows. The other members of the Rasksura court have to adjust to him as much as Moon adjusts to them.
As I have said, I sincerely hope that this series continues beyond the two books already written (The Cloud Roads and its sequel The Serpent Sea), and will grabbing a copy of the sequel as soon as I can.
I truly loved this book and will now automatically buy any more in this series a.s.a.p.