Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) 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.
Thoughts: Martha Wells gives us a strong follow-up to her earlier novel, The Cloud Roads (review here), one that is just as engrossing and richly-detailed as I’d come to expect after reading the previous book of the series.
Whereas before we see the protagonist, Moon, really coming to know himself and being the perfect blank-slate character to introduce us to a world unlike the vast majority of fantasy on the shelves today, here we see Moon as someone who has accepted his place and his role, embraces it, and moves forward. No longer are we as readers simply learning about the world and theRaksura through him, but we’re alongside him as he goes through this book’s adventure, which is world-spanning without being world-changing. Wells has expected that her readers understand the backstory and doesn’t hold your hand as she continues telling the tale.
Moon’s court has left their previous home to forge a new one, or rather returning to an old one that hadn’t been used in generations. After a difficult journey, they finally arrive, only to discover that the seed that keeps the gigantic tree that is their new home alive has been stolen, and the tree will soon die unless it is recovered. A small group of them set off on a new journey to relocate the seed and save their new home.
Put that way, The Serpent Sea sounds rather boring, like a fetch-quest from a video game, and one that is better suited to a short story than a full-length novel. Thankfully, the story itself reads as the exact opposite. What seems like a simple premise gets wonderfully complex, and we get to see more glimpses into the vast and varied world and sets of cultures that Wells has done no small amount of work to properly develop here.
It’s been said by many that these books are notable for the fact that humanity as we know it simply doesn’t exist. There are humanoid races, certainly, but they are not the dominant race. They are just one part of many, much like the Raksura themselves. It’s very refreshing to take a break from humanity now and again and throw yourself into a world that has touches of the strange and the familiar all rolled into one, and this is precisely what Wells delivers.
The writing style continues to be smooth and fluid, with a bright feel to it that one mostly finds in YA fantasy. it made the book easy to fall into and get lost in, though the style occasionally felt a bit at odds with characters discussing sex and being horny. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it makes me do a bit of a double-take. But aside from those brief scenes, the writing is even, well-paced, and a delight to read. Wells conveys a good story with plenty of action and intrigue without getting bogged down in darkness and grit.
Ultimately, this is a wonderful follow-up to an already strong previous novel, and it’s one that I recommend to any fans of classic fantasy. It’s a fun read with a great story in a fantastic world. Wells has really got something good going here, and I eagerly await any continuation that she writes in this series.
(Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.)