The Siren Depths, by Martha Wells

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Publication date – December 4, 2012

Summary: All his life, Moon roamed the Three Worlds, a solitary wanderer forced to hide his true nature — until he was reunited with his own kind, the Raksura, and found a new life as consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court. But now a rival court has laid claim to him, and Jade may or may not be willing to fight for him. Beset by doubts, Moon must travel in the company of strangers to a distant realm where he will finally face the forgotten secrets of his past, even as an old enemy returns with a vengeance. The Fell, a vicious race of shape-shifting predators, menaces groundlings and Raksura alike. Determined to crossbreed with the Raksura for arcane purposes, they are driven by an ancient voice that cries out from… The siren depths.

Review: Moon is finally settling into his role as Jade’s consort, and while life isn’t perfect for him, it’s better than it’s been in a long while. His place at court may still be contested by some, but he does still have a place, especially after being so involved in saving the colony tree in the last novel.

But because good luck never stays with Moon for long, his tenuous peace comes crashing down when he learns that not only is his birth court still around when he believed it destroyed for so long, but they’ve heard of him and want him back, claiming that Jade had no right to take him as her consort without their permission.

And worse, he’s seeing signs that suggest Jade may not be as happy with Moon as her consort as she claims.

Where previous books in the trilogy throw you into Raksuran society at an almost breakneck pace, leaving the reader floundering at times as much as Moon himself is, The Siren Depths takes a little while to step back and make more aspects of their daily lives and culture clear. It was nice to save some things explicitly explained instead of just having people shush Moon’s questions and concerns because more important things were going on, and for those who felt they had a decent grasp on Raksuran culture before, what’s presented in this novel really just works to solidify everything. I found myself enjoying the slower scenes as much as the more tense action-packed ones, purely for the culture-building.

As far as explorations of culture go, I really do like how it’s all handled in this entire series. Moon isn’t a blank slate character, not by a long shot, but he starts out wholly unfamiliar with Raksuran culture, and has to learn consciously what most people pick up by observation and imitation through their whole lives. And much like with any newcomer to a culture, sometimes people can’t always explain the why and the how to full satisfaction, leaving a gap between, in this case, Moon and just about everybody else. But Moon isn’t one to stop asking questions, either for clarification or as push-back against something he sees as unfair or ridiculous. It’s a fine balance to strike when writing fiction, really, straddling that line between criticizing an unfamiliar culture and just seeking to understanding it. Sometimes both are needed.

Also, serious bonus points for establishing in no uncertain terms that Raksura are generally cool with same-sex couplings. (And there I was, spending so long thinking that when it was mentioned that Moon and Chime sometimes slept together, it was meant as them literally just sleeping in the same bed. Colour me innocent, I guess.)

And happily, at no point does Moon ever pull an, “I know better than you,” bit and start preaching that his way of thinking is superior to a way he just doesn’t understand or appreciate. Undoubtedly a side-effect of having spent so much time among various cultures in his life. You may question but you may not seek to change, just because it doesn’t suit you.

But aside from the phenomenal culture-building (which is evident all through the rest of the trilogy, not just this book), there is plenty of action to keep pulses pounding and pages turning. As Moon learns more about his past, a traitor within his birth court seeks to eliminate him. The Fell once again make an appearance and are the main antagonists, once again bringing the focus back to their plot to return to former glory and regain their connection to the Raksura. The first half of the book may take it slow, but the second half is almost entirely non-stop action, with Moon and his companions — both new and old — trying to stop the Fell from doing untold damage and releasing something lurking beneath the waves that’s better left imprisoned.

I remember when I first started reading this series. It struck me as pretty original, but I couldn’t quite see why so many people raved about it the way they did. It was notable for not having any human characters, and of course for being well-written, and I could see those things, but it didn’t really hit me the way it hit some. Then I reread the first two books, and finally finished this one, and my opinions upon rereading have shifted. There were nuances I hadn’t noticed before, levels and layers that made everything feel more complex and complete. The whole trilogy is now firmly listed as comfort reading for me, as the world and the people and the story feel like sinking into a warm bath. Jumping into that world is a bit like coming home, like visiting old friends, like somewhere I’ll always be able to enjoy. It’s an experience to be savoured, satisfying and rich, and well worth reading if you haven’t already done so.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

One comment on “The Siren Depths, by Martha Wells

  1. Pingback: March Wrap-Up | Bibliotropic

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