Book Review · reading

Book Review: The Serpent Sea by Martha Wells

Love that the main character is a flying creature!

Blurb 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.

The Serpent Sea is a fantastic fantasy. It’s world-building is original, the most original I’ve seen in a long time. The characters are good.

I love that the characters and their society are clearly inhuman, but just human enough to understand them. It’s a good balance.

The Serpent Sea is a sequel to the Cloud Roads and it’s not the kind of sequel that’s easy to read without reading the previous book.

In the last book, Moon, our hero, an orphaned young man, has spent his life going from one groundling community to the next, always hiding, always trying to fit, never revealing that he shift forms. Then he discovers he is Raksura and born into a high caste. Moon is born a consort. (Consorts are fertile males with black scales.) Shenanigans follow, including the sister queen claiming Moon as her consort.

The matriarchal nature of Raksura society is clear in the last book. It is even more obvious in The Serpent Sea. In fact, consorts are like trophy wives. I didn’t realize this in the last book. But Moon’s consort status was less prominent in it.

That is Moon’s personal conflict. He is who he is. He’s taken care of himself for long as he can remember. He doesn’t like fights, but he’s doesn’t back away from them, either. He’s likes hunting and apparently consorts don’t usually hunt. Fight, either.

He doesn’t know how to behave like a consort. He hasn’t been trained to it; he didn’t grow up in a colony and he’s never really known other Raksura. He knows nothing about their society, about the hierarchy and the roles of different castes.

Consorts don’t challenge queens, which he does while visiting another court. She insulted him; he insulted her right back.

In fact, that was my favorite scene. Jade, his queen, had to fight the other queen. The other queen said something like, I will take you after I defeat her. He was all: You try, I’ll rip out your guts. The other queen was stunned, because consorts just don’t say things like that. I loved it.

And it’s not even because he spent a lot of time among the more patriarchal groundling races. That’s just who he is.

One of the other characters is also a solitary male and he’s an example of why everyone is wary of Moon. Most solitaires are apparently are odd and not to be trusted. Truthfully, I felt the other solitary male could have been better explained. But this isn’t a huge weakness. Him and his actions are a plot point and sometimes it felt like the plot was the only reason he was there. Still. It’s not huge.

There are external, quite exciting conflicts, too. The part where they are eaten by a leviathan is really nice.

The end feels complete. There is supposed to be a third book next year, The Siren Depths, but it might star a different character. Maybe even a different race. This world is complex enough to write dozens of books, each featuring different characters, different races, a different element of the world.

Also, I got this book as an ARC. If you couldn’t tell, I loved it.


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