Premise: Moon is a drifter going between groundling colonies for survival. He has a secret that keeps him moving around so much. He is a flying shapeshifter. The problem is that others mistake him for one of the Fell, a flying species of shapeshifter known for their cruelty and destruction. When a member of his current colony sees him flying, they use a poison meant for the Fell on him.
Moon manages to escape and follows Stone, another flying shifter like himself, to his colony, where Moon is promised great things from Stone and where Moon learns where he comes from and what he is. Moon is a Raksura, but he is also a consort, a special standing in the colony that can breed with the queens. Pearl is the queen of the colony and Jade is the younger queen, who also have the ability to keep the rest of the Raksura from shifting forms. Stone was on a mission to find more consorts for their colony from other Raksura colonies, as they are sick and need to grow their numbers before they die off. The only problem is the Fell are infiltrating their ranks and killing off other colonies before Stone can find them.
As Moon tries to help his newly found people, he must also decide his place in the world, choose between trust and survival, and fight the creatures that killed his family. The problem is the Fell have a much more insidious scheme for the Raksura, and it might be up to Moon to stop them.
Themes: One of the themes in The Cloud Roads is finding your place in the world. Moon makes discoveries about his past and his species, and choices are placed before him to help others and be with his people. In the past he hid who he was in order to stay safe and anonymous and survive, but after learning about the Raksura he has the opportunity to know more about himself and his past.
Moon also has the opportunity for love like he has never experienced before. In other colonies he has had relationships, but with Jade he has the chance for a real relationship with one of his own kind, something that will allow him to be more open and free than he has ever had before.
Pros: There is so much action in The Cloud Roads that the chapters just flew by. The main characters have spectacular voices, from the distrustful Moon to the haughty Pearl, and the crotchety Stone to the maturing Jade. And the Fell are so loathsome that you will hate every single one of them. The special abilities and roles of each category of the Raksura and the Fell gave so much personality to so many characters, which helped to differentiate each one from the other.
Cons: There are a lot of characters in this book, and they all have similar names that make it confusing at times. I think some of these characters could have been removed or combined to tighten things up a bit. This is also not a book for children, as there is a lot of gore and other adult content.
Recommendations: I haven’t read something as unique and creative as The Cloud Roads in quite a while. It is a page turner from beginning to end and packs an immense amount of world building into a tight and entertaining book. Though there is enough in The Cloud Roads to be complete by itself, there is also plenty here to make me rush to read the next book in the series. Martha Wells has built a wondrous world here that exceeded my expectations.