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The Cloud Roads (The Books of the Raksura #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  2,515 ratings  ·  391 reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Night Shade Books (first published March 1st 2011)
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Feb 25, 2013 Carol. rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people looking for an unusual epic fantasy
Tired of the orphan's heroic quest as he ventures into the world to discover himself and claim his birthright? Don't give up yet--Wells has managed a satisfying twist on an old trope by creating species and setting that feel quite alien. Cloud Roads is certainly one of the most original fantasy worlds I've read in months, and the steadfast plot provides familiarity when navigating the strange races of the Three Worlds.

Moon knows he is different; he's been unable to find anyone quite like him si
N.K. Jemisin
Nov 03, 2011 N.K. Jemisin rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fantasy lovers tired of the usual
This book was a total surprise. It didn't really look all that interesting to me based on the jacket copy -- stock story, possible last of his kind looking for a place to belong, etc. But where other stories end (last of his kind finds a place) is pretty much where this story started, nearly ended, then started again. Moon finds his people early in the book, and it's not a happy experience for him. He learns that a) he's a member of an especially coveted subgroup within his people, and b) he is ...more
Martha Wells, you had me at disemboweling claw.

The Cloud Roads is high fantasy and by that I mean NO HUMANS ALLOWED. Instead, there are all kinds of interesting species--those of the air, those of the land and those of the sea but the main character Moon has never met any that are like him. When he was very young, Moon's family was killed and ever since he’s been searching far and wide, hopping between tribes of groundlings, in search of who and what he is. Even more troubling, the closest speci
Great world, lots of adventure, and so many interesting creatures.

Full RTC once I finish the series, hopefully before June when the second volume stories are released.
Olga Godim
I was not enamored with this book although I realize that some of the points that caused my dislike might be exactly the same points that attracted other people to this unusual novel.

The story is entertaining, although not very original, and the pacing is okay. Most of the 3 stars go to the story. A young shape-shifter Moon is living with a tribe of hunters, camouflaging as one of them. He’s been an orphan for a long time and he doesn’t know what race he is. He knows he is different but he
Pauline Ross
Fantasy Review Barn

Many works of fantasy tell epic tales without a single non-human character in them. Most have largely human casts with a sprinkling of non-humans thrown in for effect - a few elves or dwarves or demons. But here we have a world, it seems, with no humans in it at all. The main character, Moon, is a Raksura, a shapeshifter - a humanoid in one form, and a somewhat reptilian winged creature in the other. His family was killed long ago, leaving him to survive amongst the ‘groundli
I greatly enjoyed this book. Sure, it's got some obvious flaws -- but the plot feels fresh, and it's easy to feel for main character Moon.

On the upside:

1. As I previously mentioned, the plot didn't feel quite like everything I've read before. Sure, if you squint a bit it can be seen as poor-lost-farmboy-discovers-he's-a-prince-and-goes-on-a-quest, but it really doesn't fit that mold very well. For one thing, the "poor lost farmboy" is at least 35 years old at the beginning of the story, so he ha
Nov 02, 2014 David rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: not-elves and not-dragons on not-Pern, pretty bishonen with wings and spines
The Cloud Roads is a fairly traditional fantasy novel with worldbuilding that at first seems fairly original. It took me until I was about halfway into the book before I realized why it felt derivative. Of course saying a fantasy novel is derivative is not necessarily a bad thing; I think fantasy readers sometimes overrate originality. Very few great fantasy novels are great because their worlds are so unique and different: it's the characters and the sweep of the story that makes them great.

I pre-ordered this on faith (on the authors writing) and then kept postponing reading it. Maybe because while the author is an autobuy for me, I did not quite love her previous steampunkish alternate world fantasy trilogy. But this I loved wholeheartedly, right from the start and feel stupid it took me months to finally get to it.

I dont know what to call this type of setting. Vance-an? Tanith Leean? The very old decaying world (not Earth though) with many no longer quite human races and old aba
This book is boring and exasperating by turns, but also completely unsubtle and almost self-indulgent. There are at least a dozen characters that are so unimportant and underdeveloped that I could hardly remember who they were at any point. The relationships between characters ring hollow and the description of Moons feelings about his unfortunate past feel over-simplified.

But all of that might have been okay if it weren't for the plot points that went nowhere and the heavy-handed tying up of lo
This one caught me right from the first page. It was so nice not to have to work so hard to get into something (I've had a string of those lately). It just carried me right along, and didn't drag at all. Refreshing!

The Cloud Roads is a non-YA high fantasy set in a very alien world. There are no humans - the species that we meet have scales, shells, or wings, and are very colorful. Some live on land, some in the air, and some in the water. There's the feeling of a large and varied world beyond wh
3.5/5 stars

Despite the flaws, and my few complaints, this is a series I will probably continue with. While the plot is rather lackluster when compared to the world, Wells’ really started something unique here. It’s easy reading and what I consider to be detachment fantasy, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with a little predictability when it’s balanced with such a creative, wonderful word. While I had hoped that Wells’ would have spent a little more time elaborating on
Karen Newton
This is not the usual sort of review that summarizes (aka, gives away) the plot. Rather, I want to talk about why this book made such a good impression on me, and the one small thing that bothered me. The Cloud Roads is that curious beast, a book that defies genre labels. Mind you, I'm not saying it transcends its genre. I hate that phrase, because it implies that genre is a bad thing, and I have no problem with genre.

The Cloud Roads is impressive because it mixes genres in an interesting way. T
Douglas Cootey
I must warn you. I'm sick and grumpy. It will likely affect my review…

I loved this book. I cracked the cover to check it out while tidying my shelves and became trapped inside its pages. I wasn't freed until my eyes involuntarily shut, then I finished it the moment I was able to open them again a few hours later.

What a rich, detailed world Wells created, but she wrote with the sensibilities of an action adventure novelist. Fast clipped and thrilling. I especially enjoyed how Moon, the main char
What a great story! This had a really interesting world setting and the people of this world were so varied and diverse! I loved the dragons, or Raksura, as they are called in this world.

Short description: Moon is a wanderer, a shape-shifter with no family. The only family he recalls having are his mother and his four siblings but they were all killed when Moon was still a child by vicious monsters called the Fell. He learns to hide his dragon form from the other "groundlings" and manages to as
Okay, I'm going to show how horrendously shallow a reader I can be by admitting that I had a bit of a hard time getting into this - or a hard time loving it, because I was put off by the picture of Moon on the cover. He looks kind of slimy-scaly, and awkward, instead of how I came to imagine him -- or all of them -- when I could put the cover illustration out of mind.

I think I also had a bit of a hard time loving it because I completely expect awesome characters in brilliant settings from Marth
This series was on list of N.K. Jemisin's Favorite Epic Fantasies and I am glad I decided to give it a chance. Now it is also on my list of favorite fantasy novels too. I would not call it epic, but maybe because my mind is poisoned and I expect epic fantasy to have mile-long books and medieval setting. This book is not that.

The world of Three Realms is original. Plant, life and creatures that inhabit it are simply - fantastic. And descriptions of flying islands, ancient ruins and architecture w
Fantasy about Moon the orphan finding his reluctant way back to his people, a mostly-winged hive species.

Fun, but I suspect this one will stand or fall on whether it's emotionally kinked right for the reader. For me it was halfway there. This is a 'coming in from the cold' story, and a 'finding out you're special' story, and a 'proving your worth to everyone' story. All with bonus matriarchal sexual politics. So if you like any of that sort of thing, go to it, because this is competent and well
Christine (AR)
The cover blurb says this book is "graceful" and I think that's an appropriate word. Populated entirely by non-humans, this world has floating islands and tree-dwelling crabs, with the story focused on dragon-shifters with a bee-like social structure. For the first 100 pages or so I thought that the book was just going to be graceful -- lovely and quiet and interesting -- but suddenly I was completely caught up in the story of Moon and Jade and the Indigo Cloud tribe as they battle the quite ter ...more

3 stars

Moon, a solitary shapechanger in a decaying world, is set out for sacrifice by the groundlings he's been living with. He's rescued by a man who claims to be another of his kind, and who needs his help.

I started reading Martha Wells twenty years ago, when her debut novel The Element of Fire came out. I picked up her City of Bones soon after, and then The Death of the Necromancer and Wheel of the Infinite. With the first two books, I was enthralled - this was clearly
A fluffy piece of fun, albeit with more disembowelings than most works of that type. Orphan is picked as prospective consort for the queen and must prove his worth to his new home (and to himself). There's lots of to-ing and fro-ing across the landscape on various quests, plus some angst if that's your thing. The worldbuilding wasn't really to my taste--it's the sort of book that comes with appendices so you can sort out all the different races and birth-castes, helpfully differentiated by color ...more
Jun 09, 2011 Natasha rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any fantasy lover who likes strong characters
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
After the first seven pages, I knew I had struck gold. I always search endless hours looking for a new book that sounds interesting. And then I read the reviews to see if others found it interesting as well. This was one of the more expensive books compared to the one I wanted to buy as well, but I got this one, hoping that maybe the reviews were right. And boy, that was one of the best BEST decisions I've ever made.

I'm picky about what I read. If it doesn't grab me, or DO something in the first
C.N. Wolf
THE CLOUD ROADS starts out interesting enough. Moon is trying to find a place in the world, but just as he starts to feel settled, his unique shape-shifting casts him out of yet another society, and, as plot would have it, right into the place he belongs.

Yeah, it kinda works like that. 'As plot would have it.'

As a reader, I'm compelled by strong characterization and complex interpersonal relationship, and with some good world-building on the side - but THE CLOUD ROADS kept me wanting more on ea
Confession time right up front. I am a Martha Wells fan-girl. I do not understand why this author is not a constant best-seller.

One reason I love her work is that it is so imaginative. Her world building is superb! And what a world she has revealed to us in this book. The planet of the Three Kingdoms seems to be earth-like: rivers, oceans, mountains, etc. But--it would be hard to confuse the inhabitants with earthlings. The diversity of sentient life that she presents is amazing.
This story focus
Not ambitious, but does a couple of interesting things. You know the (rare) SF novel with no human protagonists? This is a fantasy novel with no human protagonists -- a world inhabited by tribes of demi-humans, bipeds with fur or scales or carapaces. Yes, Adrian Tchaikovsky is doing that, but his bug-people are distinctly *humans* with knacks and the (slightly hard-to-swallow) mechanical inaptitude. These folks are *people*, but a step to the side of human: instinct, social reflexes, sensory ran ...more
Seregil of Rhiminee
Before I write anything else I must say it's great that Martha Wells found a publisher for The Cloud Roads, because it's an excellent fantasy book. Night Shade Books has done a big favour for all fantasy readers by publishing this book, because it's without a doubt one of the best and most original fantasy books of 2011. This rich and well imagined fantasy book invites readers to explore a new world which is inhabited by strange beings. It also offers wondrous and beautiful vistas to its readers ...more
This is a terrific science fiction adventure story with a heart.

Moon doesn't know what he is. He's been trying to live with other people, but they don't look like him (most of the various races in this world are physically different from each other), and unlike them, he can shift into another shape, one with wings, a fact he conceals because the winged shape looks something like the Fell, an evil race bent on conquering and consuming the other races. When his secret is revealed, Moon must not on
I kept hearing about this one and dithered because none of the plot descriptions appealed to me, so I'm a little afraid of turning people off similarly. So I'll start by saying that I nabbed this as last-minute airplane reading because of purely physical parameters, and ended up recommending it to a friend who asked for a book to distract him during a visit to a relative in the hospital.

Another review described this as fluff, which isn't inaccurate, but I'd rather describe it as adventure fantas
Well, it does have action. Battle after battle, from bickering and hissing, to snapping spines and ripping heads off. I guess it would make a good movie? But I was bored.

Well, at least, I was bored when I wasn't trying to untangle the awkwardness. It reads like a debut novel (maybe Wells wrote this first, and only published it after other successes?), more telling than showing, lack of explanation when we truly needed it, stumbling syntax. Not a whole lot, but enough to annoy & distract me.
Courtney Schafer
I've been a big fan of Martha Wells for years - I think she's one of the most underrated writers in the fantasy genre. I was thrilled to see a new novel from her after a years-long wait, and I'm even more thrilled that the Cloud Roads lived up to all my high expectations. It's got everything I most love in fantasy: an imaginative world full of fascinatingly alien cultures, combined with excellent characterization, exciting adventure, and even a dash of romance. I'm a sucker for loner misfit prot ...more
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Martha Wells is the author of over a dozen SF/F novels, including Wheel of the Infinite, City of Bones, The Element of Fire, and the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer. She has a fantasy trilogy: The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air, and The Gate of Gods, currently out in paperback. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Cloud Roads (March 2011), The Serpent Sea (January 2012), and The ...more
More about Martha Wells...

Other Books in the Series

The Books of the Raksura (3 books)
  • The Serpent Sea (Books of the Raksura #2)
  • The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura, #3)
The Serpent Sea (Books of the Raksura #2) The Death of the Necromancer (Ile-Rien, #2) The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura, #3) City of Bones The Wizard Hunters (The Fall of Ile-Rien, #1)

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