OK, I am a giant fan of the Raksura books, but I think this volume may contain the best of Wells' novellas. "The Dead City" is an in media res flashbaOK, I am a giant fan of the Raksura books, but I think this volume may contain the best of Wells' novellas. "The Dead City" is an in media res flashback, starting as a much younger Moon flees the doomed city of Saraseil in the wake of his fateful encounter with the Fell. This is not quite the hardened, angry Moon of the later stories, note, although this is the beginning of his hardening. Here one can still catch glimpses of the inquisitive, hopeful boy he used to be... and here we realize this was the moment when that boy died. But meanwhile, Moon meets the people of an isolated community who are being menaced by horrifying creatures called "Miners". I'm just gonna say it: SPIDER PEOPLE. It's a good thing Moon really really wants to kill something at this point.
"The Dark Earth Below" is less dark, since it takes place in the post-trilogy "present" and Moon is no longer a lonely, bitter outcast. In fact, he's about to become a new father -- so of course a mysterious hostile entity threatens the colony. Jade's not exactly helpless, but Moon's got a lot of new-papa jitters to work off, so the bulk of dealing with the threat falls on him. This one's worth it for all the layers of nuance that get added to the Raksura we know and love: we see Pearl and Stone showing obvious pleasure that Indigo Cloud is growing again; we see the Arbora go into "swarm" mode when something invades the tree; we see that Balm is suddenly very glad she can't get pregnant; and we meet Jade and Moon's children! It's positively heartwarming.
There are some other short stories rounding out this volume, most of which are reprinted from other sources or Wells' website; I particularly like "Mimesis" since it's all about Jade saving the day (though it's hilarious to see that the Indigo Cloud warriors constantly worry that Moon will kill them if anything happens to Jade). But frankly it's the two novellas here that earn the price of admission....more
Really liked this one. The stories are painfully brief but chock full of awesome Raksuran goodness: new chances for Moon and Jade to be awesome, new cReally liked this one. The stories are painfully brief but chock full of awesome Raksuran goodness: new chances for Moon and Jade to be awesome, new characters, a few surprise shots of old beloved characters, new revelations about the Three Worlds and the Raksura. I want another full-length novel, but until/unless we get that these snack-size versions will do nicely. My favorite part of this is "The Tale of Indigo and Cloud", because it gives us a chance to see the ancestors of the court we know and love in happier, easier times. It's almost shocking to see the comfortable, affectionate relationship between Cerise and Indigo, when we're so used to the bare tolerance that exists between Pearl and Jade. And we get to see how relationships between queens and consorts can go wrong -- and right. There's just so much awesome, here. Check it out....more
I read this book after reading Ms. Wells' more recent Books of the Raksura, and I think that made for an odd reading experience: I couldn't help seeinI read this book after reading Ms. Wells' more recent Books of the Raksura, and I think that made for an odd reading experience: I couldn't help seeing it as essentially proto-Raksura material. That's not a bad thing, since I loved the Raksura books, and this one has the same kind of clever-yet-hapless, fish-out-of-water protagonist; the same utterly alien yet believable worldbuilding; the same breathtaking sense of beauty and almost primordial danger in every landscape.
I loved loved loved the fact that this was firmly postapocalyptic fantasy; there aren't enough of those out there. At varying points the story started to feel more science fictional, but it continually stayed clear in my head that what caused the Waste was magic, otherworldly, and so when the story turned distinctly Lovecraftian it didn't feel at all out of place. The "Inhabitants of the West" are truly terrifying, and I loved the congruity between this and some of Wells' other stories, which I'm beginning to see fit nicely into a grand mythos.
I found the earlier chapters a bit confusing, though, because there's some head-hopping; it's unclear at first who's saying/doing what at some points. Also unclear at first is who the protagonists are; for awhile I thought it was Sagai. I chalked this up to Wells being a less experienced writer at the time she did this, because there were no problems of this sort in the Raksura books (or in the other Wells book I've read, Wheel of the Infinite). It was never difficult to read, just not as smooth a ride as the Raksuras.
So I'd recommend this one in particular for people who enjoy the Raksura books, and more generally for people who like postapocalyptic fantasy!...more
I got to read an early draft of this, so take my comments with salt since I don't know what the final's like. But that's OK, because I loved it and II got to read an early draft of this, so take my comments with salt since I don't know what the final's like. But that's OK, because I loved it and I can't see how any final edits could have diminished that! In this episode of Days of Our Draconic Lives, Moon's more or less settled into life at Indigo Cloud, although he's anxious because he and Jade haven't managed to make a clutch yet despite lots of enthusiastic attempts. But before Stone can slap him in the head and tell him to chillax, gasp! Visitors arrive with stunning news! The mystery of Moon's birth-court has been solved! But, er, there's a problem (of course). They want him back. And by the vagaries of Raksuran custom, Moon has no choice but to leave Indigo Cloud and go meet the people who may well have deliberately abandoned him to die as a child.
This was probably the most emotional of the Books of the Raksura, which is probably why it's my favorite so far of the three. Moon -- not the most emotionally together guy at the best of times -- has to muddle his way through a morass of his feelings for Jade, his fears about the future, his anger about his past, other people's hatred of him, and more. As if that's not enough to deal with, the Fell are back with a vengeance... along with something worse. Along the way, though, Wells treats us to the same wonders and horrors that make us love and fear the Three Worlds: amazing ancient cities, magical airships, genteel monsters, breathtakingly badass women, obnoxiously badass grandpas, and truly heartrending moments of pain and beauty.
If you even slightly liked either of the two preceding books, make sure you read this one. Seriously....more
I freaking LOVE these books. The first book caught me by surprise, but I loved it so much I pestered the author 'til she gave me an advance copy of thI freaking LOVE these books. The first book caught me by surprise, but I loved it so much I pestered the author 'til she gave me an advance copy of the second.
Because the Books of the Raksura contain some of the most original, exotic, and beautiful fantasy worldbuilding I've ever seen. Those of you who complain that there's nothing new in fantasy, read these. Here is plausible ecology, and biology mingled with magic in a way that feels almost science fictional. Here are created, magical races drawn with believable complexity -- none of that essentialist "always chaotic evil" crap we're so used to seeing in fantasy, and plenty of diversity and history and mystery. That the Raksura resemble shapeshifting dragons is irrelevant; they're people, human without being human, and Wells does a marvelous job of treating these people as well-rounded and flawed characters whose struggles you can't help but care about.
In this outing, Moon -- recently and uneasily accepted into the Indigo Cloud court -- travels with the group to their ancestral home, where they mean to make a new start after nearly being destroyed by the Fell in the last book. They find a paradise of giant mountain-trees and forests that stretch for miles, waterfalls and plentiful game, and unearthly beauty. However, the seed which keeps their mountain-tree alive has been stolen, and Moon -- as the member of the group with the most experience at dealing with other races -- must help his new tribe track it down before the tree dies.
If there's any critique I have for these books, it's that the characters are sometimes sketched a little thinly -- but given how much time and attention has been given to the setting, I'm not sure that's really a flaw. My sense is that some of the thinness I feel is actually Wells trying to convey that the characters really aren't human. For example, Pearl's behavior frequently makes no sense (the other characters comment on it) until you realize that this is how queens are supposed to act; it's one of the ways they maintain dominance over others. The only reason we don't understand it is because Moon, a stranger to his own people, doesn't understand it. As he gains understanding, it all fits together.
(view spoiler)[I especially liked those chapters wherein Moon and Jade visit the Emerald Twilight court, and Moon must find a way to master consort etiquette -- when a just few months before he didn't even know the name of his own species. I also loved that we get to know more about characters who intrigued me in the first book: Flower the acerbic and grandmotherly mentor, Stone -- snarkier than ever in this outing -- and Moon himself. I love that we get to see a "real" solitary, and gain more understanding of why the Raksura are so suspicious of them. And holy crap, Jade. I love watching her play diplomat and maneuver her way through various politically-delicate scenarios, but there's a chapter near the end of the book in which she basically cried havoc and let slip the claws of war, and it was beautifully bloody. I've always loved the treatment of gender in this series: women who are stronger than men and the men who love them for it; gender roles that are neither stereotypical nor simple reversals. All Raksura are formidable, but it's made very clear in this book that the role of a queen is to be the baddest mf on the planet. I see now why Moon loves her. (hide spoiler)]
So read this book. And go tell your friends to read it, because I want it to sell well so we can get a third visit to the Three Realms.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
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 loThis 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 simultaneously a member of an especially reviled subgroup. So suffice it to say Moon's homecoming is... complex. Then on top of that, Moon has baggage from a prior encounter with enemy shapeshifters, which comes back to haunt him with a vengeance.
So what looks like a stock story isn't. But that isn't this story's greatest asset; the worldbuilding is. This is a rich, complex, plausibly exotic fantasy world like nothing on earth, described so vividly that I'd love to go visit it. (Except I'd get eaten in 5 minutes.) Moon's people are one of the most intelligently-constructed fantasy races I've seen in awhile -- science fictionally so, though the story manages to retain the wonder and magic of fantasy. Add to that characters who stick with you and whose motivations you really care about, and this is a real winner.