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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  4,086 Ratings  ·  543 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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(showing 1-30)
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N.K. Jemisin
Aug 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Final rating: 5/5 stars
He spoke the thought that had become increasingly obvious all day long, with every interaction he had had. “I don’t belong here.” (...)
Stone made a derisive noise. “You’re afraid you don’t belong here. There’s a difference.”

This book is the prime example of how to do world building. If there is something exceptionally strong in this book, it's completely alien-high fantasy world building where there are almost no humans barely normal Earth like humans at all. The close
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

Finally making good on my promise to go back and read The Books for the Raksura from the beginning, I decided to pick up The Cloud Roads with the SF/F Read-Along group. Up until this point, I had only read one volume of the Raksura short stories as well as The Edge of Worlds which is formally the fourth book of the sequence but can also be read as a jumping-off point for a new era of the series. As such, I started The Clou
Jan 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great world, lots of adventure, and so many interesting creatures.

The Cloud Roads begins with a solitary Raksura (shapeshifter) named Moon, who had been living among various groups of groundlings for most of his life but had never been able to fit in anywhere. He doesn’t even know what he is or where he came from.

This is high fantasy unlike anything I've ever read before, and it's a breath of fresh air. Martha Wells' writing pulled me in right from the start and didn't let go until I finished th
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Csi-fi/Fantasy fans
Recommended to Mitticus by: Athena

“Three realms: sea, earth, and sky. Everyone remembers the sea realms, but they’ve forgotten the sky realms. It’s been so many generations since the island peoples fought among themselves. They’re mostly gone now, with no one left to tell the stories.”
Moon wondered if he had been right about the sky-islands all along. “Is that where we’re from?”
His gaze distant, Stone said, “No. We’ve always come from the earth.”

La historia comienza con Moon, viviendo en una comunidad de cazadores/recolectores
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
More reviews can be read @ The Bibliosanctum

TL; DR Review:

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5 stars. Totally accurate portrayal of my reaction when I finished. This book. Aw yeah! Highly recommended for people looking for something different in the fantasy genre, especially as far as the characters themselves are concerned.

Longer Review:

The Cloud Roads introduces us to Moon, an orphaned shapeshifter who has spent years living among the groundlings (more traditionally humanoid looking races) disguised as one of them. Moon has lo
Olga Godim
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy-scifi
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
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 ‘groundlings’, a variety of h ...more
Dec 26, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.

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
 Simply Sam ツ
Jul 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book was really good. It was an interesting (to me) take on dragons, though they aren't technically called "dragons". I was actually kind of surprised by how much I liked it. So much so that I'm really tempted to continue this series (and that's saying a lot coming from me) and I may just end up bumping my rating to 5 stars once I start writing my review. For now, I just wanted to say this was a great way to end the MacHalo Summer TBR Cleanout Bonanza.

RTC. Laterish.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of intricately developed SF/fantasy
Recommended to Athena by: Carol. Mimi
Shelves: fantasy-sf
This was on my to-read pile & I grabbed it to fill a couple of free reading hours, except I quite literally could NOT put it down & read straight through to the end. Devoured it, actually, and got way behind on the chores. It's indisputably in my top ten remarkably inventive & readable books of the last decade. I even bought the next two books because my usually-reliable county library has *gasp* NOT GOT THEM.


Martha Wells has done a brilliant job of world-building, creating a
Originally published at The BiblioSanctum:

ETA April 3, 2016: I keep returning to this book, the beginning of an incredible series, filled with such incredible world building and characters that I have come to love so much. I see that I only gave it four stars initially, but under these circumstances, I really should have given it the full go. So fixing that now.

Moon has spent his life working to fit into the other societies, but when he finds his own, he has difficulty. I appreciated the way Wel
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of fantasy looking for something different
Reread 2016/12/27: I'm happy to say that this book is still at 5 fabulously shifting stars! What a ride. Recommended to any fantasy fan. Even if you think shifters aren't your cup of tea (I was a bit hesitant myself), give it a try.

This isn't a book with an epic plot or a sprawling conflict stretching across continents and complicated politics, with multiple POVs and a thousand pages (and I love those, too). It's not trying to be that. It's a character-driven book, with really really great writ
Oct 31, 2015 rated it liked it
I feel like I've had the experience before of reaching the end of a Martha Wells book, reading the short author bio, and going "ohhh, that explains it."

Wells has a background in anthropology, and so when she worldbuilds, she worldbuilds like an anthropologist - with a thorough understanding of the wild diversity of human cultures, which she builds into her nonhuman ones. For me I think that was the real draw of the book. I kept waiting for humans to show up, or species with a clear human analogu
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
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 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
Karen Newton
Apr 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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

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 clear
Feb 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Julie Czerneda
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow! I met Martha Wells through her short fiction in the anthology we're writing in together:Tales of the Emerald Serpent: Ghosts of Taux
Having now found and read this novel? I'm even more blown away by her imagination and humanity. Wonderful stuff. I'll be reading more!
Sravya Mummaneni
The world building was fantastic and the story was pretty good. I only wish there was more dialogue in between all those cool characters. It was weird, probably good weird to see the queens act like male warriors and whatnot. Jade asking Moon if he wanted jewels or gold was hilarious!
Jan 26, 2013 added it
Enjoyed this as a light, fun read - fascinating setting, quick pace, engaging characters. Kudos to the author for putting a satisfying ending on a series book. That ethic is altogether too rare.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, twas-good
blog | goodreads

The Three Worlds is one of those fantasy creations you just can't get enough of. Reading The Cloud Roads, I wanted to find out more about the groundlings and their different cultures. I wanted to know more about the floating islands, the seas and underwater realms. I must admit my irrational self was disappointed that the book didn't let us see more of this, but at the same time, I knew that if it had, it would have distracted from the main story Wells was trying to tell.

This boo
Douglas Cootey
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed, fantasy
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
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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Martha Wells has written many fantasy novels, including the Books of the Raksura series (beginning with The Cloud Roads), the Ile-Rien series (including the Nebula-nominated The Death of the Necromancer) as well as YA fantasy novels, short stories, media tie-ins, and non-fiction. Her most recent fantasy novels are The Edge of Worlds in 2016 and The Harbors of the Sun forthcoming in July 2017, the ...more
More about Martha Wells...

Other Books in the Series

The Books of the Raksura (5 books)
  • The Serpent Sea (Books of the Raksura #2)
  • The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura, #3)
  • The Edge of Worlds (The Books of the Raksura, #4)
  • The Harbors of the Sun (The Books of the Raksura, #5)

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