cover image The Serpent Sea: Vol. II of the Books of the Raksura

The Serpent Sea: Vol. II of the Books of the Raksura

Martha Wells. Night Shade (Diamond, dist.), $14.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-59780-332-8

Once a clanless vagabond, Moon is now the consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud colony, but the job isn't as easy as it sounds. Fleeing the conquering Fell, the colony has returned to their ancestral forest, only to find it deserted and dying. Now, Moon must navigate his precarious place in matriarchal Raksura society and use his outsider experience to hunt down the one thing that could save their new home. Wells' sequel to The Cloud Roads is a world-building tour de force, widening the Raksura mythos to include a whole new civilization: a city built on the back of a giant beast, full of powerful sorcerers and a populace that regards Raksuras as monsters. Despite her weakness at description%E2%80%94it's never clear what non-Raksura "groundlings" actually look like%E2%80%94Wells makes it work, powering through on sheer creativity and characterization. Using its alien protagonist to explore the politics of gender and belonging, this is a fascinating read for SF readers looking for something out of the ordinary. (Jan.)