SF/F Read Alongs: The Cloud Roads, Part 1

Banner by Anya @ On Starships and Dragonwings

In the first part of The Cloud Roads, it’s quite literally a whole new world! And I am already falling for some of these characters. Fascination. I have it.

This week’s questions are courtesy of Sarah at The Illustrated Page, and we’re covering chapters 1-5. Spoiler alert!

What do you think of the world Martha Wells has created? First time readers, do you find it more difficult to get a handle on than fantasy worlds more closely tied to Earth?

I am really fascinated by the world of the Raksura, and I definitely feel invested in these characters, particularly Moon, and what might happen to them/where they’ll end up. The in-world mythology here – the Raksura, the Fell, how they’re connected – is unlike anything I’ve read before, and it definitely helps to make the setup and the story here feel fresh and interesting.

As for getting a handle on it, that’s a good question! Sometimes, yes, depending on how familiar or unfamiliar the fantasy world in question is. Obviously if there are familiar elements, it’s easier to latch onto those and let the unfamiliar sink in once you’re sure of your footing, so to speak. Speaking for myself, I tend to find that I enjoy stories much more if I can easily visualise the setting – anything that’s too unfamiliar to build a decent mental image of can sometimes drag me out of the ‘moment’ in any given scene, or make it hard to settle into the story initially if it’s concerning a broader theme.┬áThankfully I haven’t had that problem here yet!

From Moon’s internal narration, it can be clear that his experience with the Cordans has not been uncommon. Do you agree with Moon’s decision to try and make a life among them? What about the Cordans’s ousting of him?

Oh, Moon. First of all, it’s wonderful to have a main character who provokes sympathy right away – for me it helps to get me that much more invested in the story from the start. The idea of the strange outsider trying to fit in is hardly a new concept, but it’s handled really well here – we’re not strung along wondering why we should be sympathetic with Moon; rather, we’re made aware of his childhood tragedy early, and so more focus is upon his interactions with others and how his isolation is affecting him. With the Cordans it’s a self-imposed sort of emotional distance, because he obviously can’t let himself be himself around them – for reasons they later make perfectly obvious, and oh my god I wanted to smack them all for that. With Stone, and later the other Raksura, though, it’s more internalised – Moon has┬álet his (justifiable) fears become a sort of armour against accepting their help, and admitting that he might just fit in with them after all. That’s quickly worn down, because there’s nothing he wants more deep down than to belong somewhere, and all of that plays into how sympathetic a character he is.

Basically, I want to make him some tea and hug him and tell him it’ll be OK. To hell with the Cordans! Fly and be free, winged scaly dude!

What are your initial impressions of Indigo Cloud? Do you think Moon made the right choice in coming along with Stone?

I WANT TO GO TO INDIGO CLOUD AND GO EXPLORING. The social hierarchy is pretty interesting too, though of course it comes with its share of macho assholes like the ones Moon met when he got there. Sigh. BUT OMG INDIGO CLOUD.

Moon’s decision to go was, I think, the right one for him in that moment. As I said before, there’s an undeniable weight of longing to fit in somewhere, to be among people he doesn’t have to hide his true identity from, and I am hopeful that this will pay off for him emotionally. It certainly seems to have been doing that, until it turns out there are already spies watching over him! Damn it, Stone.

I … kind of like Stone, even though he’s obviously got his own agenda and maybe could stand to be a bit more considerate of other people, and appreciate that maybe it’s not cool to emotionally manipulate them into being a part of that agenda. That might be jumping the gun a little at this point, but I can’t help thinking it’s going to end up being like that before long. He has his goals, and he’s driven enough to bring a total stranger among his people to achieve them – whether Moon likes it or not, it seems? That is not going to have a very happy ending for anybody, I’ll bet. But it definitely makes Stone himself an interesting character, though obviously in very different ways from Moon!

We’ve had only a glimpse of the Fell, but they’re clearly bad news. What do you think is going on with the Fell’s offer of a treaty?

That whole thing has a very “deal with the devil” feel to it. DON’T DO IT, PEARL. LISTEN TO THE SENSIBLE FOLK. RUN AWAY.

That’s what I like about the situation with the Fell – there isn’t much insight into their own goals and machinations yet, which makes them hella mysterious and who doesn’t enjoy that? Yet what that situation does give us at this point is a glimpse into how things have been working (or not, as the case may be) within the Indigo Cloud Court. There’s definitely trouble brewing, and it might seem fairly clear that Pearl will be the cause of it … but will she? We don’t know what her motives are, so how can we say with any certainty that she’s acting maliciously toward her own people? It certainly seems like a bad idea to get involved with the Fell, but as for what could possibly be driving her to try – that might not be so straightforward…

It’s all very cleverly written, isn’t it?




One thought on “SF/F Read Alongs: The Cloud Roads, Part 1

  1. I’m glad you’re enjoying the characters so much! It’s feels like we’ve still got a lot to see of Indigo Cloud, since neither of the Queens have shown up yet (except for those brief glimpses of Jade). And yeah, the treaty with the Fell totally has a “Deal with the Devil” vibe.

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