I’ve talked before about how Martha Wells’ books are about cities, and dang if that’s not pretty true about her The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea, and The Siren Depths.

I mean, they’re not about standard generic cities. This is an unusual and interesting fantasy world—it’s clear by now that creating these is one of Wells’ strengths—and the “city” in question is… well, discovering what it is and how it works is a pretty good chunk of the first book, so I don’t want to go too far into it.

There are elements of quest fantasy in here, with a small band of heroes going off to do some important thing, particularly in the second book; but mostly, these are books about social structures and relationships of all sorts in a city. And if that’s maybe less rare today than it was when Wells started writing her brand of civic fantasy, in the days when epic quest fantasy was taking over the genre, it’s still not entirely common.

Beyond that, the books have good characters (albeit a bit on the angsty side for my preferences), solid self-contained plots that move along at a good clip, and in general are a pleasure to read. These don’t quite rise to the level of excellence for me, but they’re enjoyable, and when the next one comes out, I’ll read it quickly.


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