Book Review: The Serpent Sea

The Cloud Roads created a very interesting and narratively distinct fantasy world – one that was very different than most of the other works of fantasy that I’d read, and which had a fairly clear sequel hook. So, I was ready almost right away to move on to the next work in the series.

The book starts fairly soon after the conclusion of The Cloud Roads, with the remainder of the Indigo Cloud court heading for their new home. They reach their home – the old lair of Indigo Cloud, a giant tree. However, on their arrival, they discover that the tree’s seed has been stolen, and they have to get it back before the tree dies.

The first book had an interesting exploration of Raksuran culture as Moon came into Indigo Cloud for the first time. In this book, we get our first look at inter-court interactions, as Indigo Cloud is not the only Raksuran court in the area, and they have to deal with another court in the area.

We also go into some additional world building in hunting down the seed, as members of Indigo Cloud end up heading for another groundling settlement in search of the seed. The settlement in question being on a leviathan – a swimming creature. Now, this already caught the interest of my inner DM in terms of interesting adventure ideas – one set on the inside of a giant tree, and the other set around (and possibly inside) a city on the back of a monstrous creature.

While the setting stays unique, the narrative is a little more conventional – in this case something that begins as a heist – stealing back the seed – and ends up turning into something dramatically more involved. If I have a complaint, it’s that the power structure of the City on the Leviathan is very important to the story, and while the narrative gets into it in parts, it’s only where the politics falls into contact with the magical and ecological side of things – that the Leviathan can be controlled and how it can be controlled.

The story doesn’t get into the groups of people who disagree over what should be done with that control and why they feel that way. Now, as far as the Raksura are concerned, that part doesn’t matter, as some of them aren’t really that concerned about the City and what happens to it. However, considering one of Moon’s defining traits is that he has learned how to blend into groundling society and feel out the local politics so he can pass among the people without making waves or getting into trouble – I would have thought this would have come up more often. Though, on the other hand, with the more focused exploration of Raksuran society with Indigo Cloud’s interactions with the other court, I supposed that from a time standpoint it couldn’t be helped.