Book rec and art: Jade and Moon from The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

Sep 23, 2012 19:57

Okay, so you should just read all of Martha Wells' books on principle, but in particular, you should read the The Cloud Roads. It is extremely fandom compatible.

The first books by Wells that I read were magical steampunk stories rooted in different eras of Western history -- the baroque era, the industrial revolution, the 1930s -- populated by characters and cultures very recognizable to us. I loved them. The Cloud Roads... it's like Wells took the idea of a fantasy universe and decided to go with it all the way.

How to describe the Three Worlds? Basically, take every Star Wars, Star Trek, and Tolkien species and all their crazy, overblown concept art architecture and stick them on one planet. There are cities on flying islands, giant pyramids draped with vines in the middle of rivers, and magical societies living inside of trees as big as mountains. Think Pandora times 10. Even the "normal" humans you meet tend to be blue or green or maybe just have tusks, which is a lovely reminder that there is no "default". For the huge variety of made-up species in the books, the world is deliciously coherent. Because you see it through the eyes of its inhabitants, it all feels like it's supposed to be there, duh.

Unlike a lot of stories with this set up, our main characters are gloriously not-human. Moon, the POV character, is a shape-changer who can shift between two forms -- a human form and a super badass gorgeous gargoyle form. When the story starts off, he's been orphaned at a young age and has spent the last few decades trying to fake it among the non-shifter societies he's encountered. He's kind of awful at faking it, it turns out, but he knows by now that he can't stand living alone, so he keeps trying. It doesn't take long for you to figure that he can handle himself, but you still want to bundle him up and hug him a lot.

Also, guys, I know lots of you have an interest in reversed and/or altered gender roles. Wells has created a central species for her stories with some key, fundamental differences that lead to a whole host of really interesting implications for gender politics in the story. I want to read so many stories about the politics, but I guess it's okay that there's also, like, fights and stuff. Also, I won't lie, it is kind of hot.

So, guys, if you have even a little bit of a kink for world-building or found family or playing with gender roles or just the right amount of hurt/comfort, read these books!

By the way, they are also FUN. Yes. The world it builds is so much fun you will want to read about a hundred fusions where all your favorite fannish characters end up in the Three Worlds. (I still can't decide if Steve Rogers would be a consort, a warrior, or a soldier. Is Jane Foster a mentor or a queen?)

Trust me, you are going to want fic.

And when that happens, come find me because I want there to be a fandom for these books, like, yesterday. It can't just be me and
ileliberte squeeing over IM at each other, right? (Well, okay, it demonstrably can).

And guys, I'm not even telling you about the taciturn, badass old guy that will instantly become your favorite character. Mainly by standing around and being inscrutable and then letting children climb on him. And he likes kids because -- did I mention the gender roles? -- he's basically the world's equivalent of a dowager queen. A dowager queen who can tear your house down with his bare hands. Seriously.

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