In the third installment of Martha Wells’s Books of the Raksura series, Moon finds himself with exactly the opposite problem from what he’s used to. As he finally starts to settle into his home at Indigo Cloud, he discovers that another group of Raksura has taken an interest in him—and because of Raksura society’s complex rules, they may be able to force him to take up residence with them instead. Combined with gradually emerging hints about the reasons behind the Fell’s repeated attacks on Raksura settlements, this makes for a tense and dramatic story.
Although Moon is an adult, the Raksura series is in some ways a coming-of-age story, since Moon has to learn how to build relationships with others and find his place in Raksura society. This theme continues with the conflict between the different Raksura courts that want to “claim” Moon. Just as he’s beginning to feel like he might be able to build a stable life, and that he’s getting a handle on the rules by which their civilization operates, everything gets upended again. And he finds himself in the unenviable position of having to mediate between different groups with the right to call themselves his family, and who don’t always get along all that well. (Imagine one of those awkward Thanksgivings where your relatives have too much wine and start arguing about politics, but with more shape-shifting and fang-baring.)
We also get significant development on a major plot arc of the series: the Fell attacks on various civilizations, and in particular their animosity towards the Raksura. This is the source of much of the story’s action, but it’s also intimately tied to the backgrounds of the characters, especially Moon.
Wells continues the worldbuilding that makes the Three Worlds such a delight. We see not only an older and more established Raksura court, but also yet another new (to us) species. As usual, they’re given a unique culture that feels real, with its own architecture, clothing styles, and social norms. The Raksura stories, with their plethora of civilizations, evokes the same kind of “sensawunda” as the best sci-fi, despite being confined to (mostly) a single continent on a single planet.
A couple of major plot threads get resolved in this book, but there are still mysteries and the potential for further developments. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, as Moon’s story continues to be a rewarding one.