A review of Martha Wells' The Siren Depths

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Martha Wells' The Siren Depths was published in November/December 2012 by Night Shade Books.

Martha Wells is the author of five Ile-Rien novels (The Element of Fire, The Death of the Necromancer, The Wizard Hunters, The Ships of Air and The Gate of Gods), Books of the Raksura series (The Cloud Roads, The Serpent Sea and The Siren Depths), City of Bones, Wheel of the Infinite and two Stargate Atlantis novels (Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary and Stargate Atlantis: Entanglement). She has also written short stories and non-fiction articles.

Martha Wells' official website can be found here.

Here's a description of The Siren Depths:

All his life, Moon roamed the Three Worlds, a solitary wanderer forced to hide his true nature - until he was reunited with his own kind, the Raksura, and found a new life as consort to Jade, sister queen of the Indigo Cloud court.

But now a rival court has laid claim to Moon, and Jade may or may not be willing to fight for him. Beset by doubts, Moon must travel in the company of strangers to a distant realm where he will finally face the forgotten secrets of his past, even as an old enemy returns with a vengeance.

The Fell, a vicious race of shapeshifting predators, menaces groundlings and Raksura alike. Determined to crossbreed with the Raksura for arcane purposes, they are driven by an ancient voice that cries out from...



Finding originality and true talent in today's overcrowded fantasy market is difficult, but fortunately there are still authors like Martha Wells who write quality fantasy for adults. The Books of the Raksura series can be seen as a proof of her writing talents, because it continues to get better and more complex with each new book. Each time I've read a book by Martha Wells, there's been one question on my mind: How does she manage to write so original and absorbing stories? I don't know the answer to this question, but I think that it takes a lot of courage and determination to write a book series about a totally different culture and race, because this is seldom done in fantasy literature.

When you read this review, you'll probably notice that I love The Siren Depths very much and I'm not afraid to praise it. The Siren Depths is one of those books which deserves all the praise it gets, because it's an excellent book (it's a pleasure to read this kind of well written adult fantasy).

The first two books, The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea, were excellent fantasy books, but in my opinion The Siren Depths is an even better and more satisfying book, because it takes the series to a whole new level of depth.

In the first two books the readers were introduced to a world called Three Worlds, the shapeshifting Raksura and their enemies, the Fell. The author created an amazingly vivid fantasy world by writing about strange beings, new cultures, love, loss, loneliness and relationships in an entertaing and fascinating way. She added politics, cultural differences and fascinating characters to her world and the result was a stunningly original fantasy world. All these things and other things that the readers have to come expect from this series can be found in this book, but this time with more depth and style than before.

Here's a bit of information about this book:

In this book Moon has settled to his life in the Indigo Cloud court, but things still aren't as easy as they could be. He has found a place for himself, but things like having babies with Jade cause him problems. When another court, the court of Opal Night, sets claim on Moon and wants to take him, things become difficult, because Moon isn't sure if Jade will fight for him. This is just one of his worries, beause the Fell make a return and are just as deadly and dangerous as before. The Fell are trying to crossbreed the Raksura for their own purposes...

One of the most intriguing things about The Siren Depths is that Martha Wells focuses on writing about the court of Opal Night. The court of Opal Night is Moon's birthcourt and the rulers of this court have shameful and disturbing secrets, which they try to keep hidden from outsiders. The atmosphere at the court of Opal Night is a bit tense because of these secrets. It was interesting to read what happened when Moon found out about the secrets.

I enjoyed reading about what happened to Moon when he was young. The revelations about his childhood and heritage were interesting, because they explained many things and were a great way to show readers what kind of tragic things had happened at his birthcourt and how they affected everybody.

I like the way Martha Wells writes about the court politics and plots of the Raksura, because these things aren't to Moon's liking. It's good that the author explores court politics through the eyes of Moon, because Moon is used to being a solitary being and several things seem complicated to him. He has just recently come to realize what it means to be a Raksura and he's still learning new things, so his observations about court politics are often sharp and others may not feel the same way about things.

The author writes fluently about how the Raksura deal with the groundlings and their way of life. Things concerning the groundlings are interesting, because the cultural and racial differences between the Raksura and the groundlings (and the problems caused by these differences) add quite a lot of depth to the fantasy world. Certain groundlings fear the Raksura, because they think that they are Fell who want to kill and eath them, but others are used to the Raksura and are friendly to them.

Reading about the enemies of the Raksura - the Fell - and their plans is also interesting, because they have tried to crossbreed with the Raksura. What makes the Fell interesting is that they're related to the Raksura, but are totally different kind of beings and have a different kind of culture. The scenes with the Fell are intriguing, because the author reveals what kind of plans they have - what the readers will find out is truly riveting and unexpected.

The worldbuilding is once again excellent. The author created a solid fantasy world in the previous books and now she continues to write more about the world and the Raksura. I have to admit that I've been very impressed by the author's worldbuilding since the beginning, because she reveals bits and pieces of the world as the story progresses and the readers learn new and exciting things all the time. The worldbuilding culminates in this book, because the author keeps on revealing more things - and especially important things - about the world and the beings which inhabit it.

The character development is one of the best things about this book. The shapeshifting Raksura are fascinating characters, because they aren't human beings, but their feelings are totally similar to human feelings (this is one of the reasons why I love these books so much). I think it's possible that readers will be able to identify themselves with some of the characters and especially with Moon, because he is the protagonist of the story.

Because I've been fascinated by the Raksura and their extraordinary way of life and biology ever since I read The Cloud Roads, I was impressed by how easily the author wrote about Moon's present situation and how he felt about his birthcourt and Jade. The moments between Moon and Jade are handled admirably, and so are the moments between Moon and the members of his birthcourt. I especially enjoyed reading about how Moon felt about Malachite and Shade (the dialogue between the characters is fantastic and at times delightfully sharp).

Martha Wells has already explored what it means to be different in this series by writing about Moon and his problems. In this book she takes things further by writing about Shade and how he differs from other characters. I won't reveal who or what Shade is, but I'll mention that he is a complex character and he has an unusual past, which will be a surprise for the readers. His unusual past makes him a kind of a "recluse", because he doesn't exactly fit into the court. The dialogue between him and Moon is fantastic.

The Siren Depths is probably the most emotionally challenging and beautifully written book in this series, because feelings are explored with a heartfelt pain and clarity - the characters have powerful and believable feelings of love, hate, shame, jealousy and fear (how Moon, Shade, Malachite, Jade, Stone and other characters feel about things is handled perfectly). Writing about feelings can be difficult and several authors tend to write sugary prose, but fortunately there's no sugar coating in this book. For example, when Moon arrives at the court of Opal Night, he feels alone and unsure about his future - his feelings are fully believable and it's easy for a reader to understand what it feels like to be alone in a strange place.

The prose is just as good as in the previous books, if not even better than before. Everybody who likes good prose will enjoy reading the author's sharp, but touching prose. I like the author's writing style very much, because she has a talent for compelling storytelling.

I sincerely hope that Martha Wells will at some point continue to write more books about the Three Worlds, because the world that she has created is astonishingly original without any kind of artificiality. I'm sure that I won't be the only one who wants to read more about the Raksura and Three Worlds. If the author decides not to write more stories about the Raksura, it's great that she has given readers three original fantasy books, which stand head and shoulders above other fantasy books.

I've noticed that some readers have categorized these books as science fiction. There are certain science fictional elements in these books, so it's possible that readers may feel that they're sci-fi books, but I wouldn't categorize them as science fiction, because they're clearly fantasy books.

Before I finish my review I'll mention briefly that this book contains appendixes, which are useful to readers (it's nice to check what the terms mean, if you happen to forget them). I'll also mention that it's good to read the first two books before reading this book (if you've read the first book, you may understand certain things, but I strongly recommend reading both books).

The Siren Depths is a brilliantly complex, absorbing and original fantasy book. If you're tired of clichéd fantasy books with shallow characters, do yourself a favour and read this book, because you'll be impressed by the complex characters, the originality of the story and the poignant prose. The Siren Depths is one of the best and most original fantasy books of 2012, so make sure that you'll read it as soon as possible.

Highly recommended!