Wednesday, August 2, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Harbors of the Sun (Books of the Raksura #5) by Martha Wells

I'm running out of things to say about the Books of the Raksura series, which has emerged as one of my favorite series to read over the past two years (since I restarted my reading of the genre).  A reader might've noticed I haven't actually given any of the five books in this series a grade above 8.5 out of 10, which usually is my "Really good but with some flaws that make it just short of Great" rating, but the whole series somehow is better than its individual parts.  Throughout the series, Wells has crafted a cast of characters who are simply special and diverse in personalities, such that they're beyond a joy to read.  I'll miss these characters now that I've finished all the Raksuran stories (barring minor Patreon pieces) likely to come out in the near future, a lot.

But the Long Review of THIS book continues after the jump:

-----------------------------------Short Plot Summary---------------------
The Harbors of the Sun is the first book of this series that cannot be used as a starting point - the book continues directly from the cliffhangers at the end of The Edge of Worlds, which I'm not going to spoil here (Go Read that book instead).

In short, to not spoil at all, the Raksura in this book are facing the dual threats of the Fell invading the Reaches and some outsiders attempting to use an Ancient Weapon to destroy their enemies - mainly the Fell - and not caring about the fact that the Weapon might destroy the Raksura as well.  Can Moon and the others save everyone from the destruction on multiple fronts?
The Edge of Worlds really started this, but The Harbors of the Sun really expands the story into one of Epic Fantasy - the first three Raksura books were told entirely from Moon's point of view and the Edge of Worlds spent about 1/3 of the book away from it, but this book has around 2/3 of the story told from other Points of View, even when Moon is nearby those characters in the first place.  The result is a greater look at the various Raksura and their allies as the book reveals how they truly see things as they all try to prevent calamity.

Yet again, the characters are the best part of this book - Pearl and Malachite have some tremendous interactions and their relationship is an utter surprising Joy for example, Jade and Stone continue to be great (with one exception I'll get to later), the Half-Fell characters introduced last book are very interesting, Arbora Bramble gets a featuring role in the first half of the book, and of course the main crew of Moon and Chime are always great.

The book isn't perfect alas - hence the 8 once again.  While the book isn't as abrupt with the shift in plots as The Serpent Sea (which introduced a new plotline and threat in the final chapter and then dashed it just as quickly), the final 80 pages of this book deal with a new land and felt like they could've used more time to breathe.  Similarly Jade and Stone get into a conflict near the end which seems very abrupt and doesn't really work.  Finally, Malachite demonstrates an ability early in the book which is given special importance as being extremely powerful, but which she suggests contains some costs others may not be happy to pay.....and while this ability is crucial throughout, the costs are never explained.  It's kind of weird.

But again, this book is an absolute pleasure, as is the entire series.  I will miss these characters so damn much.  This is a series about, as the author put it in a blog post recently, "matriarchal bisexual polyamorous flying shapeshifting lizard-lion-bee people," and it is the best because of it - the characters and their interactions will charm you if you give them a try.  Really recommend this series more than I do each individual book, starting with The Cloud Roads.

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