Top critical review
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Unique setting, likeable hero, flat secondary characters
on August 17, 2011
I went into The Cloud Roads really excited. I'm a fan of unusual settings and worlds, and I had never read a book featuring reptillian shapeshifters before. I can only re-read "The Left Hand of Darkness" so many times; I was eager for another author to take me to a world I'd never seen, with characters both unique and lovable. I was eager for a story that, as Ms. Sharon Shinn said, would remind me why I love to read. And for the first chapter or so, I thought I'd found that story. I loved reading about Moon, the subdued, everyman outcast with whose loneliness and inner solitude I could really sympathize. And the world of The Cloud Roads does indeed transcend the tropes of ordinary sci-fi quite satisfyingly. I like Ms. Wells' writing style: it's simple and straightforward [at times almost too much so], but more than adequate to communicate what the story calls for.
Unfortunately, as the book continued, I found that the unique setting and likable main character weren't enough to sustain my interest. I would have loved the story had it focused solely on Moon and his adventures, but the author instead chose to bring in a cast of secondary characters who were frankly dull and forgettable. The Fell, demonic baddies and scourges of the world where Moon lives, failed to be as frightening as everyone in the book claimed they were. Rather, reading about them felt like watching a stiffly-performed puppet show--there was no excitement, no sense of danger or malice. And Moon's allies are just as bland; their dialogue shows little variation, and they all blend together after awhile. Even Moon's love interest, Jade, didn't demonstrate the depth of characterization necessary to make me root for her. And I would have liked Chime, who bonds with Moon over being similarly different from the rest of his people, if he'd demonstrated any vivid characteristics apart from what we're told makes him strange. The point is, the characters have no personality, and the plot, such as it was, wasn't enough to make up for that. Perhaps I'm speaking too critically, having gotten spoiled by the works of Urusla LeGuin and others, but I nevertheless walked away from The Cloud Roads disappointed.