The Serpent Sea, Martha Wells, & talking up the books you love

Last year on the advice of Steven Gould I read The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells.

Some years ago I had given Martha a quote for the first of her Ile-Rien trilogy:

Martha Wells writes fantasy with a unique twist and a modern sensibility. The Wizard Hunters drew me in with strong characters and an intriguing setting and kept me reading as the plot raced headlong into a marvelous adventure. A great read!

I lost track of the subsequent books in that series. In fact, they were not widely available. Wells’ career went through what we writers call a crash. She writes about it in this really excellent post over on The Night Bazaar:

This year, 2011, was supposed to be my last year as a writer. In January of 2010, I was in a really bad place. It had been five years since my last new fantasy novel, three years since my last published book. . . .


When writers have career crashes like this, the big important true piece of advice that you get from other writers who have been in the same position is not to give up. But I was beginning to think my time would be better spent becoming a personal trainer, a job I had been interested in for a while. That maybe the world was telling me my time as a professional writer was over.

If you are a publishing writer or if you are an aspiring writer or if you are a reader and general human being wondering about some of the gritty reality of the writer’s life, read the whole post. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I picked up The Cloud Roads because, as I said above, a person recced it to me. Otherwise, quite honestly, I might not have noticed it was there because there are so many novels published every year.

I loved it unreservedly. The world and characters and story ate me whole, just swallowed me up. I love being overtaken by story in that way.

The novel is unrepentant science fantasy with a fabulous world that felt so real I wanted to go there (even though I think I would be eaten within the hour) and with a thoroughly relate-able story that combines a tale of finding one’s identity and home with a lot of layered social and gender complexity that I truly enjoyed.

Over the year, as people have read it and recced it, The Cloud Roads has continued to gain new readers.

Now, the second book in the trilogy, The Serpent Sea, has been released (although I would start with The Cloud Roads if you haven’t read either).

But there’s another comment I want to make.

If, in this age of social media, you ever wonder if talking about a book online, in person, over the phone, or anywhere, really — whether writing a review on your blog or up on goodreads or LibraryThing or Amazon — makes a difference: It does.

Visibility matters.

Visibility particularly matters for writers who don’t often fall into the territory of bestsellerdom or persistent critical or award acclaim. It’s hard to buy a book if one doesn’t know it exists.

By the way, I wrote up a quote for The Cloud Roads, too:

I loved The Cloud Roads so much that I begged Ms. Wells and Nightshade Books to let me tell you–Yes! You! You, the one who is looking for a new book to start!–to read this marvelous science fantasy series. With excellent, inventive world building and wonderful characters I adored spending time with, it is completely fabulous.


One of the great things about the new world of social media is how easy it now is to talk about books with other book lovers. So don’t be shy: Talk up the books you love.