The Big Idea: Martha Wells

Martha Wells’ richly imagined Books of the Raksura series reaches a climax in the latest installment, The Siren Depths. And while the adventure takes place on a fantastic world far away, many of the themes in the book are rooted back here in the real world, and with Wells’ own personal history. She’s here to look back, and forward.


The Siren Depths is the third novel in the Books of the Raksura series, adventure fantasies set in the Three Worlds.  It ties together and ends the story begun in the first two books, The Cloud Roads and The Serpent Sea.

Like a lot of my books, The Cloud Roads dealt with themes of isolation and loneliness.  The main character, Moon, had to pretend to be something else in order to survive and was afraid to show who and what he really was.  In that book, he finds his people, and despite fears that he has been alone too long to fit in anywhere, he manages to find a place among them.

The next two books, The Serpent Sea and to a larger extent The Siren Depths, deal with what happens after the happy-ever-after ending.

Like a lot of people, I did not have a Hallmark card childhood, and even now I can tell that it still affects the way I think and react to people.  So in these books I wanted to explore the ways that the past affects the characters’ perception of the present.  And I wanted to show how Moon, who saw his whole world destroyed and lived for years in isolation, and who survived by a talent for deception and pretending to be something he wasn’t, would cope in what was supposed to be his normal environment. He has to learn how to trust his new, large, and somewhat dysfunctional family.  His place in Raksuran society is also a tricky one, since he is a consort, the only fertile male Raksura capable of breeding with the queens.  He’s gone from being an isolated loner to someone with a high position in a matriarchal society, who has some difficult and sometimes violent political waters to navigate.  He has to face the fact that it may take him a long time to learn how to trust, and that he may never entirely fit in because of it.

There were times in my own life where anger and resentment is about the only thing I had to keep me company.  It can be very hard to give up, even when the source of it is long gone.  To a large extent, The Siren Depths is really about confronting your past.

Moon has found his footing in the court of Indigo Cloud, when another court claims him and he has to leave the only place that ever felt like home.  His queen, Jade, swears she will come after him and bring him back, but is he really capable of trusting her to keep her word?  He also has to face the people who he believes abandoned him to die as a child.  But Moon has been living off his anger and resentment for a long time; even after he hears the real story, it’s still hard for him to give it up and face what really happened.  Especially when he discovers that he’s not the only one scarred by those events who is still living in the past.  And the Three Worlds are a pretty dangerous place in the present, too.

The Siren Depths: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s LiveJournal. Follow her on Twitter.

18 Comments on “The Big Idea: Martha Wells”

  1. I love these books sooo much. I’m not even sure how many times I’ve reread The Cloud Roads. There’s nothing more isolating than trying to fit in with people who everyone insists are just like you, even though you know better – these books handle this idea better than anything else I’ve read. I got my copy of The Siren Depths yesterday!

  2. This sounds so good. I loved the first two so so much. It is definitely on my next to read pile!! Except I don’t want the story to be over so part of me wants to put it off so I still have it to look forward to. You have done such a magnificent job of world building – everything in the books seems so real and yet it is so different from what we know as real. Thank you so much for your glorious writing Martha!!!

  3. Glad to see you here, Martha.

    Got a question. Given the events in the third book, and how it ties into Moon’s origins, without spoilers, how much of the “revelations” did you have in mind when you started the Cloud Roads?

  4. I really don’t care much for most fantasy, but this sounds intriguing. I think I need to give the first book a try.

  5. I agree,these books are beyond awesome. I am saving The Siren Depths for my holidays so I can enjoy it without interruption.

  6. JJS: I don’t see them as fantasy. Think of them as books about aliens with no humans involved; along the lines of the anthropological SF of Le Guin.

  7. I just finished this, I enjoyed the hell out of the series. Most fantasy doesn’t interest me, either (just how many times does the LOTR/medieval Europe premise need to be re-hashed, exactly?), but this was a very original setting.

  8. Yayayayay!!! I loved the previous two books and got my youngest brother to read them as well (he loves them, too). I can’t wait until we’ve both read this last installment and can geek out together. :)

  9. Astonishing world building, amazing characters (tough, funny, irascible, bewildered, ferocious), emotionally potent storytelling: I can’t get enough of the Raksura. I’m already re-reading this book, and want moremoremore!

  10. I have not read this series, obdisclaimer. I am thrilled to see Martha do a Big Idea, I have really loved the books by her I have read. _Element of Fire_ remains my favorite, and I bought a tsunami relief benefit book largely because it had a Kade Carrion story in it. I also enjoyed _The Death of the Necromancer_ and the Fall of il-Rien books. A close friend who was a very good fencer back in the day thought the duel scenes in Element were very well done.
    The books and series I’ve mentioned also touch on, to various degrees, the themes I mention above.

    She’s good, buy her books.

  11. I also loved this whole series. The world-building is fascinating and the characters are just so much fun to get to know. Highly recommended.

  12. How in the world did I miss these books?! I’ve read most everything else that Martha Wells has written and now I feel like I got an amazing Christmas gift early. So looking forward to reading these.

  13. I haven’t read the books. I’m just really hoping that’s a tail on that dude on the cover…?

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