Martha Wells, you had me at disemboweling claw.The Cloud Roads is high fantasy and by that I mean NO HUMANS ALLOWED. Instead, there are all kinds of interesting species--those of the air, those of the land and those of the sea but the main character Moon has never met any that are like him. When he was very young, Moon's family was killed and ever since he’s been searching far and wide, hopping between tribes of groundlings, in search of who and what he is. Even more troubling, the closest species resemblance he has found is to the completely horrible Fell--basically Enemy #1 of the entire world and for good reason. They massacre entire species and destroy cities. They are not exactly the folks you want on your Christmas Card list.Moon is a shapeshifter with two forms: a groundling form that let’s him almost but not quite blend in with most groundling tribes and another form that involves a tail, spikes, dragon-like wings and the aforementioned disemboweling claw. Moon knows he's not meant to be a solitary creature and he is continually driven to surround himself with a tribe. Just as inevitably, he cannot help but eventually reveal his other form resulting in the groundlings assuming he is going to eat them and promptly kicking him out.The latest tribe takes it a bit further by poisoning him and leaving him to death by large carnivore. Luckily, his species knows how to time a family reunion and swoop in to rescue him. Moon decides to make the journey to Indigo Cloud, an outpost of his kind, to see if he has finally found somewhere to belong.• Good news: He’s finally found his people--the Raksura.• Bad news: He still doesn’t fit in. Many of his people distrust him, consider him a feral stray and a rightful outcast.• Good news: He is a special kind of Raksura, one that his people desperately need.
• Bad news: Moon is not so sure he wants to have those special responsibilities--or any obligation to Indigo Cloud at all.• Worse news: The current Queen has kind of gone off her rocker and seems to be negotiating with the despicable Fell, putting the Raksura of Indigo Cloud in danger.• Worst news: The Fell have plans of their own for the Raksura. Plans worse than just eating them.The rest of the book follows Moon in his quest to finally find a place to belong, exploring what obligations he feels to his newfound people and whether it's worth it to join Indigo Cloud or if he is better off on his own after all. Martha Wells has built a beautiful world with some truly fascinating details. I particularly enjoyed learning the respective power structures of the Raksura and the Fell. The hive-like hierarchy of the Raksura with the queens and the clutches was really interesting. Wells can also write one helluva fight scene. All of the action sequences were very well done.Moon is an immensely likable protagonist. It's easy to become invested in his struggle to find a place in his world and a pleasure to go along for the journey. I really enjoyed The Cloud Roads and I'm looking forward to the sequel.This review originally appeared on Young Adult Anonymous.