A fluffy piece of fun, albeit with more disembowelings than most works of that type. Orphan is picked as prospective consort for the queen and must prove his worth to his new home (and to himself). There's lots of to-ing and fro-ing across the landscape on various quests, plus some angst if that's your thing. The worldbuilding wasn't really to my taste--it's the sort of book that comes with appendices so you can sort out all the different races and birth-castes, helpfully differentiated by color--but hey, that sort of biological determinism does have a venerable tradition in the genre.
It was the strength of its characters that carried The Cloud Roads
for me. I was wary of Moon at first--I'm burned out on orphaned farm boys who turn out to be long-lost princes--but he has the nice twist of having been found in his 30s, not his teens. While there's some coming-of-age here, it goes both ways; the court he finds himself in has to accept that he is
an adult, adapt to his personality, and acknowledge that the things he's learned while lost in the outside world are of value. And his "when in doubt, hit something" approach to life is kind of charming. I liked Selis enough that I almost abandoned the book when she disappeared after the early chapters, and the rest of the secondary characters also rang true to me as fully developed people. Only Jade came across as somewhat flat.
I won't be slavering for the sequel's release date so I can find out What Happens Next, but I'll be glad to pick it up when it makes it to the library for a chance to spend some more time with old friends.
So much for the contents of the book. As a physical object, I was perplexed by some of the typesetting decisions. The chapter openers have these gorgeous graphical elements that take up half the page, which implies they didn't feel that tight on space--reasonable, since it's quite a short book in terms of pages. Yet the margins are skinny enough that it actually interfered with my reading, and some of the effect of the chapter-opening images is ruined by having the chapters start both recto and verso. I hope in the sequel the typesetter is a little more relaxed about including white space.