Review: “Cast in Courtlight,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Evocative and engrossing
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Kaylin is blunt to the point of rudeness, perpetually late to the point of offense, and apt to say exactly the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time. The Barrani High Court is a highly political, extremely subtle place where saying the wrong or impolite thing could end your life. These are two things that should never mix–so of course they do. Kaylin is needed to save the life of the younger son of the Caste Lord in order to avert a war. There’s no way for her to do this, however, without tying her life irrevocably to his and embroiling herself in a political game with the highest stakes. She’s going to have to watch her mouth, hold on tight, and pray that she lives through the experience!

 

Cast in Courtlight (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 2) is by Michelle Sagara. (It’s also available as part of the Chronicles of Elantra (Cast in Shadow / Cast in Courtlight / Cast in Secret) bundle.) It’s an incredibly engrossing tale that kept me excitedly turning pages from start to finish.

Kaylin is a fantastic character. It would be easy for her to turn into a Mary Sue in the hands of the wrong author, but Ms. Sagara neatly sidesteps this trap. She’s the center of attention and very powerful, but her youth, enthusiasm, absolute refusal to learn anything she deems less than practical, and tendency to stick her foot in her mouth make her really fun to follow along with. She even struggles with words sometimes, which is a trait that it can be challenging for an author to write! In this case it’s nice to have her confused perspective, because it helps to immerse the reader in the strangeness, layers, and subtlety of Barrani court politics.

“There’s something here I don’t see clearly.”
“Probably most of it.”
She shrugged. “Most of it’s not important. I can afford not to see those bits.”

I love watching Kaylin’s relationships grow and change. She and Severn spend some time facing their mutual demons, and her ties to Lord Nightshade become both stronger and stranger, connecting them in odd ways and occasionally allowing him to help her even from afar.

Kaylin’s story is both frightening and funny at the same time. There’s plenty of whimsical fun, particularly in Kaylin’s relationships with some of her fellow Hawks, but events spend plenty of time at the tense and dangerous end of things as well. The writing is evocative and colorful and I never have trouble picturing what’s going on. I’m so looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

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