Review: “Cast In Secret,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Absolutely filled with Kaylin’s personality; tense plotting
Cons: Some confusing bits; too many complex ‘instinctual’ actions
Rating: 4 out of 5

Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Secret is book three of the Chronicles of Elantra. (It’s also available as part of the Chronicles of Elantra (Cast in Shadow / Cast in Courtlight / Cast in Secret) bundle.) Private Kaylin Neya’s skin has been marked by tattoo-like symbols, and she has great–if poorly controlled–power to call upon. This time she’s called in to help find a stolen reliquary, a seemingly simple theft, except that the reliquary holds an immense power–one which the Oracles believe will destroy the city. Somehow this is linked to a missing child, and Kaylin, who loves children, will have to learn how to use her powers quickly if she wants to save the child, as well as the entire city. It’s a good thing she has friends to help her.

 

Kaylin is still an expert at offending people with her brash statements and her inappropriate questions; I find it endearing. Her personality really shines through in this narrative and this makes it easy to identify and sympathize with her. The characters are a lot of fun and have plenty of depth. Almost everything that was great in Cast In Shadow and Cast In Courtlight is still fantastic here. The worldbuilding is complex and immersive without a need for infodumps. Bits and pieces of Kaylin’s arc-plot come together, letting her (and us) start to get a little bit more of a feel for what she can do. We also see a lot more of the complex moral gray areas–if you like your fantasy black-and-white then this series isn’t for you. The plot is tense and down to the wire, and drew me in completely.

There are two aspects of Cast In Secret that don’t quite hold up to the previous two books. The first regards the rather oblique, half-said nature of many of Kaylin’s conversations. This time I had more trouble keeping up with them, and more difficulty figuring out how Kaylin could keep up as much as she did. The second problem is that too many important things happen just because Kaylin’s instincts tell her what to do. A certain amount of this is okay, but in at least one place she had an extended conversation in which her part was almost entirely instinct. It’s hard to buy into, and makes those plot developments seem less hard-won than they should. It takes some of the suspense out of things. (It also starts to push Kaylin dangerously close to Mary Sue territory.)

The narrative voice is excellent. There are nice quotable bits in this volume, and the perfect amount of humor to leaven the darkness and tragedy. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment!

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