Review: “Cast In Shadow,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Intense and emotional
Cons: Very occasionally confusing
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Kaylin is a Hawk, serving one of the three Lords of Law. The Lords are looking into a series of murders in which children are marked with odd script and then ritually sacrificed. Kaylin dealt with murders like these once before, when she was young and lived in the fief beyond the reach of the Lords. She knew the children who were sacrificed then, and dealt with tragedies of her own. She’d do anything to stop the current rash of murders–even if it means teaming up with Severn, whom she’s wanted to kill for his own role in her old tragedies. Kaylin is intimately tied to the murders, however. She has the same markings on her own arms, and yet they appeared there on their own–and she’s never been targeted by the killers. She also has strange powers of her own, powers that let her heal, but that she must keep carefully under wraps. The Hawk Lord protects her for some reason of his own, but she makes that hard on him–she’s stubborn, overly curious, and perpetually late to everything. She’s going to have to get her act together if she’s going to put a stop to the new round of murders.

 

Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara, is book one 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.) I heard good things about the series and figured that for once I’d get to start at the beginning–I’m so glad that I did!

I love the characters in Cast in Shadow. They have depth, and flaws, and secrets. People have been hiding information about Kaylin from herself, but for once I understood why and didn’t find myself frustrated with this as a reader. Kaylin is impetuous and undisciplined, but I understood why the people around her tended to cut her some slack.

The worldbuilding is fantastic. The setting feels unique and fascinating. It’s detailed just enough to feel complete, without any ungainly infodumps to slow things down. The ecosystem of races and levels of society sucked me in and left me wanting more. There are plenty of mysteries to the world, such that I can easily imagine not growing tired of things through the rest of the series–I can’t wait to read the other books and find out if that holds true. On the one hand I wish I’d discovered this series before now, but at least this way I don’t have to wait before reading more installments in the series! I did occasionally find the descriptions of magic’s use slightly confusing, but this didn’t significantly detract from my enjoyment.

The plot dragged me in thoroughly. I had trouble tearing myself away from the pages even though I’ve been really restless lately, which I wholly appreciate. There are some serious moral dilemmas in here rather than easy black-and-white answers. I shed tears more than once, which always says great things about how emotionally engaging a book is. Time to put the next book on hold with my library!

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