Review: “Cast in Chaos,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Fascinating blend of fantasy and philosophy
Cons: NOT a high-action book (totally dependent on personal preference)
Rating: 4 out of 5

It looks like the world might end–huge magical power surges, rains of blood–but stubborn Kaylin is determined to set things right. She’ll have plenty of help, from the terrifying dragons to the Keeper of the Elemental Garden. What she’s facing, however, is so utterly beyond everyone’s experiences that even that kind of backup might be outclassed.

Cast in Chaos (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 6), by Michelle Sagara, is unusual. Straight out, you should know that this is a low-action high-philosophy high-monologue/dialogue tome, even more so than some of the earlier installments. Whether you’d look forward to this or not is entirely dependent on personal taste. Need lots of tension and clear action? Don’t read this series. Do you enjoy intense world-building mixed with extended ruminations on magical philosophy? Then absolutely jump in. Normally I’m more of an action junkie, but I’ve found this series to be fascinating and delightful. (Whatever you do, however, don’t start the series with this book. You absolutely need the background.)

In this installment Kaylin learns more about interacting with dragons, but that isn’t the thrust of the plot. The Oracles are all predicting doom in their own unique, chaotic way, and Kaylin has caught the attention of something called the Devourer that exists between worlds. The Devourer could destroy the entire world, unmaking it, but Kaylin realizes that preventing that destruction requires something more and different than strength of arms.

I really enjoy Kaylin as a character. She’s like a small bull in a very large china shop, constantly threatening to knock things over, break things, and blunder into every corner. I do wish that her friend, Severn, existed independently; he’s interesting, and I think would grow into his own if we didn’t always see him through Kaylin’s eyes. Tiamaris has come into his own as a separate character now that he’s a fief lord; I enjoy seeing the various aspects of his personality.

The magic surge in Elantra is growing by leaps and bounds; its effects neatly balance both humor and horror. There were a couple of plot threads that got a little tattered. While I expect they’ll resurface in the next volume, it was still a little jarring. Lord Nightshade puts in a pivotal appearance early on, then has no part in the rest of the book. Kaylin also took possession of… something… from the Midwives’ Guild, and then it’s set entirely aside. Again, I’m sure they’ll be addressed in the next book, but it’s still a little odd within the context of this novel.

Cast in Chaos is a good addition to the series, and I’m looking forward to book 7.

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