Review: “Cast In Fury,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Fascinating characters and story
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

From the back of the book:

When a minority race of telepaths is wrongly suspected of causing a near–devastating tidal wave, Private Kaylin Neya is summoned to Court—and into a PR nightmare. To ease racial tensions, the Emperor has commissioned a play, and the playwright has his own ideas about who should be the focus…

Cast in Fury is book four of Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra. It follows Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, and Cast in Secret. I’ve loved all three of those books, although Secret was a mild weak point in the series. Kaylin is a very intuitive main character, partially because of a certain kind of magic that suffuses her. In that book, however, she intuited too much. It started to feel like a cheat. In Fury she’s back to a reasonable level of intuition.

Kaylin is a fantastic character. She’s beloved of almost too many characters, but Sagara neatly pulls it off (in most authors’ hands this could lead to a Mary Sue character). She’s impatient, crass, impulsive, headstrong, stubborn, and (mostly unintentionally) rude in some cases, but Sagara very neatly turns this into a full and vibrant personality that shines out of every word of the narrative. I genuinely like Kaylin in much the same way that many of the characters like her. I love seeing her get swept up in great events, and she gives even grand and epic plots a certain grounded feeling that I appreciate. She also tends to get into ADD-like conversational tangents, and it’s so well-written that I find it delightful. In Fury she’s forced to clean up her act a bit (including–gasp!–showing up for work on time) because her immediate superior, Marcus, a Leontine, has been accused of murder; his replacement is just looking for an excuse to get rid of Kaylin. Kaylin also adds some wonderfully whimsical humor to the book, and there are some delightfully quotable bits here and there.

In book two, Courtlight, Sagara explored the haughty world of the Barrani. In Secret, it’s the mysterious Tha’alani, who are feared for their ability to read minds. This time we get to enter the world of the Leontines, feline humanoids. On the one hand, this progression feels a bit artificial. On the other hand, I love the details of each immersion into a different culture so much that I’m happy to set that feeling aside. Sagara does a delightful job of making each of her races unique and fascinating, with hugely different backgrounds and cultures. She makes it easy to see why these races have something of an uneasy truce as they attempt to live together in the same city. It’s also easy to see why it took a Dragon as Emperor and three strong groups to uphold the law to force all of these people together. Speaking of which, I love how she interweaves knowledge of the dragons into each book, allowing them to come into focus much more gradually.

The plot is gripping and kept me entranced. By this book in the series I’ve come to very much like Marcus, so it’s easy to empathize with Kaylin’s unwillingness to give up on proving his innocence. In the process we learn a huge amount about how the Leontines live and think, we learn about how the Leontines came to be as a race (which gives us more information regarding the strange magics Kaylin wields), and we get to watch Kaylin and her companions square off against an unusual enemy. The stakes are Marcus’s life, the life of one of his wives, and the life of a small child. (Anyone who’s read the earlier books in the series will be quite well-acquainted with Kaylin’s feelings regarding children in danger.) Woven around this plot is a sub-plot wherein Kaylin and Severn try to help a playwright create a story that will help to ease tensions between the Tha’alani and the rest of the city’s denizens. He certainly needs the help–he doesn’t understand the Tha-alani, and they’re having trouble understanding the artist’s notion of what is ‘truth’.

All in all, this is a grand installment in the Chronicles of Elantra, and I very much look forward to reading book five.

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