Review: “Cast in Ruin,” Michelle Sagara

Pros: Rich worldbuilding
Cons: Not everyone’s cup of tea
Rating: 4 out of 5

Kaylin is called into the fief of Tiamaris to help solve a mystery: How is it that there are seven identical corpses, all of them the same woman, wearing the same dress. At least the case is delaying Kaylin’s etiquette classes at the palace, but there’s a deadline of sorts: the dragons believe there will ultimately be nine identical corpses, which means Kaylin will have to hurry if she wants to save numbers eight and nine.

 

Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Ruin (Chronicles of Elantra, Book 7) is an intense read. Again I’ll mention that these books are high on philosophy and are not action-packed. It’s a personal taste thing. In this case you really can’t start with a later book; the world and story are too complex. You need the background. On the plus side, this means you’ll know whether you like the style well before you get to book seven!

We’ve been seeing bits and pieces about the dragons throughout the first six novels, but this time we get a more intensive examination. The Arkon leaves his library again! We find out a few fascinating details on how they reproduce and grow. I also love the fact that Tiamaris, now that he has gone off to rule his own fief, is showing more individualism in how he’s acting and thinking. It’s a nice bit of character growth. On a related-but-not-dragons note, Severn is finally showing more individuality and personality, and Kaylin is learning to be a bit more adult (and restrained). Don’t worry, it isn’t a large enough change to make her anything other than her own unique self, but it’s good to see growth in a main character. Also, a new major female character is introduced, which helps to distance Kaylin from her constant danger of becoming a Mary Sue. (To be honest, it’s been borderline enough in some of the preceding books that I imagine some people would argue that she is, in fact, a Mary Sue. For me, her personality keeps that possibility at bay.)

I feel like I’m getting a better handle on the world’s language- and true name-based magic. I shed one or two tears at pivotal points in the story, which means the book provides an emotional connection with its events. The new major character introduces an interesting dynamic between Kaylin and the dragons; I’m looking forward to seeing what comes of that in the next book. Some of the refugees are also winding their way into the story. But mostly, I just want to know what’s going to happen with that damn egg!

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