Cast In Silence by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Silence (Elantra)
Michelle Sagara

This is one of my reads this weekend during the 24-hour read-a-thon. I bought this a while ago but hadn’t had the time to read it until now.

The Premise: This is the fifth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series which is a fantasy set in the city of Elantra, where Kaylin Neya, a member of one of the arms of law, called the Hawks, lives. Kaylin is the focus of a lot of attention because of mysterious symbols written all over her body, which have been there since her birth, and for the amazing things she can sometimes do. In this installment, the story continues shortly after the events in Cast in Fury when a message makes it’s way to Kaylin, demanding her help with something that’s disrupting the fiefs.

Book 1: Cast in Shadow
Book 2: Cast in Courtlight
Book 3: Cast in Secret (review – LJ | wordpress)
Book 4: Cast in Fury (review – LJ | wordpress)

My Thoughts: By this book, the characters surrounding Kaylin have been introduced, but we get some surprising background into Kaylin’s past when someone she knows from the fiefs shows up on Kaylin and Severn’s patrol with a message from the fieflord Barren. I don’t remember if it was mentioned in any of the earlier books in this series, but we discover that Kaylin spent time in Barren in between leaving Nightshade and before joining the Hawks. Exactly what she was doing there is slowly revealed in this book. I liked that I was learning some new back story about Kaylin, and we also get surprised by a different view of Lord Nightshade. I think I got part of my wish after reading the last book, which was to learn more about Kaylin and her powers. Each of the books in this series has delved a little into the different people of Elantra, and this time we’re circling back to the fiefs and to the characters and their pasts. I’m a big fan of the way Sagara writes her cities and the characters in them. It always feels like there’s a lot interesting things that the reader wants to know more about, so I’m glad that in each successive book, we learn something new. I also wanted to see more relationship development between Kaylin and the other characters, which we do see, however, don’t expect much romance in this one. Although the book is published by Luna, an imprint of Harlequin books, the romance in this series is very low and usually only faintly hinted at. In this installment there is even less than that.

When this series first came out, I think I read the first book like it was candy. I loved the idea. When the second book came out, I loved it even more than the first (it’s my favorite of the series). Then in the third and fourth, I started to have some problems (which I brought up in my earlier reviews): there were too many times where people either berate Kaylin for asking some obvious question about the world that she should know the answer to, or would just NOT tell Kaylin something because it was some taboo to talk about and again, Kaylin is just an idiot for asking. Meanwhile, Kaylin (and the reader) have no idea what the other character was going on about. In this book, thankfully, we don’t have another situation where the story would have ended 100 pages earlier if someone had answered Kaylin’s question, but we do have the usual – “Kaylin, I don’t know how you’ve survived for so long” comments. Sometimes I agreed because I know Kaylin is not supposed to be blabbing certain things to certain people, and she just can’t help letting secrets slip out, but other times, I just found that old chestnut exasperating. I know this is supposed to be part of her character (I’m pretty sure, because this is not a trend I see in other Sagara novels), but it still annoys me a lot. I hoped it would improve, but while Kaylin has grown over the course of the series, she’s still considered in need of  learning, so I suspect it won’t for the next few books.

The other (bigger) problem I had, (and I suppose it’s connected), is that so much is conveyed through dialogue and I often had trouble understanding it. Someone would say something loaded with meaning, and it would completely go over my head. But I knew it meant something because of the reactions of the other characters. So I’d reread it. And still not get it. I didn’t realize how often this happened until the read-a-thon when I noticed that my reading speed was about 30 to 40 pages an hour, when my usual reading speed is more like 60 to 100 pages an hour. I just kept having to reread pages and it had a significant impact on my pace. I’m not sure if it was just because I was getting tired from reading hours on end, but I think that the way the dialogue is written lends itself to needing rereading for understanding.

Overall: My feeling are mixed. I love this author. I think that this book is very well written, especially in terms of world building, actual writing style and characters. I will keep reading to find out how things play out for Kaylin, however, with the repeated problems in understanding the dialogue and with how Kaylin’s character is treated, my enthusiasm for this series is dropping. I hope the next installment renews it.

Buy: Amazon | B&N

Other reviews:
Dear Author – gave it a B

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Cast In Fury by Michelle Sagara

Cast In Fury is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series, and I've been waiting for it – I had it pre-ordered a while ago, and luckily for me, I got it a week early. I was in the middle of two other books, but I put them down and started reading this instead! The release date is officially October 1st.

This series is in a fantasy world populated by a few different races living together in the city of Elantra, which is ruled by a dragon emperor. The protagonist is Kaylin Neya, a once orphaned girl living in poverty but who has worked to become a Hawk, one of the three organizations that police her city. What makes her unusual is that she has mysterious words that suddenly showed up on her skin, and linked to them are powers she doesn't really understand, but somehow, when she really needs it, she manages to do amazing things. Her ignorance about how her power works is the reason why some let her live, but she is constantly caught up in power plays and secret politics within the different groups. Book three (Cast in Secret) centered on the Tha'alini, a race of empaths, and book two (Cast in Courtlight) on the Barrani – immortals who remind me of elves. This book touches on them as well but mostly it seems to focus on an issue amongst the Leontines. Her sergeant Marcus, who is Leontine is arrested for murder, which throws the Hawks off balance, and Kaylin is determined to help him, no matter how much he refuses it. There is also an ongoing assignment to babysit a playwright commissioned to write a play about the Tha'alini, who after the events in the previous book, people (incorrectly) fear. The hope is to calm the city with a positive story about them and what happened.

I have no idea what this cover art is supposed to represent – it's strange – the model doesn't look like the same one in other books, I don't recall Kaylin wearing dresses, and she doesn't deal with a huge wall of water being held back with the force of her hand at all. Not in this book. Very puzzling!

Overall: Well I think this was not as strong as some of the other books in this series, but as usual the world and character building is top notch. I felt that this installment did shed a lot of light on the Leontine race and Kaylin's special relationship with Marcus and his wives. The book showed a lot of how Kaylin's personality was influenced by this group – they truly seem like a foster family for her. The ongoing thread which started in the first book and which has continued in others regarding an Outcaste dragon trying to topple the empire also continues. There are a few more revelations about him and I expect that the series won't end until he gets defeated once and for all. Hopefully at the same time Kaylin manages to control and understand her powers.

Other than that, I felt like a trend is starting to develop here. Kaylin is thrown into a situation she knows nothing about regarding a certain race, and this race doesn't want to explain to her their particular history which is the key to solving whatever problem she's facing. Usually the world has to almost end before they finally reveal the big missing piece in the puzzle. In the meantime, she has to ask a lot of questions trying to solve the problem, and there is always someone around to look at her with an impatient air when she does. I'm getting annoyed on her behalf. I'd like to see something a bit different in the next book, and some more focus on her relationships and her powers. Not that I would mind learning more about the Aerians or the Dragons, which seem to be the two races without their own books, but I don't want yet another disaster that threatens a whole city to be the only way to learn about them. It will also be interesting to see what develops with her childhood friend turned steadfast and deadly partner Severn and the mysterious Lord Nightshade, who marked her as his Consort against her wishes. It seems like a subtle ongoing love triangle that gets hinted at throughout the books, and it's fascinating to watch it develop.

My review of Cast in Secret

I was trying to think of who to recommend if you like this author, but nothing quite springs to mind right now. Maybe Robin McKinley if she wrote series? I recommend her backlist.

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My first giveaway!

It's eight days to my wedding – which is on 08/08/08. To make everyone participate in the mix of anticipation and dread (haha), I've decided to have a giveaway. If things go well with this, I'm probably going to continue. I've given books to people before, just not in any kind of contest, but I enjoy entering other people's giveaways, so let's spread the fun.

Prize

1. $20 dollar e-certificate to Barnes and Noble (I figure this makes things a bit easier for non-US participants)

2. Your choice of a paperback book from one of the authors in the list below. It has to be currently in print (you can ask for Wanderlust too, just expect to wait a bit until it comes out in order to get it). 

Some authors in urban fantasy/futuristic/space opera that tickle me

Linnea Sinclair

Wen Spencer

Ann Aguirre

Ilona Andrews

Patricia Briggs

Eve Kenin

Michelle Sagara

Jocelynn Drake

What you have to do

Just comment with your name here on vox or on my LJ (janicu.livejournal.com) by midnight EST on 08/08/08. Anyone on the planet who amazon/bn ships to can enter. If you spread the word and post a link of where you spread the word, you get two entries in this contest (cause – this blog has um… about 5 readers).

I'll probably be recovering from the wedding so likely won't pick winners till 8/11/08. I'll try to be earlier. We'll see how it goes.

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*GASP* !!!!

Via Dear Author – Patricia Briggs' Mercy Thompson series is going to be made into comic book form?

"Dabel Brothers Publishing has signed bestselling paranormal fantasy writer Patricia Briggs to produce a new original comic series featuring her character Mercedes "Mercy" Thompson.  The four-shot miniseries will be released in the second half of 2008, with a hardcover collection from Del Rey to follow in 2009. 

 

The Mercedes Thompson series began in 2006 and currently consists of three novels.  The comic will be a prequel to the comics titled Mercedes Thompson:  Homecoming. " – from ICv2 News

 

Also – they're doing the same with Dresden Files? This is the first I heard of this. I think certain people I know may be interested in that.


 

ALSO – Book 4 of the Cast series by Michelle Sagara is supposedly in the works to come out this August-fallish? Will be called Cast in Fury. I'm really looking forward to it.

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Cast In Secret by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Secret is the third book in the Chronicles of Elantra series so I am going to give an overview without giving spoilers for the first two books (Cast in Shadow and Cast in Courtlight).

The setting is a fantastical city by the sea – ruled by a dragon emperor. As with all cities, it is segmented into different neighborhoods, and it is full of people of all castes, races and beliefs. Living side by side are mortal humans, mages, winged people (the Aerians), lion people (the Leontines), Dragons, super-empaths (the Tha'alani), and elf-like immortals (the Barrani). Kaitlin grew up in the poorest part – in the fief, but now she is an adult, and belongs to one of the three arms of the law – the Hawks.  This is akin to the detective branch. The Swords are the beat cops, and the Wolves are the executioners. Kaitin is unusual – she has unexplainable magical ability and tattoos on her body which bring attention to her from powerful people.

Book 1 seemed to center on the story of Kaitlin and where she came from and introduces the main characters. Book 2 moves the plot forward while focusing on the Barrani. In book 3, the focus seems to be the Tha'alini.

This book is a magic-filled detective story. Kaitin is asked to investigate the theft of a locked box with no keyhole. Of course things are not that simple. In fact, things could get very bad if the box isn't found. On top of that, Kaitlin – who has a major soft spot for children, sees a girl in the reflection of a pool in the same room the box was stolen from. This girl calls out her name, and Kaitlin feels she must find and help this child.

This will be the 3rd book in what so far is a 5 book series. So while the story is almost standalone, when it comes progressing Kaitlin's relationships and powers and it does feel like a transition book. This is a Luna book, which usually means some romance, but there is very little in this series. There are two possible love interests, but the relationships are subtle.

As usual, the writing is very strong. There are interesting characters and magical happenings and I LOVE the worlds that Sagara creates. As I have said before – she's on my autobuy list.

But I have a couple of nits. In all books, Kaylin is considered ignorant and barely an adult that world – and I'm just as clueless as she is, so the reader learns as she does. I felt that this worked in book 1 and 2 but by the third book I'm beginning to feel irritated. This is because people pointing out her stupidity and offensiveness by not knowing their customs in book 3 was getting tired – she should have learned not to keep making this same mistake, or they should have learned to stop pointing this out, no? Another repeating theme was Kaitlin's exclusion from important secrets. If she is supposed to help everyone, shouldn't they tell her these things? This happening in every book means you have to read slowly and pay attention because Kaitlin (and the reader) are kept in the dark with only small hints about the big secret thrown in along the way. This is ok, and in fact enjoyable for a couple of books, because I like the way the story takes it's time to unfold, but by the third, I was feeling impatient with this ploy. I'm actually surprised that I found ANYTHING negative to say here, because I love love love Michelle Sagara.

OK even with this nit, I liked the book, but it does not topple my favorite – the second book – Cast In Courtlight. AHH, one more year for the next one!


Hmm. I just looked at Sagara's website and she says "The "Cast" Series (5 linked books – not a pentalogy)". What does not a pentalogy mean? So maybe this is why it feels like each book is semi-standalone. I hope that more progress is made in finding out what her powers mean and the relationships though..

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Things to look forward to

Patricia Briggs posted the cover of the next book in the Mercy Thompson series on her site. Nice ass huh. This will be out January 08.

She also says on her website that there will be a total of 7 books in this series to be released in Jan/Feb of each year. Also there is another series starting in the same world following characters in the "Alpha and Omega" story that was is in the anthology "On the Prowl". Three books have been proposed: to be released in July-ish of each year, so a new Patricia Briggs novel every six months.

Also here is an interesting link – Briggs explaining why many fantasy authors write multi-book stories which I found after my mini-rant on series that go on too long. Still, she talks about trilogies more than anything which is a series length I'm ok with so no disagreements here.

The Mercy Thompson series is one of my auto-buys. Another one is the Cast series by Michelle Sagara West, the Magic series by Ilona Andrews and the Tinker series by Wen Spencer. 

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