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Friday, September 20, 2013

“Cast In Sorrow” by Michelle Sagara (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “Cast In SorrowHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE (PDF)

Cast in Sorrow is the ninth book in Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series and the second half of the story begun in Cast in Peril.

This is not a series you can jump into late and expect to have any idea what's going on. If you're interested, you'll need to start at the beginning with Cast in Shadow. No spoilers for the book here, but I will be talking about some very series-specific features.

One of the coolest things about this series is that it's a cross between epic and urban fantasy; the setting of a particular city is very integral to the story, and yet this is a secondary world with an increasingly sprawling scope. And in this book, the main characters have been traveling far beyond their familiar haunts.

As with each book in the series, Sagara complicates the history and rules of Elantra in fascinating and confusing ways. We got more Barrani history, though the dwelling on certain cultural differences felt a little redundant after Cast in Courtlight.

Now, I know Kaylin rarely understands what her magic is doing, and Barrani of all people are not the most forthright with information in this series, but the descriptions and explanations of magic in this series are starting to bother me. Admittedly, this may just have to do with me not quite being the target audience, despite loving this series, because for me the magic has become increasingly nebulous to the point of complete confusion. This likely has more to do with my preferences and how I read than with the prose itself, and I definitely think more nebulous magic systems have their place. And yet, with nine books of background and context behind me I could not explain to you with any degree of certainty what has been going on with magic in the more recent books.

Perhaps as a result of being the conclusion of the story begun in Cast in Peril, this installment felt more plot-centric than others. It starts quickly and moves along rapidly between magical battles without giving the characters a chance to breathe. The focus on the plot also means we get less of other things: for instance, there's not really much movement in our protagonist's character, and I suspect the lack of development also has to do with the split between books, simply because so many things happen in this one.

In terms of characters, sadly, Severn doesn't have much of a role in this book; we barely see him at all, let alone him and Kaylin together. On the other hand, Teela and Kaylin's friendship expands and deepens in really interesting and satisfying ways.

I still love this world and these characters, but I'm excited for them to be back in Elantra, dealing with the fallout of recent events. The last couple of books felt pretty middle-book-ish to me, like there just to move the overarching plot along, and I'm ready to see what they've been building towards.

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