Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > Cast in Shadow

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
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Jan 21, 09

bookshelves: fantasy, 2009, not-worth-it
Read in January, 2009

Elianne was an orphaned child of the fiefs, scraping out a living in the fiefdom of Nightshade with an older boy, Severn, and two other little girls. Then one day strange markings appeared on her arms and legs, and the killings began. Thirty-eight children are found murdered with markings like hers carved into their skin - and she knew all of them - until they suddenly stopped the same day she ran away from the fiefs, from Severn, from the horror of what she'd seen.

Now, seven years later, her name has changed to Kaylin and she's a member of the Hawks, one of the three Lords of Law of the city of Elantra. She practices her healing magic in secret and under the protection of the Hawklord, a rare magic that would see her sent to the Emperor if it were discovered. But the killings have started again, closer together this time, and the Hawklord has put her on the case. He's teamed her with a Dragon, Tiamaris, and Severn, who's transferred from the Wolves.

It's an uneasy alliance between Kaylin and Severn. To complicate matters, the Lord of Nightshade has marked her, and the marks on her body are changing again. To find the source of the kidnappings and ritualistic killings, Kaylin must understand what is happening to her and what the connection is, before more children she personally knows are taken.

This is a book I wanted to throw at the wall every second sentence. And rip into bits. I started reading it late last year and only now decided I should finish it - all the time with a frown on my face. The only reason it gets two stars is because the plot is actually very intriguing.

There are seven races in Elantra: the immortal Dragons, including the Emperor, and the austere, magical Barrani; the winged Aerians, the snarling Leontines, the telepathic Tha'alani, humans and one other that's not revealed apart from a brief aside about their agoraphobia. It's quite the busy patchwork, and a world that you're launched into suddenly. This has always been something I've appreciated in fantasy, because it makes the world feel more real and accepted, like it's always been there and you're just late to the party - but, as with everything in this book, the writing style is so atrociously bad that it spoils everything.

Written in the third person but almost always from Kaylin's point of view, it has a modern, "sassy" voice and tries to be smart. Even though it's not technically Kaylin's voice, it is her voice, and it gets very annoying very quickly. The book is littered with those "climactic" stand-alone sentences that always lose their impact by being constantly used - something that made me put down the third Kushiel book before finishing it, though Jacqueline Carey wasn't half as bad as Sagara.

Not only that - as if that weren't enough - very little actually makes sense. It is full of these little quippy sentences that are supposed to be meaningful - are written with meaning and intent, it's obvious - but mean nothing because they just don't make sense. Which means a great deal of the plot and motivations and characters don't make sense either. There are so many little mysteries, things alluded to but kept secret in some kind of attempt to keep tension and the reader's interest - it was complete overkill and drove me mental.

Sometimes you can't even tell who's speaking, or who's present in a scene, because Sagara doesn't tell us and it's impossible to guess - when their name suddenly appears, you have to backtrack and correct your mental image of what's just been happening in order to include them.

The style is very obtuse, deliberately mysterious in the worst possible way, vague at the best of times and confusing at others. Sentences often lack connections to the sentences before and after them - these ones are written to sound profound but if they lack context or relevance they're just dead space.

Conversations are just as obtuse, the dialogue meant to be realistic but instead creating bigger and bigger gaps and more and more confusion. And it makes me want to scream, how many times the characters around Kaylin act all mysterious and won't answer questions, or give answers that make no sense.

I know I should highlight the positives after ranting on about the bad, bad writing - but I've already mentioned the positive: the overall storyline. Oh, and the Lord of Nightshade, I liked him. He had an excuse to be enigmatic! For the sake of those two elements, I've given it two stars. Otherwise, I nearly hated it.

I haven't read any of her other books (she publishes under this name, under Michelle West and Michelle Sagara West as well), but if the writing's anything like this, I'm not inclined to. The thing is, I bought the next book, Cast in Courtlight, first without realising it wasn't the first book, so I suppose I should read it since I have it. Seriously, though, this book came so close to being shredded to bits, which is saying something from someone who doesn't even like to dogear the pages.
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Comments (showing 1-15)




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message 15: by Julie (new) - added it

Julie Ok, it's kind of hilarious to me that you just put this on your list. I keep seeing it when I'm shelving sci-fi/fantasy at work, and every time it makes me think of Cast in Courtlight... and I have to go, no, that was "Cast in Courtlight" etc...


Shannon (Giraffe Days) :) Yeah we were talking about the other one before.

I bought Cast in Courtlight and then realised why I hadn't bought it before - it's the fourth, I think, in the series! As far as I can make out, Cast in Shadow is the first one, and she says at the beginning of Courtlight that you should read this one first.


Jeffrey Cast in Fury is the fourth. Its cast in shadow
cast in courtlight, cast in secret then cast in fury


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Thanks Jeffrey, it's really hard to tell because they don't say the order on the books, and one book I had listed them all with Cast in Courtlight last!


message 11: by Mindy (new) - rated it 1 star

Mindy I like this review. I felt exactly the same way. I got the first three as a gift - the other two are gathering dust. I really doubt I'll ever be hard up enough to read them.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) It's a shame isn't it? I sometimes nearly buy more than one book in a series at the same time but I'm more cautious these days! Of course, the times where you fall in love with the first book and then have to dash out madly to the bookshop to get the next one only it's gone - that's happened too!


Theresa Shannon, I actually really like this series. However, everything you mentioned gets on my nerves too. But, I still read the series. :)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) I'm glad Theresa :) I have books like that, where I like them despite their flaws. I did feel, with this one, that I couldn't take a step forward without being whacked in the face with them, but I'm game to try the next one. At some point...


Christine Great review! I felt the same way -- wanting to chuck the book across the room every few sentences. The next few books are the same way, full of vague and senseless chunks that were obviously meant to explain instead of confuse. These storylines and some of the characters really deserve better; in the hands of a more skilled author this series could be amazing.

Totally have a love-hate relationship with these "Cast in..." books :\


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Thanks Christine - it's a shame isn't it; I really enjoyed the premise and the characters and the originality of it all, but I just don't think I can wade through the other books, not if they're written just the same!


Neko :3 I feel exactly the same at the moment. Im trying desperatly to finnish the Cast in shadows book right now, but the wording and random sentences make it so difficult to understnd at the moment! Im only continuing to hopefully find out some answers to the zillion questions andd mysteries that she has put in place


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Did you manage to finish it Joanne? I had bought the second book before the first and I'm willing to read it, but reluctant at the same time! I can't imagine that it'll be written any differently.


Tommy I felt the same about this book; liked the idea but wasn't well written... it actualy pained me to finish it but i did because i wanted to know a bit more about the magic she possessed and the world created. But i just ended up more confused :L


Becky Mason I didn't read any comments about this book before reading it, so I thought that I may be the only one who felt the same way about her writing. I'm going to keep reading only because the story was interesting. Hopefully she won't drag out the rest of the books with meaningless interjections and obscure dialogue. Great review!


Davinia I'm so glad to have read this review. I thought it was all me and that I was confused because English isn't my first language But with all of the English reading I have done, that really doesn't make sense.
I really did like this book for the story and for many of the characters and I think I will eventually crack and read the next book just to see how the story continues. But the "bad" writing really annoyed me and I don't think I'll be up for it any time soon. But that's okay, the book will still be there when I'm ready for it :D


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