Lynsey (A Bookish Life)'s Reviews > Cast in Shadow

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
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's review
Sep 23, 2011

really liked it
Read from March 24 to 25, 2012

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Having done a bit of homework before I started I'd noticed all sorts of contrasting reviews- lots of 1 or 2 star ratings and just as many 5 star ratings- so I gathered it was a sort of "you get it or you don't" kind of thing.

I also struggled to get a clear answer on what genre this is, and having now read it, I can see why it was hard to categorize. The cover looks like a standard Urban Fantasy, but it's not. I would say it's definitely full or high fantasy, but not the swords and sorcery type I'm used to. It's set in an alternate world and we focus specifically on the City of Elantra. There are a wide variety of species: humans, winged Aerians, half-man half-cat Leontines, ethereally beautiful Barrani and Dragons to name but a few. The city has a law system split into three branches- the Swords, the Wolves and the Hawks. Our main character, Kaylin, is a Hawk. The city is also split into two specific sections; the law abiding side, and the Fiefs. The Fiefs are a dichotomy of the very rich and powerful but outcast Biranni, and the pitifully poor humans, the dregs of society.

The world-building is quite complex and there is a lot to absorb. It feels like you are sort of expected to hit the ground running and pick things up very quickly as you go along. You really have to pay attention and memorize all these new races and hard to pronounce names. But I didn't really mind all that. I'd rather have to pay close attention at first than to have pages and pages of info-dumping. And a complex world, if done well, is worth it in the end, as it really captures you and stays with you long after you finish the series. And that's what I predict for this series once I get further in.

By far the best thing about this book for me was the story of Kaylin and Severn's relationship and just what he did when she was 13 to make her want to kill him on sight. This also links nicely to the current case Kaylin is assigned, involving strange markings showing up on murder victims' bodies in some kind of sacrificial killing spree that the Hawks- including new Hawk, Severn- have to investigate.

The main negatives for me were that the lead character doesn't seem to eat or sleep or wash or do any kind of mundane, inconsequential stuff that, whilst maybe not the most riveting thing to read about, is nonetheless necessary to make your character seem more real. And the other thing was the writing at the end section. I got kind of lost. I realize it was meant to portray the chaos of the situation, but I was quite confused about who what and where at one point. Which was a little annoying. Oh, and one other thing that might annoy some people is that no one tells Kaylin anything. She's largely treated like a bratty little sister by her fellow Hawks who are all older than her and have known her since she was 14 (she's now 20), so they try to protect her by keeping things from her. And since we only know what Kaylin knows, this can be a little frustrating. Or, if you are more like me, intriguing. I don't mind the dangly carrot method of story telling, personally. As long as you give me answers eventually, I can wait.

Overall, I am excited for this series and these characters and look forward to diving straight into the next one right now!

4 Stars! ★★★★

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