Review: Cast in Honor by Michelle Sagara

Review: Cast in Honor by Michelle SagaraCast in Honor by Michelle Sagara
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: fantasy, urban fantasy
Series: Chronicles of Elantra #11
Pages: 512
Published by Mira on November 24th 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

In the aftermath of a vicious battle between darkness and light, the city of Elantra has emerged victorious. But Shadows continue to haunt every corner of its streets...
Elantra stands strong, but countless numbers of Hawks, the city's staunchest protectors, were lost in the brutal attack. Humans, Barrani, Aerians, Leontines—none of the races emerged unscathed from the defense of the city. Homes were lost, families were scattered…and the outcast Barrani Lord Nightshade is missing from his castle in the fiefs.
Yet as the chaos surrounding the battle begins to wane, Private Kaylin Neya's duties must resume, despite her grief. Called in to investigate a triple murder in a quiet part of town, Kaylin and her companions are soon embroiled in a case that is anything but routine. Evidence of the deadly Shadows that still threaten the city leads to hints of ancient, forgotten magics. And a visit to the Oracular Halls points directly to Ravellon—the heart of the Shadows and the darkness they contain.
But it is there that Lord Nightshade will be found—if he still survives.

My Review:

Elantra is a completely immersive world. It sucks you in the moment you start the first page. Then it spits you out at the end of the book, gasping at the shock of the return to the real. You find yourself figuratively pounding on its door, begging to be let back in, only to hear a sniggering voice whisper, “come back next year”, as you scream in frustration.

I’m still sitting in that shock of return stage. I was desperate to see how it ended, and now I’m completely bummed that I finished and I’m stuck waiting until next year.

The Elantra series is an urban fantasy set in an epic or high fantasy type world. While our protagonist Kaylin is human and mortal just like us, most of the people she works with and/or cares about are either not one, not the other, or not both. Elantra is ruled by a Dragon Emperor who really is a dragon. And immortal. And believes that the city is his hoard, which he will defend to the death. Usually the challenger’s.

One of Kaylin’s best friends is also a dragon. Bellusdeo, rescued from the realms of Shadow, is the only female dragon in existence. She is the hope of her race, and she hates it. Because everyone is trying to protect this immortal warrior, when all she wants to do is be of use, including being the warrior that she is born to be.

There’s an irony in Kaylin and Bellusdeo’s friendship. Not just because both are female, but because they are both surprisingly in the same boat. People keep trying to protect them against their will, when all they both want is to protect and serve everyone else. That Bellusdeo doesn’t need protection and Kaylin is basically a squishy human doesn’t make a difference. They both often end up fighting some well-meaning soul who is attempting to keep them safely on a pedestal that neither of them has any interest in mounting in the slightest.

Many of Kaylin’s friends are Barrani, this world’s quasi-equivalent of the more political and tricksy variety of elves. One reason the Barrani like Kaylin so much is that she is a chaos and trouble magnet. Immortality often gets boring, and being around Kaylin is guaranteed to be anything but.

Her sergeant at the Courts of Law is a Leontine, and yes, he’s a lion. Some of her friends are Aerians, who do not seem to be immortal but do, as the name states, fly. Her house is sentient, and occasionally rather fierce.

But Kaylin herself is very human and very young. She is either in her late teens or at most very early 20s, and only a year or so has elapsed since the first book in the series, Cast in Shadow. Kaylin is still learning, but at her sometimes slow and often recalcitrant human pace, which frustrates the Dragons and Barrani no end.

The story is always told from Kaylin’s first person perspective. We know what she knows, we hear the explanations she is always begging for, and when she is lost, so are we. Kaylin is lost a lot, because circumstances have conspired so that she is always in the middle of big magic that she does not understand, but is often the only person who can fix it, even with her imperfect understanding and sometimes complete lack of knowledge.

The story in Cast in Honor is that something magical is swallowing the City of Elantra, and if it isn’t stopped, the world will come to an end. It’s up to Kaylin and her friends to figure out what is going wrong, and stop it, before it is too late. No matter what the cost. Or who.

cast in shadow by michelle sagaraEscape Rating A+: This is a series that you wallow in. The world of Elantra is incredibly complex, and is not really familiar. It has its own magic system, its own history, and definitely its own bogeymen. Even though Kaylin starts out the series not well-informed about the wider world, she certainly remembers her own history, even the parts she would rather forget. Kaylin attracts both natural and supernatural trouble, seemingly just by breathing, and a lot happens to her in each book. If the combination of urban fantasy tropes with high fantasy magic and scope appeal to you, start with Cast in Shadow or the prequel novella, Cast in Moonlight, to learn about Kaylin’s world as she does.

I wish I had the time to re-read the entire series before every annual addition. It’s that good.

This particular entry had Kaylin staving off the end of the world as she knows it, yet again. And it still seems completely logical that all this chaos happens around Kaylin. Also that she usually doesn’t figure out either what to do or what she did until sometime after the fact, but it still works.

Magic was visited upon her when she was 13, and her life hasn’t been the same since. In some ways that are good, and in some ways that are bad, but always in ways that the immortals around her find completely not boring, if occasionally extremely frustrating.

Underlying the mystery of how to save the world and why it needs saving, at least this time, is something deeper. Kaylin finds a young girl not unlike the person that she was at the same age. And Kaylin wants to prevent young Kattea from making the same mistakes that she did, even though their situations are not the same. In the end, Kaylin is able to let go of some of her regrets by letting Kattea find her own way.

But a bigger part of the story here is a meditation on loneliness, and what it means to be lonely. Kaylin is no longer lonely, and no longer alone. By chance, by design, by circumstances often beyond her control, Kaylin has created a family of choice around herself that she sometimes loves, sometimes frustrates her beyond measure, but always keeps her tied to the real world.

Through the characters in this novel, particularly the very unusual Gilbert and his unexpected relationship with Kattea, Kaylin is forced to look at what loneliness is, and how terrible it can be to be both immortal and lonely. It turns out we all need a hand to hold onto – even when we don’t have real hands.

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One thought on “Review: Cast in Honor by Michelle Sagara

  1. Excellent review. The Chronicles of Elantra is one of my favorite series. I’m trying to read Cast In Honor extra-slow, because I also can’t stand having to wait a year for the next one to come out!

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