Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered -- and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin . . .
Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.

But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging, Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers -- powers that no other human has. Her task is simple -- find the killer, stop the murders . . . and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!
This was another reread for me. The first time I read Cast in Shadow I came away from it a bit frustrated. I liked the story and the characters, but I was left with a feeling that I hadn't really got the book. A friend who borrowed it and liked it, admitted that she had read it twice, and it had made a lot more sense the second time. I decided I would reread it myself some time in the future, probably before reading the sequel as I knew I wanted to continue with the story.

Due to complications of US and Australian publication and budgetary constraints, I actually got hold of volume 2 and volume 3 of the series at about the same time. So all three books sat on the TBR shelf for a while until I finally picked up Cast in Shadow for that planned reread.

My friend was right. It made much more sense the second time. I liked the story just as much as before, but I understood it better this time as well. All the same, but original problems do remain. My feeling is that Sagara has done some excellent and probably complicated worldbuilding. However, she hasn't managed to convery the details of her world to the page as well as she might have done. I had to pay attention, knowing where I'd been confused before, to pick up on things I had missed. They were there, but still not easy to find.

My other issue had been that Sagara leaves just a bit too much up to the reader. I'm all for leaving the reader to do some of the work, but if the hints and clues aren't clear enough, said reader (or me, anyway) can't necessarily pick up on them. The characters kept sharing speaking glances or having moments of understanding where there wasn't enough information for me to work out whatever it was they were realising. In some cases it didn't seem to matter, but it others it might have done and I don't know because I missed it.

But it is still a good book. It's still an interesting story with engaging characters and some very clever ideas and plot twists. I was interested in reading the sequel before and I am more so now, especially since I feel like I understand the political system a bit better and everything suggests that will be significant in book two.

Don't let my comments put you off - this is a good book. It's just that you have to be awake and pay attention. Don't expect to skim along the surface and have everything explained to you, because it doesn't work that way.

There are a number of different races in this world and it is important to come to some understanding of each one, most especially the immortal Barrani, whose past seems to be coming back to haunt the entire population. They are left deliberately obscure by Sagara, but hopefully more will be revealed as the books go on. Cast in Shadow is the first of at least four books, possibly more, so I guess if everything was explained in the first volume there wouldn't be a lot left for the later ones.

So stay awake and you'll be rewarded with a very good story. As always, I have to find the time, but I'm looking forward to Cast in Courtlight (which has the most beautiful cover) and Cast in Secret.

Cast in Shadow
Michelle Sagara
The Chronicle of Elantra, Book 1
Followed by:
Cast in Courtlight
Cast in Secret
Cast in Fury

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