Friday, September 24

Cannonball Read #1: Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Geez, it's almost October. I'm behind not because I don't read--I've read well over 52 books since last November--but because I don't write. I will rectify that. So I'm just starting with the first book in the pile in front of one of my bookshelves.

Cast in Shadow is the first in a fantasy series written by Michelle Sagara. I picked the book up because it was thick (500 page mass-market paperback) and I was going on vacation, and because the hero is female (and thus a heroine, I suppose).

Her name is Kaylin Neya, and she works for the Hawks, part of a sort of three-pronged law enforcement bureau for the city of Elantra. The Hawks seem to be the detective branch. Now, I must admit, there's a lot to absorb in the first couple of chapters. I've finished the book and I'm still not a hundred percent sure I've got a grasp on all the world's inhabitants: in addition to plain old humans, there are Leontines, with features just like what you'd assume based on the name, Aerians, who can fly, Barrani, who seem to be the Elantran equivalent to Brahmins, except more perfect. Or something like that. Oh, and Dragon Lords.

At the beginning of the book, Kaylin is called in to her superior's office, to get a new assignment and met her new partners, one of whom she attacks at first sight. His name is Severn, and while Kaylin and Severn share a history (and she obviously would like to seriously hurt the man) their shared history is left to unfold naturally, much later in the book. She is also partnered with Tiamaris, a Dragon Lord, which is in itself an oddity, as Dragon Lords rarely work for the Hawks, and Severn is on temporary loan from another department. They have a special assignment, however, that directly ties back to Kaylin's (and Severn's) past.

Seven years prior, children were found murdered (disemboweled and with symbols carved into them) in the neighborhood Kaylin grew up in, and it's happening again. Only this time, there is a living person with those same symbols--Kaylin herself--who has seemed to develop or derived power from them. It is up to her and her partners to get to the bottom of the murders, before the body count piles up as badly as it did seven years ago.

I knew nothing about the book or the series when I picked it up, and I kept reading it because of Kaylin. She is young, messy, and horribly unpunctual, but she loves her job and truly appreciates the people in her life, and I think she is truly a person of integrity and passion. She deeply cares about people--or at least the people she cares about--and to be frank, I was dying to know what the history with Severn was. The story kept me hooked because, even through all the information coming in about this world and the developing and unraveling mystery, the book is populated with a handful of characters that slowly reveal themselves to the reader, shedding light on relationships and presenting nuances of understanding that really made the book (and characters) open up as it went along. This particularly worked well in revealing the history between characters and in shedding light on their choices in the past and the present, as they continue to grow and deal with forces way beyond them. I definitely want to pick up the next book in the series, Cast in Courtlight, just in hopes of revisiting with some of them and watching relationships develop with others.