Cast in Sorrow, the ninth full novel of the Chronicles of Elantra series picks up almost immediately after the close of Cast in Peril. Although the opening chapters provide some background information disguised as an amusing tirade from Kaylin, readers will find this book far more satisfying if they’ve read the previous books. Fans of Elantra will notice that Cast in Sorrow has a different feel to it from previous books, mainly because the story doesn’t open with a mystery to solve. Without the usual investigative work interspersing Kaylin’s magical misadventures, this book feels more action-packed to me. I sometimes found myself longing for the sentence, “And then Kaylin slept for eight hours.” That never came, of course, but what did come was Michelle Sagara’s trademark lyrical writing full of difficult choices, entertaining conversations, and the deliciously tense ambiguity of frenemies.
Kaylin continues to mature in this book, and, while the early chapters seem to emphasize her weakness in comparison with the Barrani, she quickly starts to come into her own in a way we haven’t seen until now. Even if Kaylin still dreads a formal dinner laced with politics, she’s starting to understand how to survive and even get her own agenda across. Perhaps more exciting to those who are holding out for romance, Kaylin seems less and less distressed by her painful past that has, until now, caused her to struggle with feelings of unworthiness. In Cast in Sorrow, she neither shrinks before Nightshade—whatever mistakes she makes—nor feels guilty about Severn. Some readers might find themselves yearning for more outright romance, but most are likely to be pleased with the turn toward equality all of Kaylin’s relationships are taking (romantic and otherwise).
Naturally the questions brought up in Cast in Peril of why Teela needs Kaylin’s help and what happened to the Barrani children so long ago have to be addressed in this book, and there’s no question that Sagara gives both of these their due. Teela’s past makes her, in my opinion, a richer, more loveable character—not that any Barrani wishes to be loveable! Plus we at last discover why Nightshade has been so anxious to get Kaylin to the Regalia and get some insight into what he values beyond the power of the fief. We also learn more of the Lord of the West March than we have since Cast in Courtlight, and we get a better picture of the diversity of the Barrani as opposed to the coldly perfect political creatures they strive to be.
As Kaylin stumbles through various West March disasters and the Regalia itself, she gains a couple new and unexpected allies, which will almost certainly complicate her life in Elantra. The conclusion will leave readers both laughing and yelling in frustration as, once again, there’s likely to be a year’s wait for the next installment. There’s plenty to look forward to, though, and with Kaylin’s growing knowledge of magic, explosive combination of allies, and consistently high ideals, she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with when she returns to the city—if, that is, she ever gets that night’s sleep.
Co-administrator of Fans of Michelle Sagara West (http://fansofmsw.com).
Author’s bio: Michelle is an author, bookseller, and lover of literature based in Toronto. She writes fantasy novels as both Michelle Sagara and Michelle West (and sometimes as Michelle Sagara West). You can find her books at fine booksellers.
Link to author’s website or blog: http://michellesagara.com
Link to excerpt: http://michellesagara.com/cast-in-sorrow-chapter-one/