Publisher: Luna, 2006
Sub-genre: Urban fantasy
Rating: 4 1/2 pints of blood
Today we have something a little different as far as reviewing goes. The two of us both read Cast In Shadow recently, and we decided a joint review would be a lot of fun. So now you get double the snarky opinion! Aren't you excited?
Kaylin Neya is a proud member of the Hawks, the faction responsible for solving crimes in Elantra. She loves her job and the people she works with, and is proud to have come so far past the bedraggled street urchin she was not so long ago. If she occasionally makes use of the forbidden, mysterious powers she wields, most people look the other way. After all, Kaylin is able to heal people when even the most skilled healers can't.
When the Hawklord calls her in to see him, Kaylin isn't quite sure what to expect; certainly she hadn't intended on finding Severn, a familiar face from her childhood she'd been hoping never to see again. Disregarding her personal feelings, the Hawklord insists she work with Severn; this case is too important to send anyone else, since the two of them are most familiar with the territory the current rash of crimes are occurring, the fief where Kaylin and Severn grew up.
In the toughest part of the city, children are dying. They are being murdered and left with strange magical markings on their bodies. The rash of murders are exactly the same as the ones that happened seven years ago, just before Kaylin left the streets and found work with the Hawks.
The markings on the bodies are nearly identical to the markings on Kaylin's arms and legs.
Kaylin agrees to work with Severn, although she promises herself never to trust him again. The two of them are paired up with Tiamaris, a highly educated dragon lord, and sent to find out who's behind these murders... and why they seem to revolve around Kaylin.
Anna: I've actually never read anything by Michelle Sagara before. Cast In Shadow has a fantastic quote from Tanya Huff, who I adore, which was the deciding factor in picking up this book. If Tanya Huff called me up and asked me to have her babies, I totally would. No hesitation. I have some mad, obsessive, scary-stalker love for her, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
I think I just sidetracked myself.
Sarah: At least you had SOME incentive. I just picked it because it sounded awesome. I wasn't even all that impressed with the cover... hehehe
Anna: I actually can't complain too much about the cover, for once. The glowy effects are kind of neat, the girl is actually wearing clothes, and the scene looks like something actually described in the book. I'm impressed. But then again, shiny things usually impress me.
Sarah: I didn't dislike the cover, and the absence of nakedness was nice for a fantasy novel, it just didn't really impress me all that much. I adore the back cover though, it's beautiful... I think your husband's theory is correct. I wasn't all that impressed with the book at first, and then... LOVE.
Anna: Well, there goes that whole "don't judge a book by its cover" idea.
Sarah: I KNOW!
Anna: Well, you must have wound up with some mad love for this book, because you got a chance to read it before the copy I'd ordered arrived, and I kept getting poked in the direction of this book. "MUST READ. DO IT. DO IT NOW."
Sarah: Only because of its sheer awesome. Srsly. The characters? LOVE. The world they live in? AWESOME. The plot? SO GOOD. The races? LOVABLE. Even the bad guys were awesome. Though, I do tend to fall for the bad guys, so....
Anna: I really really loved the world building. The races were all very different and original, which... you really don't see much in fantasy these days. No elves or dwarves in sight. I'm particularly fond of the Leontines (catpeople). I want one for my very own.
Sarah: Yeah, I was a little wary of that at first. I think most people cling to already existing races because of familiarity and not wanting the pressure of creating their own from scratch. She did an amazing job of it though. And yes, Leontines were particularly awesome. I also loved the Aerians. And I really loved how the eyes of some of the races changed color with emotions. That was an awesome addition.
Anna: Fantastic details. Well, I guess not just with the races, but with all the characters and the whole world. Sagara has a knack for throwing in these little details that bring her concepts to life and instead of being merely interesting, they were absorbing. I couldn't put the book down. The cover of my copy has permanent thumbprints.
Sarah: Yeah, she did a really amazing job creating the world that the characers live in. And her detailing of it was fantastic. I loved that she never went overboard with her descriptive detail, like so very many authors tend to do. Not enough is irritating, too much is boring, but hers was just right. Yes.
Anna: Yeah, too much detail is one of my pet peeves. But I'm gonna save that rant for another day because believe me, once I get going on that one, it takes a long time to shut me up. So. While we're gushing and piling on the accolades, something I thought should be mentioned was Kaylin herself. She was a really realistic character, despite her superpowers. I loved that she was always late for everything and getting in trouble for it. It was such a little thing, but it immediately helped bring her from a 2D superchick type to a real, flawed person.
Sarah: I loved that. Especially that she was actually punished for it, that it wasn't just glossed over. I also really liked that, even though it was forbidden for her to use her powers, when she did use it to help others (more specifically, birthing mothers or children) it was overlooked, even though everyone knew what she had done. I also adored her love of the children at the foundling home.
Anna: And didn't you mention something about having a fictional character crush on Severn by the end?
Sarah: ...Yes. I luff him. I want one of my very own.
Anna: Ok. I get a Leontine, and you can have Severn.
Sarah: And can we share a Tiamaris?
Anna: Everyone should have their very own dragon lord!
Anna: Was there actually anything you didn't like about the book?
Sarah: hmm.... I'm sure there was something...
Anna: My one grumble, and you've already heard it, is that things between Kaylin and Severn weren't fully resolved by the end of the book. I was waiting for that one more scene where they came to some sort of understanding, and it never happened. I'm aware it's the first in a series, but it still made me grumble.
Sarah: Yeah. I don't know, I actually kinda like the way it ended. It didn't feel (to me...) that anything could have been resolved between them. And I think the fact that Severn wanted her acceptance to stay on the Hawks, and that she gave that, was about as much resolve as could be fit into the story. It did take me a little bit to really get into the story, though. I think maybe because it was so different. I had some lukewarm feelings about that, but I don't think there was really anything I specifically disliked about the book.
Anna: I was off and running as soon as I met Marcus (Kaylin's immediate superior and a Leontine) and the description of his desk with its furrows from his claws.
Sarah: Yeah, that was also a fantastic detail.
Anna: So all in all, I have every intention of reading the next book in the series. And forcing everyone to hear the impending squees and/or grumbles.
Sarah: I... think I have the same intentions. Also? Forcing others to read its awesomeness.
Anna: And that's really the ultimate recommendation, isn't it?
Sarah: preeetty much
So there you have it. Cast in Shadows is good enough to force on your friends. Or your enemies. Or random strangers. Whoever.