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Book Review: ‘Cast in Sorrow’ by Michelle Sagara

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Engulfed in a story she doesn’t understand, Kaylin Neya holds the future of an immortal race in her hands — and the key to a delicate balance that could remake her world.

Cast in SorrowCast in Sorrow is the 10th book in “The Chronicles of Elantra” series by Ms. Sagara, and it would not work as a standalone novel. The intricacies of the characters’ relationships, the qualities of Kaylin’s powers, and the importance of the events that unfold would be lost on new readers.

As a point of transparency, I co-founded a fan site for Ms. Sagara – -not because I am a die-hard “everything-she-ever-writes-is-the-most-awesome-thing-on-Earth” kind of fan, but because her work is so engaging, and by the default of her long-running series, it demands conversation. (I attempted to tell my dog all about it, and that didn’t cut it.)

Ms. Sagara has a thriving fan base that gathers via a Yahoo! group, that connects with the author via her multiple social media outlets, and that, per the statistics of the fan site I co-administrate, brings together fans from literally around the world. (So why is it that when you try to find someone to talk to about this series, it seems no one has heard of her?)

That said, here is why I enjoy “The Chronicles of Elantra”: With her signature magic, Ms. Sagara builds a world we can connect with on many levels, she crafts characters we care for, even when circumstances occasionally dictate we shouldn’t, and her fantasy is brilliant.

It can be painful to be engaged in a series that is running 10+ books (one novella and nine novels) when the timeline for the characters has been two months between books, and for us, it has been a year’s wait to find out what happens next. This is particularly true when it comes to the romantic aspect of this Harlequin Luna series, but I am glad that the author is keeping true to the characters, despite frequent demands from the part of her fans for some more romantic action, please.

For the most part, each book has a satisfactory “chapter” feel, with significant progress made that, moan as we might for another long wait, we are happy to hold out for the next book in this amazing saga. There was some dissent among fans that Cast in Peril ended too abruptly, because it was the first book in the series to literally be split in half; Cast in Sorrow completes it.

But Cast in Peril did have an epilogue that, while not particularly satisfying, did give us as much of a close as we would get under the circumstances. Cast in Sorrow has a similar ending that may leave some clamoring it felt incomplete, and others glad that at least we got a satisfying answer to many of the threads regarding The West March. I personally would have liked more of an epilogue, so we could transition to what comes next.

As a reviewer, I’m in the middle of 17 different series. This is the one that I have stayed with the longest, and it is up there with all the series by Rick Riordian, and “The Earth Girl” trilogy by Janet Edwards, that I will read until they end, no matter what is going on with my life.

Other series, by the time the year rolls around for the next book, I’ve forgotten where the story is and I don’t really care all that much anymore. A large handful of the series, I may drop after the next book. So while I co-administrate Ms. Sagara’s fan site, I can deliver a review without bias, because I review for the same reason the site was initially created — to introduce people to authors that bring something special into my life, and to have a venue to share the experience.

[The remainder of this review is about Cast in Sorrow specifically, which I anticipate will be read by fans.]

Fans will enjoy Cast in Sorrow for the key threads of the story which are fleshed out (for me, these include understanding Nightshade, Severn, Teela and the Consort better, discovering a newly matured Kaylin, finding out what is the nature of the flying lizard, and coming to a brink of a whole new chapter — and finally, it seems that Kaylin will be ready to take on the full spectrum of what it means to be Chosen.)

The choices that Kaylin must make as she travels this perilous road of the Regalia will change not only her life but shift the fabric of her world. The consequences of having that much power and doing with it what she does will echo down for the rest of the series. She also discovers new depths to her abilities, and what she holds will either make her invaluable, or a menace, in the eyes of the Emperor.

One of my favorite aspects to Cast in Sorrow was the play on “sorrow”, because it was so gently woven throughout the story. It was one of the first books I really did not know how it would end. But the texture of the series is changing slightly, and I’m glad for it. It seems to mirror Kaylin on her journey from the 13-year-old assassin to the young woman coming into her own, and finding the strength to hold what is hers.

I adored the introduction of more “voices” in her head; I smiled as she attempted to be the traffic controller to different “conversations”.

But it was the manifestations of her powers in this book, and the dynamics of how she attempted to give her familiar a name, that made the year’s wait especially worth it. That aspect of the “CAST” series is what I cherish whenever I think about the book to come, because the exquisite way Ms. Sagara plays with words and brings out the heart of what things mean, reminds me of why I became a writer in the first place. She revives in me my love of worlds.

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About Joanna Celeste

Joanna Celeste is at heart a storyteller, writing reviews, short stories, poems, articles and the occasional novel-in-progress, as well as interviewing others to discover their point of view, in the celebration of story. She welcomes emails from her readers at joanna_celeste [at] ymail.com, though she is currently booked for reviews through to January 2014. Visit her at http://joannaceleste.com