Cast in Shadow, the first book in the Chronicles of Elantra, our heroine Kaylin finds herself in some fairly deep water. She is pushed by outside forces in exactly the direction that her superiors do not want her to go. Places like the Barrani High Court, where she is beyond their protection, and where she will face unimaginable dangers.
Kaylin is a member of the Hawks, one of several military guard units, and while some of her skills make her extremely effective, she has always been incredibly stubborn about certain things - like learning magic. She is a recalcitrant student, but the runes and markings on her arms, while undecipherable to those around her, bear a power that she needs to learn to control. She finally has a teacher who is more than a match for her stubbornness, but her lessons have barely begun before she is flung into a dire situation where she can count on no one but herself.
I adore this world of Elantra, where several distinct races coexist, more or less peacefully. Sagara has created such a complex world, taking pains to make each race's culture so otherworldly that we share Kaylin's confusion and surprise as she discovers astonishing things about people she's been living and working with but never fully understood. Kaylin can be a difficult protagonist, a bit self-involved and irresponsible, but she is also courageous and willing to make sacrifices, as dedicated to using her gift of healing as she is to avoid learning other forms of magic. She and her childhood friend Severn, introduced in the first book, spend some welcome time together here, and I enjoyed seeing them navigate their relationship in the light of events that happened in the previous book.
This is now officially among my favorite fantasy series - tight writing, intricate world-building, complex and highly sympathetic characters, plot twists, humor, and storylines that keep me guessing and turning the pages. The world of Elantra is very complicated, and much is explained in the first book that is only touched on in this one, so I strongly recommend (as usual) reading the books in order.
Books in the Chronicles of Elantra:
1. Cast in Shadow
2. Cast in Courtlight
3. Cast in Secret
4. Cast in Fury
5. Cast in Silence
6. Cast in Chaos
Cast in Courtlight (#2 in the Chronicles of Elantra) by Michelle Sagara (Luna, 2006)
Source: My local public library
Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: "Why am I enjoying this series if each book has managed to confuse me so much? I have no idea. I guess because the writing is great and I adore the characters."
Elizabeth Shack: "The secondary characters are great, however, and the plot was adequately twisty, and there's a lot of humor — nice sarcastic humor — and did I mention all the random cool bits?"
Today's Adventure: "Love the story and characters, just wish I could figure out exactly how it ended..."