This is the third book in Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra, and it continues the story of Kaylin Neya, who grew up an orphan on the fiefs, the dangerous, poverty-stricken side of the city, but is now a member of the Hawks, who serve the Hawklord (who in turn serves the dragon emperor) in upholding the laws of Elantra.
In this installment, Kaylin is called to investigate the theft of a small box from a mysterious place that seems to hold the source or balance of magic in the kingdom. The theft of the box has had repercussions among the city's oracles, who indicate that the city will be destroyed in a matter of days if the situation is not changed. Then a child goes missing, a child belonging to the Tha'alani, a race of beings that Kaylin has always hated and feared, because of their mind-reading abilities. She'd like her thoughts and secrets to remain her own, and the idea that they could be pulled from her against her will is terrifying to her. But she has a notorious weak spot for children, and as she investigates, she begins to understand the true nature of the Tha'alani people.
I continue to truly enjoy this series, which is unlike any others that I read. Elantra is a place where vastly different species co-exist, and in this book there are hints of how that came to be, particularly where humans are concerned. There are dragons (who can shape-change into human shape), winged Aerians, humans, Tha'alani, and others, each with different cultural identities and standards, not to mention magical abilities (or lack thereof). Sagara has created an incredibly complex world, and each book delves further into the history and society of Elantra, as well as revealing a little bit more about the mysterious tattoo-like markings that appeared on Kaylin's body when she was a child.
I'm finding Kaylin's lack of education and unwillingness to learn about certain things becoming rather tiresome, though. If she is serious about wanting to be an effective Hawk, she needs to grow up, suck it up, and get the background information she needs to do her job. Her companions roll their eyes at the deplorable lacunae in her knowledge and fill her in, particularly when she makes gaffes because she doesn't fully understand the culture she is dealing with. Still, I adore her character - she is loyal and strong, and is not afraid to make difficult decisions or tough sacrifices in order to set things right the best she can.
One thing I love about these books are the leaps of imagination that Sagara makes. She is willing to imagine the unimaginable and describe the indescribable, which can be a bit confusing but creates such a sense of wonder that I become completely engrossed in her storytelling. Although I couldn't begin to explain some of what happens in these books, I still somehow understand them on a gut level, and I like that Sagara is willing to take these risks. She writes about cultures and beings that are so foreign to us that it makes sense not to feel like I have a complete grasp of how they work.
At any rate, this one is on my list of very favorite series, and while I haven't read any other books by this author (who also writes as Michelle West), I will move on to those once I've finished with this one. Highly recommended.
Books in the Chronicles of Elantra series:
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 Secret (#3 in the Chronicles of Elantra series) by Michelle Sagara (Luna, 2007)
Also reviewed at:
Beyond Books: " I had trouble following some of the elemental magic storyline, but over all I liked what was discovered."