Any day that starts with dragon arguments is going to be bad
Kaylin returned from the West March in one piece. Now that piece is fraying. She’s not at home in the Imperial Palace—and she never intends to be. All she wants is normal garden-variety criminals and a place of her own. Of course, normal in her new life involves a dragon as a roommate, but she can handle that.
She can’t as easily handle the new residents to the city she polices, because one of them is Nightshade’s younger brother. On a night when she should be talking to landlords in perfectly normal buildings, she’s called to the fief—by Teela. A small family disagreement has become a large, complicated problem: Castle Nightshade’s latent magic is waking.
And it’s not the only thing.
*Blurb provided by Goodreads
Marlene: I love this series. When I finally got around to reading the first book, Cast in Shadow, I couldn’t figure out what I’d been waiting for. I glommed through the rest of the series in less than a month. Of course, that means that now I have to wait a year for each new book. <groan>
Cast in Flame was definitely worth the wait.
E: I seriously LOVE this series. Like Marlene I didn’t pick this one up right away but since I found it I haven’t looked back. I have reviewed a few of the previous books here on The Bookpushers starting with Cast in Ruin and continuing with each succeeding installment. I have been captivated by all of them. I also find the year wait torturous but I also know that Sagara will provide me with a lovely long read that I can sink into and know I will enjoy rereading.
Marlene: When I reviewed the previous book in the series, Cast in Sorrow, on Reading Reality last year, I said that you could take the girl out of the city, but you couldn’t take the city out of the girl. Kaylin is so much a creature of the city of Elantra, that I felt that her story lost focus when too much of the action took place way out of her natural setting.
The story is told from Kaylin’s first person perspective, so when she is out of her depth, we are too.
Cast in Flame brings the action back to Kaylin’s home turf, so even though the challenges that face Kaylin are a direct result of the mess she brings back home from Cast in Peril/Cast in Sorrow, it is great to have her back where she belongs.
E: I agree with Marlene that Kaylin is a complete city girl. She is at home in the roughest toughest most dangerous parts but when she has to deal with “nature” her life becomes even more complicated. While I enjoyed the trip waaay out west and learning some of what made Teela who she was I was glad to be back in the city so I could see the rest of the crew I have come to enjoy. Unfortunately while Kaylin was dealing with troubles in the Western March things hadn’t exactly settled down inside the city. Granted they didn’t have any “Kaylin-type” issues but the ripple effects of her previous actions are still becoming known. And what she brought back with her is also starting to take effect.
Marlene: This series probably makes no sense whatsoever if you attempt to start it with Cast in Flame. So start with either Cast in Shadow or Cast in Moonlight to get on board. If you like fantasy or urban fantasy, you’ll be glad you did.
E: As Marlene said this isn’t a series that you can pick up with the most recent release and enjoy. You really need to start at the beginning so, as a subtle hint if you are curious and haven’t started it yet check out our interview with Michelle Sagara on our other post today. And you just might have the opportunity to see what we are raving about for yourself.
Marlene: Kaylin has roommate problems, and house-hunting problems, and pride problems in this story. All she wants is a place that she can call her own. For it to actually be her own, it has to be someplace she can afford on her Hawk’s salary. Unfortunately, her dragon roommate complicates matters. Not because Bellusdeo needs anything fancy, but because she is the one and only female dragon in Elantra. The Emperor wants her protected at all costs, even if one of those costs is imprisoning her. Kaylin is caught in the crossfire, and all she wants is to escape the palace.
The way the house-hunting worked, it reminded me all too much of a parent trying to restrict a child’s choices, even though the whole point of moving out is breaking free. Not that Kaylin’s choices are constrained (except by her finances), but Bellusdeo is trapped and hates every minute of it. And Kaylin hates that Bellusdeo is trapped, and vice versa. There’s plenty of guilt to go around.
E: All Kaylin wanted was a place to call her own to replace the one destroyed by an Arcane bomb, a chance to walk her usual beat with Severn, to help the midwives, and to lose her money betting on the usual sporting events. Instead, she discovered that house hunting with a dragon roommate and a dragon familiar was a lot harder than finding her first place. I really enjoyed her adventures in searching for a new place because I have moved so many times in the past it was like Sagara encapsulated all of my previous frustrations and triumphs in one move. And the place she ended up finding was very very fascinating. The more this series unfolds the more I discover about precisely why Elantra is so unusual and why the city holds both the Barrani and Dragon Courts instead of any other place that contain a power reservoir.
Marlene: The place Kaylin ends up reminds of the sentient houses in Robin D. Owens Celta series. Which is awesome.
E: I thought after three books focusing mainly on the Barrani, Sagara had shown all there was but gladly I was mistaken. It was such a contrast to see Nightshade’s younger brother compared to all of the other Barrani. He was a mixture of idealized innocence, power, stubbornness, and explained why the Barrani young are usually kept out of site and struggle to survive. I also loved seeing evidence of the emotional bond between them because in a way it explained some of Nightshade’s actions and his attempts at placing Kaylin in certain situations. However, their bond and the expectation that each had remained unchanged combined with what I can only call teen hormonal angst ended up making things rather difficult for the entire city of Elantra including the Fiefs and has set things up for Kaylin’s next adventure. **rubs hands** I can’t wait.
Marlene: The Barrani that Kaylin brought back from the West March in Cast in Sorrow are just not like Teela and Nightshade. They have been living in a kind of limbo for 1,000 years, and are frozen in their youth. While they haven’t been matured by their experience, they have changed in ways that no one expects.
The mess that they unintentionally create powers the action in Cast in Flame and sets up the next book quite nicely. Except that I want it NOW.
E: In addition to learning more about the Barrani, the Dragons were front and center. Not just Kaylin’s roommate or her usual crew of instructors but one who has previously remained a threatening figurehead. I really enjoyed seeing more than a disembodied voice yelling and I loved how Sagara got around the need for proper etiquette. I also really enjoyed seeing Kaylin in the midst of her element trying to work with everyone to fix a problem without destroying or blaming those who didn’t know the results of their actions. In other words Kaylin was still trying to protect those she viewed as childlike or innocent regardless of their age and power.
Marlene: Kaylin does protect everyone she thinks needs it, whether they are technically older and more powerful than she is or not. Mostly they are more powerful, but because of that power have emotional needs that they can’t afford to get addressed. The way that Kaylin gathers people around her reminds me of something that Delenn says about humans in Babylon 5. We humans are the only species that takes disparate groups and makes a community. That’s what Kaylin seems to do.
E: As always Sagara delivered with a climatic fight scene that built along with the overall tension. On several occasions I wondered if Kaylin and her allies would win along with the price they would pay for fighting. It was good to see the disparate species coming together with their various skills as they all tried to save Elantra. Even with all the danger I felt the central theme, which I have noticed in more than one installment, is a desire for a home. To find, make, and keep that home against all others.
Marlene: The battle scene was awesome. I kept getting interrupted as I was reading it, and I got so annoyed!
It’s not just that everyone participates in the battle, but that long-standing enemies set aside their differences to save their home. Which is Elantra and not their individual little slice of it. Also the aftermath was amazing. Not just that the temporary alliances might hold, but the way that Kaylin was able to deliver some home truths to some very scary individuals. But then, that’s Kaylin all over.
E: While thinking about my impressions of Cast in Flame set in the context of the greater series I came to another conclusion. The more I read this series the more I realize that while Elantra is the Emperor’s hoard, the people, regardless of how they come to Kaylin’s attention are really her hoard and she seems to be the glue that holds the world together. I am curious to see if I stick by this theory or if it changes as Sagara continues to expand and grow her creation. I consider Cast in Flame another great addition to the Chronicles of Elantra series. It continues to move events forward while giving me tantalizing hints about character motivation, future abilities, potential struggles, and intrigue. Like always I can’t wait for next summer.
I give Cast in Flame an A-
Marlene: Kaylin is definitely the glue that ties together people who would otherwise never have a thing to do with one another. Also, because of her background, her ability to be cowed into submission by anyone more powerful than she is, is definitely, and sometimes amusingly, lacking. She’s already been as low as it is possible to get in Elantra, a lot of things don’t scare her that should. It’s funny that so many powerful people try to adopt her, and it seems more like she adopts them, no matter who they might be. She makes people see the world differently, and through her eyes. She still believes in the best in people, and makes them believe it too.
The next book is perfectly set up, and I’m very unhappy that I’ll have to wait another year to see if Kaylin can rescue everything that needs rescuing without destroying the city any further.
She also curses marvelously well. May your claws get caught in your blankets. Indeed!
I give Cast in Flame an A.