When Harlequin started their LUNA imprint several years ago, little did I know that they would expose me to several authors who quickly made it to my autobuy list. I have been reading Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra since about 2007 when the third book CAST IN SECRET was released. I don’t know why it took me so long to start reading them because I remember seeing the first CAST IN SHADOW on bookshelves. Before I get into my review since this is the eighth story set in Elantra, following one novella and six novels, I will provide you with a quick background. At the bottom of this review you can see the covers of the previous books, some of which you can click to find out more about that particular book.
Elantra is a rather large city that at the time this series starts is populated with six different species called Castes each with their own Castelord (ruler) and their own language. The six Castes are Human, Aerian, Barrani, Leontine, Tha’alani and Dragon. Some Castes have different forms of innate magic while others have some members who deal with more external forms of magic and yet others forbid all magic. Within Elantra each Caste has an area that is primarily theirs, yet there are common areas as well. In the Caste area Caste specific laws as dictated by their Castelord take precedence unless a crime is committed between different Castes or an appeal is made to the higher authority. The higher authority is the Dragon Emperor, he rules Elantra and what he says goes. He has created a set of codified laws that govern inter-Caste relations and provide an overall structure for the running of the city. To enforce those laws the Dragon Emperor created three enforcement branches; the Swords – like the Army, the Hawks – like the police and detectives, and the Wolves – who go after what the Hawks cannot handle and are not necessarily expected to bring their targets back alive.
On certain edges Elantra is bordered by what are called Fiefs. The Fiefs do not fall under the control of the Dragon Emperor and are ruled by the strongest person there. The Fief takes the name of that ruler so as the ruler changes so changes the Fief’s name. There, instead of a written set of laws, might makes right provided it doesn’t go against what the Fieflord wants. As a result people in the Fiefs do whatever they have to do to survive. So is extremely rare for someone born and raised in one of the Fiefs leaves and is able to successfully transition to life in Elantra. The heroine of this series, Kaylin Neya, has managed to make that transition.
When I finish a book I usually wonder what happens after the immediate celebration of the hero/heroine when they solve the main crises for that particular book. Everything that led up to the crises and the event itself caused an effect on the world and it’s characters. Ms Sagara is very good at included the “what happened next” when she starts each succeeding novel. CAST IN RUIN picks up with the aftermath of strange, unnerving magical events, dragons flying overhead and walking through the streets of Elantra and a large number of a new species about 8 foot tall and well armed emerging in the middle of the city out of practically nothing.
If that wasn’t enough…
“Seven corpses are discovered in the streets of a Dragon’s fief. All identical, down to their clothing.
Kaylin Neya is assigned to discover who they were, who killed them–and why. Is the evil lurking at the borders of Elantra preparing to cross over?
At least the investigation delays her meeting with the Dragon Emperor. And as the shadows grow longer over the fiefs, Kaylin must use every skill she’s ever learned to save the people she’s sworn to protect. Sword in hand, dragons in sky, this time there’s no retreat and no surrender….”
This blurb came from the author’s website here.
I loved this latest entry into Kaylin’s life! Ms Sagara did a wonderful job of demonstrating yet again that even after you “save the world” you still have to go back to your day job and deal with what happens after. As with each of the previous stories Kaylin’s surprisingly innocent yet jaded point of view provides the reader with a glimpse into the inner workings of one or more of the Castes. This one happens to focus on the Dragon Caste and answers several questions that both Kaylin and I had been wondering since she asked them in earlier books. I really enjoyed finding more out regarding the dragons since I think they have always been my favorite fantasy creature.
During the course of Kaylin’s investigation she demonstrates that she is able to take what she has learned through her early life in the Fiefs, what she has picked up about Dragons and blend that with more traditional investigating techniques to attempt to solve the puzzling murders. Her tenacity and determination reminded me of a dogged hardbitten detective in murder mysteries of yore, yet her youth and impatience with the longer lived Castes’ apparent lack of urgency kept CAST IN RUIN from being too dark.
Ms Sagara continues to develop Kaylin as a person and a character. While that growth has been evident throughout the series, it struck me that in this book Kaylin is actually starting the final steps of the transition from childhood to adulthood. Despite what she has done in the past, Kaylin still retained a childlike view of certain things. One of her conversations demonstrated that she is stepping away from that shield. It will be interesting to see how she deals with the realization that she has two men, both extremely powerful in their own ways, each with a mentally intimate connection to her who are definitely interested in her as more then just another person.
My only regret is that I wish I could have seen more of Kaylin’s typical interaction with the Barrani, Tha’alani and Leontines. She had a few encounters but compared to previous books they felt shallow. Granted that could certainly be because previous books delved deeply into those three Castes’ cultures. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this and can’t wait for the next one.
I give CAST IN RUIN an A
Clicking on the cover image will bring you to an excerpt if one is available: