Reviewed by: E and Marlene
Marlene: There’s a saying, often seen on t-shirts at science fiction conventions, that reads, “Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.” Kaylin Nera has clearly never seen the t-shirt. Or it doesn’t apply if you have a dragon for a roommate. And a very small and squawky dragon as your familiar.
Or, as is most likely with Kaylin, she knows and is too busy dealing with whatever the current chaos is in her life to care at the moment.
E: Kaylin doesn’t intend to create chaos in her life, she just cares about a surprising number of different people and their concerns/worries become her concerns/worries regardless of Caste (species) and their particular life structure. As a result her home houses 4 of the 6 different Castes some on a guest status others on a more permanent basis. Each has brought their own set of problems but they are all bound together through and because of Kaylin. In this most recent book of Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra series the predominate struggle revolves around the Aerians but it is linked to the ongoing greater war against the Shadow and shaped by previous events.
Marlene: Kaylin is definitely a chaos magnet. And she’s often the fool that rushes in where angels and other beings rightfully fear to tread. But as the immortal Barrani are fond of saying, she is never boring. Leading, following and protecting Kaylin has proven to be the ultimate cure for boredom for an increasing number of the Barrani, to the point where some of them are starting to crave a few decades of peace and quiet.
Kaylin is fascinating, and gets herself in so much trouble, because she cares about everyone, sometimes even against her own wishes. Or theirs. And because she hasn’t been able to grasp the concept that being politic and obeying the rules is actually a part of her job. Instead, she refuses to let the rules get in the way of doing what she believes is right, even if it might not be right for whoever she is breaking the rules for, with, or even to. One of the other things that makes Kaylin, well, Kaylin is that she is so very, very young. Not just in the eyes of the immortal Dragons and Barrani, but even in the eyes of other mortal Castes (species) like the Leontine, the Tha’alani and, especially relevant in Cast in Flight, the Aerians.
E: One of the many things I love about this series is how Kaylin develops as a character from book to book and uses that growth as a stepping off point for future life events. Ever since she became a member of the Hawks, Kaylin has idolized the Aerians because they can fly and are much more human seeming than dragons. However, flight doesn’t mean they are free from faults like pettiness, deadly politics, and hunger for power as she discovers when a deadly attack is aimed at one of her housemates. During this story Kaylin is forced to let go of some of her illusions and continue on the path of realizing how hard it is to adult. She knows enough to quote and use the law when necessary but is also still idealistic and emotional enough to go with her gut and insist on helping those she cares about. Her very refusal to believe people should be left to flounder comes in handy once more when the Hawks are officially powerless to help one of their own.
Marlene: This series is very much Kaylin’s journey. We see Elantra through her eyes, and as her perspective changes, so does ours. This is certainly true with the Aerians. As a child, Kaylin’s envy of the Aerians’ ability to fly caused her to idolize them. Now, as someone becoming an adult, however reluctantly, she is forced to see them as “people” and not perfect beings. Just as the way she changed her perspective about the empathic/telepathic Tha’alani back in Cast in Fury.
But up until this story, we haven’t seen much of Aerian life outside of the Halls of Law, because Kaylin hasn’t. Admittedly, the Aerians as a people are a bit secretive. And as we discover in Cast in Flight, there is a really big secret to uncover, one that ties into the incursions of Shadow that have caused many of the bigger crises in Kaylin’s life so far.
E: I loved being able to explore the Aerian life and structure because the only previous interaction had been with the members of the Hawks. It was fascinating to see their world from a different perspective and wonder about their origins. I also enjoyed seeing the Hawklord work politics in a social venue while making Kaylin want to hide under the table as her simple attempt to ease tension between two dragons turned into a much larger dinner party. The scene brought levity to several serious issues while ensuring progress of a sort. In addition Kaylin was able to see for herself a glimpse of the individuals within the personas who ruled her world which I think made her a bit more empathetic towards the lines they are forced to walk.
Marlene: That dinner party was a marvelous scene on so many levels. It gave Kaylin a chance, whether she wanted one or not (so typical of Kaylin) to see the people who inhabit her world and her life as merely “people” with lives and agendas outside of her own narrow perspective. It gave her a chance to test out adulting while she had the training wheels of Helen’s prompting in her head. And it was often just plain funny and awkward in ways that both furthered the story and broke some of the tension.
E: Sagara does a wonderful job of pulling together bits, pieces, and hints of things from previous books and using them to make sense of the next revelation whether it is a character or a situation. I adore the complexity and how each book even if not directly sets things up for the next. Nothing in this world remains static, even if a particular species isn’t the focus of the story they are still intertwined which gives a sense of motion and continuity allowing me to remain immersed in the world. My perceptions of the characters have changed as Kaylin’s perceptions have shifted and in turn they realize more of who she is and how far she is willing to go. I think it is a very good thing Kaylin really doesn’t want power or responsibility because she could rule everything but with her abilities and how much she cares she is forced to learn with power comes or should come responsibility.
Cast in Flight was an extremely enjoyable read. Sagara has delivered again exactly what I want to read and keeps staking her place on my autobuy list. I look forward to each new book and I can go back and reread previous books without losing any level of enjoyment. I can’t wait to find out who and what will be front and center in the next one especially given some of the recent developments.
I give Cast in Flight an A.
Marlene: As you might be able to tell, both E and I love this series. I discovered it late, somewhere around book 6. I read the prequel short story, Cast in Moonlight, in an anthology and realized, “hey, I have more of these around someplace!” and I was off to the races. Which means that every year I eagerly dive into the latest volume and then moan when I’m finished that I have to wait another year for the next.
I’ve always said that the Chronicles of Elantra was an urban fantasy set in a high fantasy world, but now that we are 12 delicious books in, it is morphing to epic fantasy. The stakes keep getting higher and higher, the consequences more consequential, and the dangers more deadly. Kaylin, reluctantly or not, is on the road to becoming a Power in this world. So much that happens hinges on her actions.
At the same time, you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl. The books work best for this reader when Kaylin and the action stay in the city of Elantra. When the fish is too far out of her water, the reader is a bit at sea.
The action in each book builds on the previous. Partly as Kaylin’s perspective changes, and partly as the world accumulates both depth and danger. But the Barrani are absolutely right, following Kaylin is pretty much the opposite of dull. And it’s marvelous.
I give Cast in Flight an A+
[Marlene’s extraneous note: I’ve taken to calling my cats “Small and Squawky” and “Small and Squeaky”. Once you finish Cast in Flight, you’ll understand why. And hopefully laugh!]