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3.9 out of 5 stars24
3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 September 2005
Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered - and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin....
Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.
But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers - powers that no other human has. Her task is simple - find the killer, stop the murders...and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!
First I have read by this Author and wont be the last. Its well written, witty and also has danger and tragedy. But cant wait for the next one.
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on 14 October 2008
I won't rehash the plot, as the reviwers who have gone before me have already done that. To summerise briefly, CAST IN SHADOW is the first book in a series about a woman who lives in a world where 4 different races live side by side. There are the 'normal' humans, the 'dragons' (not real dragons, more like humans with extra powers), lion-like people and flying people. She has a mysterious past that always comes back to haunt her. Basically, it's a fantasy story with intrigue and action, and slight hints at romance.

What really annoys me about this book is it's wasted potential: the storyline is pretty original and does get you flipping the pages to find out what happens next. Also, the heroine is the usual plucky type who can stand on her own two feet and has an answer for everything, and yet underneath that confident exterior are a few secrets...there's magic and mystery, fighting and strange happenings and new and unusual creatures...to put it simply, it's everything I look for in a fantasy novel!
So all in all the basics are there for a good read, and I think this is what all the other reviewers are responding to when they give it so many stars. And I'm going to admit, although I bought the first two books in the series because of the glowing reviews on Amazon, after I had finished CAST IN SHADOW I wasn't particularly bothered about CAST IN COURTLIGHT (number 2). However, I had paid for it and I soon ran out of things to read, so I picked it up and enjoyed it a lot more. I think it's because I had more knowledge of the characters and the world they live in.

Because ultimately, that is what's wrong with this book: it opens, and straight away doesn't give the reader enough knowledge of the world of the characters. In fact, the characters, including the main protagonist, came across as pretty 2 dimensional and shallow. I found that I just didn't care for them, what happened to them, what physical and mental anguish they went through etc etc. Don't get me wrong, every author has their own technique in fantasy novels for introducing the reader to the new world they have created. There's the 'explainers', who explain every thing and everyone, but have the risk of spoiling the pace and action of the novel and simply boring the pants off the reader with too much detail...
Or there's the 'droppers', who drop the reader right in the middle of some action, introduce things slowly and only when it is relevant, and keep on with the high pace throughout. Generally, I prefer this style, and I get the feeling this is what Michelle was trying to do...however in my opinion she fails. I was left bewildered for quite a lot of the novel, unsure if I hadn't understood a section because I wasn't meant too, or perhaps because I had missed some vital clue the author had dropped in (this happened a lot, and led to many re-readings of certain sections as I struggled to make sense of what is happening), or if it was simply down to the poor writing in general: I would recommend to this author that she gets a new editor or something, because the bad sentence structure, poor use of words and assumption that the reader knows the characters as well as the author does spoiled the book. (and we don't by the way. You created them, so you know them inside out, but brooding and mysterious only goes so far before it becomes flat and boring).

Another issue I had with the book was that the Heroine, Kaylin, came across as a young girl...maybe she's meant to be emotionally immature, but if asked her age I would say 16-17. I don't believe her age is ever actually mentioned in the two books I have read of the series, although I think I worked it out that she is meant to be in her early 20s. I'm sorry, but I don't think the author remembers what it's like to be that age!

However, after all is said and done, I still found myself reading both novel that I bought, and enjoying them too, and if someone offered me the next in the series for a super discounted price, I don't think I would say no...
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on 25 September 2007
I have been buying quite a lot of authors that are new to me recently, and this is the pick of the bunch. A world as vividly imagined as Tolkien's, but the facts appear slowly; a desperately serious plot; an appealingly drawn and only too human heroine with a mystery in her past; supernatural evil that has been checked but not wholly eradicated by the end of this, the first of a series. I would recommend it to anyone interested in serious fantasy.
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on 14 December 2010
Seven years ago, Kaylin fled from the city of Nightshade to escape the mysterious and brutal deaths of children who just happen to know Kaylin in some way or another...they also bear the same unusual marks that Kaylin happens to possess.

Seven years later and Kaylin is a Hawk serving under the watchful eye of the Lord of the Hawks and in turn the Emperor.

But when the killings begin again and secrets are revealed to Kaylin, she is forced to return to a place of horror and nightmares to try and find answers to a mystery that could destroy Kaylin and people she has grown to love.

This book had one of the most intriguing plots I have read in a long, long time. It was original to say the least. It started off as what seemed like so many different things going on at once - which kind of made me scratch my head in confusion multiple times - but then, towards the end of the book, it all connected and was suddenly relevant like putting together a jigsaw piece by piece (I know lame analogy right?).

An example is Kaylin's past with Severn; at the beginning of the book we learn that Kaylin hates Severn with a passion and longs to kill him...but we don't know why. It was constantly mentioned throughout the book which made me want to throw the book across the room at times because this past was refusing to be revealed (God Severn, what did you DO?!). It was only towards the end when Kaylin brings to light this past which was so much more than I was expecting. It was like a light went off in my head. It was a flawless point in the story that made me say 'oh, so that's why!'. A marvellous turning point that enables you to connect the dots, if you will.

What I also loved about this book was the writing style at times. It was almost poetic, particularly during a fight scene or when Kaylin happens to use magic. It took my breath away.

Having said all that, I thought there were far too many characters involved in the story. It got to be too much at times and I had to go back to the beginning to figure out who was who. It happened too many times for comfort.

As well as there being loads of characters, their names were too similar! It got really frustrating trying to figure out what role each character played, who they were and what they did. It made the story drag and considering how long it was in the first place, that's saying something.

I also thought Kaylin's magic and marks could have been explained a little better at points in the book. I know there are still a lot of unanswered questions that will inevitably be answered eventually but for what was accounted for; it could have been better.

On the whole I enjoyed this book. It set the scene for the next book in the series, Cast in Courtlight, and left me with a whole load of questions that I definitely want answered.
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on 28 March 2012
I really wasn't sure what to expect from this book. Having done a bit of homework before I started I'd noticed all sorts of contrasting reviews- lots of 1 or 2 star ratings and just as many 5 star ratings- so I gathered it was a sort of "you get it or you don't" kind of thing.

I also struggled to get a clear answer on what genre this is, and having now read it, I can see why it was hard to categorize. The cover looks like a standard Urban Fantasy, but it's not. I would say it's definitely full or high fantasy, but not the swords and sorcery type I'm used to. It's set in an alternate world and we focus specifically on the City of Elantra. There are a wide variety of species: humans, winged Aerians, half-man half-cat Leontines, ethereally beautiful Barrani and Dragons to name but a few. The city has a law system split into three branches- the Swords, the Wolves and the Hawks. Our main character, Kaylin, is a Hawk. The city is also split into two specific sections; the law abiding side, and the Fiefs. The Fiefs are a dichotomy of the very rich and powerful but outcast Biranni, and the pitifully poor humans, the dregs of society.

The world-building is quite complex and there is a lot to absorb. It feels like you are sort of expected to hit the ground running and pick things up very quickly as you go along. You really have to pay attention and memorize all these new races and hard to pronounce names. But I didn't really mind all that. I'd rather have to pay close attention at first than to have pages and pages of info-dumping. And a complex world, if done well, is worth it in the end, as it really captures you and stays with you long after you finish the series. And that's what I predict for this series once I get further in.

By far the best thing about this book for me was the story of Kaylin and Severn's relationship and just what he did when she was 13 to make her want to kill him on sight. This also links nicely to the current case Kaylin is assigned, involving strange markings showing up on murder victims' bodies in some kind of sacrificial killing spree that the Hawks- including new Hawk, Severn- have to investigate.

The main negatives for me were that the lead character doesn't seem to eat or sleep or wash or do any kind of mundane, inconsequential stuff that, whilst maybe not the most riveting thing to read about, is nonetheless necessary to make your character seem more real. And the other thing was the writing at the end section. I got kind of lost. I realize it was meant to portray the chaos of the situation, but I was quite confused about who what and where at one point. Which was a little annoying. Oh, and one other thing that might annoy some people is that no one tells Kaylin anything. She's largely treated like a bratty little sister by her fellow Hawks who are all older than her and have known her since she was 14 (she's now 20), so they try to protect her by keeping things from her. And since we only know what Kaylin knows, this can be a little frustrating. Or, if you are more like me, intriguing. I don't mind the dangly carrot method of story telling, personally. As long as you give me answers eventually, I can wait.

Overall, I am excited for this series and these characters and look forward to diving straight into the next one right now!

4 Stars!
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on 30 July 2011
Michelle Sagara has an engaging style and I have to admit that even from the first page, I was hooked. The characters were fearless yet sensitive and each one was bursting with unique personality, and the plot was really gripping and had me on the edge of my seat.

However, I did have to read quite attentively; at times, it is as though Sagara has forgotten that we don't know everything about the world that she has created. My confusion aside, I really do recommend this book. It's one that I've picked up again and again and again, and each time I've enjoyed more than I did the last.

Having now read later books in the series, I can tell you that this series heads in a great direction, going from strength to strength. I've yet to encounter a Cast novel that hasn't made me smile from end to end and for that reason, I recommend Cast in Shadow.
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VINE VOICEon 5 September 2014
My son and I just finished reading Michelle Sagara‘s "Cast in Shadow". Reading Michelle Sagara’s writing out loud is a completely different experience to the one we have had reading together lately. She has a lot more dialogue and "Cast in Shadow" reads more like a play than a novel. Realizing this has made me even more aware of the importance of reading my own posts before I put them on my blog.

… she added softly, remembering. The way they had huddled together in a room that was warm because it was small and it held so many of them. The way Jade had come to her side, had put a skeletal arm around her, …

Poverty stinks. There is the physical stink that comes from not being able to afford all of the things a lot of people (myself included) take for granted. Even stinkier is the unfairness of it all.

When Kaylin at the age of 13 moves out of the fiefs and becomes a hawk, one of the first things she notices is how different the two sides of the river are. Yes, there is poverty. Yes, there is crime (hence the Hawks, Swords and Wolves). Yes, there is inequality. But in the fiefs life was worse to such a degree that we might compare the fiefs with the slums anywhere in the world. The other side of the Ablyn would be more like Norway.

Moving from the fiefs (in her case Nightshade’s) to the Emperor’s side of the Ablyn is no simple matter. In Kaylin’s case she was helped/hindered by the magical marks that appeared on her arms at a younger age. The decision was to either kill her or to let her be under control of the Hawks. The Hawklord felt she deserved a chance to prove herself, now that the danger seemed to be over. Kaylin’s marks represent a danger to both Elantra and the fiefs if the process that was once begun is completed. (Hah, hah not going to tell you more about that).

Because I am practically 50 and perhaps because I happen to be autistical I understand the choice Severn made seven years ago. Kaylin’s rage/sorrow/hatred against him is also something I understand. Now that she is 20 rather than 13 she slowly begins to see Severn’s role in another light.

I also get why Kaylin was so pampered by the Hawks. She was 13 when she was allowed life and given the position of maskot and private. With the immortal Barrani she will always be a child age-wise although her knowledge and understanding has increased. Marcus, the Leontine, loves her dearly because of what she did for one of his wives. The same goes for the Aerians. You see, Kaylin has decided that she needs to use her magic for certain things.

Even though reading out loud was more difficult this time, Kaylin, Severn and Nightshade all captured my heart. My son must have felt the same way for he has stated that he wants to hear book number two of the series: Caught in Courtlight.
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Kaylin Neya has done well for herself. By the age of 20 she has dragged herself up from the dirty streets of the fiefdom of Nightshade and now works as a Hawk; the crime solving police force of the city of Elantra. Yet Kaylin's past is rearing its very ugly head, and the sacrificial murders of a large number of children which ended 7 years ago have again restarted. With intimate knowledge of the strange tattoos imprinted on the skins of the dead, Kaylin finds herself re-entering the fief she used to call home to catch the culprit and hopefully save the lives of more children.

Accompanying Kaylin is an old friend from the fiefs; yet Severn is now most definitely an enemy despite their common quest, but the reader remains in mystery as to the volatile history between the pair until quite far into the book. Kaylin is also accompanied by Tiamaris, a dragon in human form, and stirs the interest of Nightshade himself, the fieflord who is also an immortal Barrani.

MS introduces an overwhelming number of characters in this book, some of which I'm sure (and hope) will be spotlighted further along in this series. Kaylin herself is a great leading lady, and although young she is able to stand firmly on her own two feet. She's mastered fighting skills, languages, and when necessary, she can almost curb her tongue. Yet an air of frustrated amusement seems to follow in Kaylin's wake as her tardiness has now reached an almost legendary status in the ranks of the Hawks.

It's a good job Kaylin and Severn are such strong human characters, otherwise they would be totally overwhelmed by the other races MS introduces; the winged Aerians, the lion like Leontines, the telepathic Tha'alani and the immortal Dragons and Barrani. There is no romance in this book, but there are deep friendships and unwavering loyalties amid the complex, constant drama which follows Kaylin. There is action and magic in abundance throughout the story line, and although the city of Elantra and other lands could have been more detailed, the Halls of Law and the fiefdom of Nightshade; where the majority of action takes place, are more vividly portrayed. The big question when reading the start of a new series is "will I continue on?" In the case of "The Chronicles of Elantra" my answer is an emphatic YES and I'm about to pour myself into the pages of book 2 "Cast in Courtlight"
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on 24 March 2014
I was expecting really good things from this book, but it didn't deliver that much for me. The ideas were almost completely original, which for this genre was really refreshing but the writing let it down in my opinion. I found it very hard to follow as the writing wasn't very clear and seemed to jump for one topic to another in a very haphazard manner. Combine this with poor descriptions, rambling, somewhat incomplete concepts and a tendency to be overly melodramatic, makes for quite difficult reading. If the storyline wasn't so engaging and original I probably wouldn't have been able to find finish it. I will be buying the sequel simply because I am quite hooked by the story, overall it is a good read but unless you can persevere and cope with the haphazard style I wouldn't highly recommend it to seasoned fantasy/adventure fans.
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on 30 July 2007
good read, interesting characters and a good plot but the explainations just dont go far enough. All the characters stop just before we get to the part that makes everything make sense. a bit frustrating but I couldnt put it down.
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