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REVIEW: Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara

Dear Ms. Sagara,

You are easily one of my favorite authors.   These days it’s very rare for me to follow a series past a certain point, but I find myself doing that for the novels you write under both the Michelle Sagara and Michelle West names.   It also helps that thus far, they haven’t disappointed me which goes a long way to keeping this reader’s loyalty.

Cast in Silence by Michelle SagaraCast in Silence is the fifth book in your Elantra series published by Luna.   The Cast books follow Kaylin Neya, a private in the Hawks, the police force that helps protect the city of Elantra.   Kaylin is stubborn, hot-headed, and at times immature, traits which prove unsurprising given her background.   Still, she’s a useful member of the force despite her flaws.

Unfortunately for Kaylin, she’s also gifted with an unusual magical talent of alarming proportions, the signs of which are evident in the black marks that cover her skin and have, in fact, continued to spread across her body.   The only thing she finds useful from this talent is her ability to heal, which she exercises often at the expense of her health.   Other people, however, don’t see it that way.   An Outcaste Barrani lord who rules over the fief Kaylin spent her childhood in has marked her.   The dragons who rule Elantra have seen fit to give her magic lessons.   The time is coming when Kaylin will have to face the Dragon Emperor himself but thankfully for her, that day has not yet come.

While the previous novel, Cast in Fury, was a direct continuation of its predecessor, Cast in Secret, Silence brings readers back to the format of the first two novels — installments which stand alone but build upon what has happened before.   One of the things that has remained a mystery to readers is what happened during that six-month period in Kaylin’s life after she fled the fief of Nightshade when the person she’d idolized, Severn, killed two of her dearest friends to protect Kaylin, but before she joined the Hawk.   Cast in Silence finally answers that question.

I didn’t find it surprising to learn what Kaylin did during those six months.   She had to have learned certain skills somewhere and given my impression of her time with Severn, I never thought it would have been with him.   What I did find surprising, however, was how she came to join the Hawks.   It fit, and it certainly didn’t come out of left field; in fact, it made a certain sort of sense why the dynamic in the Hawk is the way it is when it comes to Kaylin.   But I’d be lying if I said I had predicted it.

This brings us back to why exactly Kaylin’s past was finally revealed.   There’s an anomaly in the heart of fiefs and Kaylin is sent to investigate, accompanied by Severn, who is now her partner, and Tiamaris, a Dragon who works with the Hawks.   The assignment brings her back to Barren, which is the fief to which she fled after she ran from Severn all those years ago.   And it’s here that we finally learn what is at the heart of the fiefs, why Elantra was built around it, and why exactly the Dragons chose to make their home here.

While Cast in Silence is a return to the standalone episode structure that characterized the earlier novels, I will say it’s probably more introspective than its predecessors.   There are many flashbacks.   I thought they were well-handled and in fact, I believe the plotline supported their use, but I know some readers dislike them a great deal and thought it appropriate to point out.   For some reason, those sections — where Kaylin switches from flashbacks to the present timeline — reminded me a great deal of the novels you write under the Michelle West name.   There’s something in the structure that recalls those other books.

There is one other thing I’m dying to talk about with other people who’ve read the book, but I’ll leave it unsaid here because it is a large spoiler.   But for those who have read the novel, did anyone else feel like a paradox was created by the events that happened to Kaylin, Severn, and Tiamaris?

And finally, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up the subject of Severn and Nightshade.   I’ve said before that I am firmly on Team Severn, but that has no bearing on what I’m about to say.   Readers who are expecting major developments in Kaylin’s relationships with these two men will be disappointed.   There are some implications about Kaylin’s feelings towards Severn that, at best, can only be described as ambiguous but those who are on Team Nightshade might be annoyed at the lack of forward movement here.   It doesn’t bother me particularly but I have been a longtime fan of the Michelle West books and anyone who’s read those knows that a main character in that universe (Jewel) has had what might possibly be the one of the most drawn out ambiguous relationships with men in fictional history.   So take what I just said with a spoonful of salt.   I’m not especially surprised by the lack, but I can certainly see how readers expecting there to be could feel like they were being strung along needlessly.

Considering what we discovered in this novel and how it ended, I am definitely curious to see what will happen next.   I’m wondering if Kaylin’s time to meet with the Dragons has finally come.   That said, I’m not holding my breath regarding the issue of Severn and Nightshade.   B

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased at Harlequin or in ebook format from Sony or other etailers.

Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at [email protected]!

15 Comments

  1. RKCharron
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 04:05:07

    Hi :)
    Thank you for the great review.
    I love how you put them in letter form.
    I adore Michelle’s writing (under both names).
    I learn how to write better every time I read her.
    ;)
    All the best,
    @RKCharron
    xoxo

  2. votermom
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 07:52:20

    Is this out already?
    Yay!

    Go Team Nightshade!

  3. AnnK
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 09:08:06

    I’m on Team Nightshade, and I was rather pleased with the book. No forward momentum, it’s true. But a lot of blanks filled in and several more opened up.

    I do, however, wish Severn were more than a tag-a-log sometimes, even if my feet are firmly planted in the Nightshade camp. I’d like a little more tension there.

    As for the paradox–no. Their actions didn’t cause it to be impossible for them to take their actions. Thus, no paradox.

  4. Helen
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 10:05:59

    LOVE her writing. Have you read the Sundered series yet? Those were the first books I read by her and I fell in love with her writing style.

  5. Diane M.
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 10:21:46

    I love her books but the characters last name is Neya.

  6. Jia
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 10:26:46

    @Diane M.: Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll fix it in the entry.

  7. Jennifer
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 12:40:00

    I’ve gotten a little frustrated with this series, not only because of the lack of momentum on the romance front (Team Severn all the way), but IMO Kaylin didn’t appear to be growing up. She came off as very childish to me, which was fine at first, but I kept waiting for her to become a grown woman. I borrowed the last one from the library and I’ll probably do the same for this one.

  8. votermom
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:25:00

    Haven’t read the book yet, but based on the past books, I would suggest to Severn that he get chummy with another woman so Kaylin stops taking him for granted. ;)

  9. Jia
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 14:27:11

    @votermom: I think it’d have to be more than just chummy since Kaylin can be a little oblivious. (Understatement of the century?)

  10. Miki
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 17:20:30

    I really enjoy these books. As someone who doesn’t read a lot of “high fantasy”, I sometimes wonder if there aren’t hints/clues flying far over my head because I don’t know the fantasy tropes…but I still enjoy them.

    Yeah.

    I’d like to see there be something more between her and Severn (boo, Nightshade!), but I’m starting to think that’s just not going to happen.

  11. Nikki
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 19:11:41

    I am firmly in Team Nightshade. I like Severn, as an older brother.

    And I totally agree about the paradox. My question is this… if they met, why didn’t he remember, or did he and did he choose to do what he did because of the paradox or in spite of it. I want to talk about it too. The speculation, the speculation!

    At least they contracted her for a few more books,w e might finally get answers. I do have to say that for those looking for some romantic movement, don’t be shocked if it doesn’t come out quite the way you want. She does tragic love (Hunter’s Oath/Death) really well.

  12. Gayle
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 20:44:45

    @ Jennifer

    Kaylin does still appear childish in the books but in fairness to Ms. Sagara, not a lot of fictional time has elapsed between the first book and the last. She has grown in accepting the Tha’alani and Severn.

    I am conflicted about this book. On the one hand, it revealed aspects of Kaylin’s past which added depth to the character. On the other hand, the parts that didn’t focus on Kaylin’s past felt like a major set up to the next book in the series. It felt a bit incomplete at the end of the novel. I don’t know if other readers felt the same.

  13. Jia
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 04:33:54

    @Nikki: I think Nightshade does remember and I think that’s the reason why he chose to do what he did in Cast in Shadow.

  14. Nicole L
    Sep 17, 2009 @ 16:16:03

    What? There’s a team Nightshade?! I’m so firmly on Team Severn I never considered Nightshade as an option!

  15. Cast In Silence by Michelle Sagara « Janicu’s Book Blog
    Oct 27, 2009 @ 21:14:09

    […] reviews: Dear Author – gave it a […]

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