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REVIEW: Cast in Fury by Michelle Sagara

Dear Ms. Sargara,

037380269201lzzzzzzzI suspect longtime fantasy readers are more familiar with the epic fantasy novels you write under the Michelle West name.   But because those tend to fall in the doorstopper length category, we often have to wait a few years in between releases.   That’s one of the reasons why I like the Kaylin books you write for Harlequin Luna.   They come out on a roughly annual schedule, so I think of them as snacks to hold me over until your next Michelle West novel.

Cast in Fury is the fourth novel in your series about Kaylin Neva, a law enforcement officer for the capital of Elantra.   Elantra is a city in which humans live alongside five humanoid races: the Barrani (faerie analogues), the Aerians (winged people), the Tha’alani (a psychic race identified by their forehead stalks), the Leontines (cat people), and the Dragons (er, dragons).   One of the things I like about this series is that each of the books tends to focus on a specific nonhuman race, allowing us to learn more about them.   That’s one of the great things about the fantasy genre; exploring new cultures through the lens of created races.   As you mention in the foreword, Cast in Fury is the Leontine book.

Picking up immediately after book 3, Cast in Secret, Kaylin is assigned to serve as a cultural consultant for the imperial playwright.   Because of events that happened at the end of the previous novel, the Tha’alani have become targets of violence.   Due to their psychic abilities, the Tha’alani have always been viewed with mistrust.   No one likes having someone rummaging around your head and for the Tha’alani, this is considered normal.

The Dragon emperor has charged his playwright with creating a play to humanize the Tha’alani for the sake of cultural understanding, with the added benefit of defusing the civil unrest.   Since he considers Elantra to be his hoard (like in classic stories, dragons hoard treasure, wherein “treasure” can mean any number of things, not just gold), the dragon emperor would prefer his people not to kill each other while they’re under his care.   It’s a situation further complicated by the fact that the playwright doesn’t understand the Tha’alani himself, and the Tha’alani consider any play he creates to be nothing more than lies.   (Because of their collective consciousness, the Tha’alani are able to have a thing called absolute truth.)

That’s a difficult enough assignment for the often tactless Kaylin, but matters are made worse when her immediate superior, Sergeant Marcus Kassan is accused of murder and sentenced to be executed for the crime.   In addition to the fact that he was like a surrogate father to Kaylin, Marcus is the only Leontine to serve the law enforcement division, a very significant fact not easily overlooked.   Unfortunately, witnesses were present so all evidence points to his guilt.

If this were a different book, we’d looking into how and why Marcus was framed.   What I liked was that this wasn’t that kind of story.   Instead Marcus did commit the murder and Kaylin’s task is to find out why.   It’s a good way to show readers Leontine society and the kind of social mores and taboos that permeate it.

One of the strengths of the Kaylin series, unlike your West books, is that they’ve been more or less standalone.   It’s true that various subplots such as Kaylin’s tangled history with Severn and the mystery of the marks covering Kaylin’s body continue from one book to the next, but the actual main plots start and finish within the same novel.   That can’t be said for Cast in Fury.   Although the main story about the Leontine murder is introduced and wrapped up in the book, the book starts with the playwright plotline.   People who have not read Cast in Silence probably won’t be able to understand the significance of why the play is necessary and why Kaylin being chosen as a cultural consultant is significant.

I also think readers might be initially thrown off by the unexpected shift from the Tha’alani play storyline to the Leontine murder storyline.   I admit it was a little jarring for me at first.   But once I finished the book, I realized the two tied together in their themes: the power of stories.   For the Tha’alani play, the trick wasn’t to tell the truth because to be honest, the absolute truth, as the Tha’alani understand it, would never soothe the general populace.   If anything, it’d only terrify them more and incite more violence.   Instead the playwright has to present a story that’s true in its core, if not in the details.   For the Leontine murder plotline, the history of their race, its creation, and its forbidden magic is intrinsically tied to stories.   Which in turn is tied to the mystery of Kaylin’s body marks.

I liked that the book brought together things that were introduced in previous novels like Lord Nightshade and his interest in Kaylin, or more specifically Kaylin’s power which is much more than the ability to heal, and the outcaste Dragon Lord we first encountered in the first novel, Cast in Shadow.   That said, I still wait with bated breath for a novel about the Dragons and its emperor.   Considering what we learned in Cast in Fury, I’m starting to wondered how exactly that came about.

All in all, I found this to be a satisfying installment for the series but people looking for further developments in Kaylin’s relationship with Severn, her relationship with Nightshade, or the mystery of her body marks will have to wait longer for enlightenment.   And as I mentioned before, this is definitely not the place to start for new readers.   B

My regards,

This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

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]!


  1. Miki
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 17:53:47

    I really like this series, too. I’m not a big fantasy reader – I’ve read two “epic series” and that’s it.

    So sometimes – especially in the second book – I couldn’t help but think there were “common fantasy conventions” that were going right over my head. Doesn’t stop me from devouring the books when they come out, but I wonder if I “got” some of the fantasy standard devices better, I might enjoy them even more.

  2. orannia
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 18:48:16

    Thank you Jia! I really enjoyed this book and I actually understood it (which is more than I can say for Cast in Courtlight – I got hopelessly lost in places so I am going to have to re-read it :)

    I too am looking forward to learning more about the Dragons….and Lord Nightshade, who has to be my favourite character, although I do like Lord Sanabalis ;)

  3. Angela James
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 19:10:57

    This series does require some brain power at times, doesn’t it? I really enjoy the series and I agree with your assessment of this book in particular. I do wish that the overarching stories would be moved along a little more (if at all), because they did feel rather stagnant in this particular book and I have to wonder how much longer that can continue.

    Excellent review!

  4. JaimeK
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 19:20:31

    Great review!! I have really enjoyed this series of books thus far. I look forward to the same things that you discussed above. The author challenges your mind and gives you a full bodied story, not part here and part there. I look forward to her next book.


  5. Renee
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 22:26:01

    Thanks for the review! I just bought the ebook for Cast in Fury, and look forward to learning more about the Leontines, my favorite race in the Chronicles of Elantra. However, I’ve been dying for more interaction between Kaylin and Nightshade, and Kaylin and Severn. I guess I’ll have to wait for Cast in Silence in 2009 to see if there will be more about them.

    MSW has really been able to develop a complex, interesting world, and she really captures the tensions and joys of negotiating between the diverse people in Elantra. I don’t think she gets all the recognition she ought, so thanks for covering this great series.

  6. Estara
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 03:10:22

    I actually really liked the fact that we didn’t have time sweeping forward towards some doom which they had to avert, like in the last two, but that it was showing a lot more about personal connections between the characters – be it in a time of crisis.

    If I remember correctly (I read it when it came out in summer) the time this book actually takes is only about a week in Kaylin’s life, so I’m not surprised she doesn’t make huge steps forward in interpersonal relations or tact, but I am impressed that she has learned SOME sort of tact and has put Severn into a sort of shadow friend position that she can deal with (having accepted if not forgiven what he had to do to make her survive to her age).

    I think there are so many more stories to be told, she could write this for ages and not make me tired of it. I want info on the Gryphon Lord, I wand to know what happened to Kaylin in the six months after she left the fief and before she came to the guards.. and of course, I want a dragon book, too.

    And I want an extra book on the situation with Nightshade and Severn – I haven’t figured out yet if Nightshade even loves her for herself…

    Addendum: Oh and what about the fact that she now has her own Barranyi truename when she never had before… and what about the tattoos, etc..

  7. votermom
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 08:28:22

    Is Kaylin sleep-deprived in this one too? That’s my pet-peeve about the series, which I like overall.
    (Actually it’s not just that series , I feel like it’s almost a cliche in urban fantasies where the protagonist is so harried and harassed and sleep-deprived.)

  8. Jia
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 09:58:56

    It looks like a lot of readers had trouble with the second book, Cast in Courtlight. I think that one might be the most like the early books in the Sun Sword series that she writes under the Michelle West name. It’s probably the most court intrigue-filled of the books in the Cast series thus far. To be expected since it’s the Barrani book but even so, I can see how people unfamiliar with the fantasy genre would have a difficult time maneuvering the different plotlines.

    @votermom: Not anymore than usual. Due to events in the novel, however, she has to be far more punctual than she has been in the past.

    @Estara: I think with Nightshade, his love will always go for Kaylin’s power first, then Kaylin herself second. I suppose it’s arguable whether or not he even loves her in the first place but I’d say that Kaylin and her power are so tangled together that in his mind, they’ve become the same thing.

  9. Sarai
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 18:35:16

    I just recently read the first book and fell in love. I am really glad to hear that she is going to continue writing the series. I can’t wait to get to this one! Thanks for the review.

  10. Miki
    Dec 16, 2008 @ 23:12:22

    And I want an extra book on the situation with Nightshade and Severn – I haven't figured out yet if Nightshade even loves her for herself…

    Ew, ick!

    You guys! Nightshade doesn’t love her! He covets what she has and wants it for himself. And he’s willing to be patient to seduce it from her.

    It's probably the most court intrigue-filled of the books in the Cast series thus far. To be expected since it's the Barrani book but even so, I can see how people unfamiliar with the fantasy genre would have a difficult time maneuvering the different plotlines.

    For me, I don’t think it was the politics as much as the symbolism in the Barrani’s … uh, magical place (can’t remember what it was called). I just kept thinking that the symbolism was going over my head because I wasn’t familiar with the Fantasy “built-in assumptions”.

  11. votermom
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 08:26:17

    Yeah, but Nightshade is hawt. :)

  12. Jia
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 09:48:45

    Are we choosing teams? If we are, I’m on Team Severn. ;)

  13. Estara
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 15:00:00

    @Jia You’re probably right there… oh and if we pick teams I’m also on team Severn. But he really ought to put his foot down on her always running rough-shod over him. After they’ve dealt with all the pressing, threatening baggage in her life, of course.

    Being a fantasy and romance reader I really enjoyed the setting in the second book, and any of the others, truthfully.

  14. orannia
    Dec 17, 2008 @ 15:55:09

    Nightshade doesn't love her! He covets what she has and wants it for himself. And he's willing to be patient to seduce it from her.

    Well, he can seduce me any time :) Sorry! I’m completely on Team Nightshade….plus I think Kaylin herself intrigues him, although I think we need more interactions between the two of them….

  15. Mahi
    Dec 18, 2008 @ 01:00:02

    I’ve been waiting for the fourth book for a long time. :D

    Go Team Nightshade! I agree that right now Kaylin’s power is more intriguing to him then herself…but in my head that part can change. I see Severn as more a big brother role to Kaylin.

  16. Renee
    Dec 19, 2008 @ 00:54:09

    I have to say it: can she have both? :-P

    When she’s with Severn, I prefer him. They have so much history and understanding between them. But, I love her interactions with Nightshade, and sometimes peek ahead to see when she’ll get a scene with him. There’s so much subtext and sexual tension going on between them, it makes for such fun reading!

  17. viola
    Jan 04, 2009 @ 15:39:12

    I am rooting for team Nightshade too! As stated in previous posts he is HOT!:)
    I finshed reading Cast in Fury recently and went back to reread the Cast in Shadow and Cast in Courtlight. And after loking at them carefully I think he might love her,, he is certainly intrigued by her. I am not exactly sure but I really hope he does! :)
    The interaction between Kaylin and Nightshade reminds me of the early interaction between Jean Claude and Anita, before the series took that fatal 180 turn.

  18. votermom
    Jan 13, 2009 @ 11:43:21

    Just finished this. I do have a complaint — not enough Nightshade!

    Severn is the one she should marry, definitely, one day, what a keeper! All that fresh food, mmm — how thoughtful…. But he doesn’t see her as an equal yet; too protective, imo.

    But before she settles down with Severn, she ought to party with Nightshade first! :) On the serious side, Nightshade pushes her; expects more from her. She can do some serious growth in power with him & the Dragons.

  19. Elizabeth
    Feb 24, 2009 @ 22:13:06

    Guys, what are you thinking?! LOL. Severn is no big brother, it’s made clear that he doesn’t “share” (stated in book), that Kaylin is basically his world and his obsession; that he’s aware that she probably sold herself or something similar at age 13 to survive and he already wants to move past that; was really tense when she came home from Nightshade’s digs in what looked like an evening gown. The poor guy is just waiting, waiting, waiting until she “grows up” enough to be his romantic partner. She is just too hopelessly blockheaded due to her traumatic emotional baggage. The only viable love connection is based on true caring. She would kill Lord Nightshade in a heartbeat if it would save a child. Lord Nightshade would sacrifice her for his own gain if he deemed it necessary. You really think this guy (Nightshade) knows how to love deeply and warmly? Not! If Kaylin lost Severn it would be like losing part of herself. They may be a little disfunctional, but Kaylin and Severn are the only way to go. IMHO, of course.

  20. autumnwoods
    Feb 27, 2009 @ 16:40:49

    I am completely with Elizabeth. There is no “big brother” situation between Severn and Kaylin. That right there is pure love and care. But I do really like Nightshade, he intrigues me. I don’t believe that he could ever love her though. That just isn’t the Barrani way. Totally Team Severn. I don’t believe that she would kill Nightshade though. There is a connection between the two of them and he helps her far too much to kill him. But once again he could not love Kaylin.

  21. megzlucee
    Mar 25, 2009 @ 22:02:56

    Dude, TEAM SEVERN!!! Yeah, Nightshade might care for Kaylin in his way, but nothing like the totally self-less devotion and love Severn has for her….Kaylin is Severn’s whole world and that definitely can’t be said for Nightshade.

  22. REVIEW: Cast in Silence by Michelle Sagara | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    Sep 16, 2009 @ 04:01:13

    […] 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 […]

  23. REVIEW: Cast in Peril by Michelle Sagara
    Oct 15, 2012 @ 08:02:08

    […] books in this series: Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret, Cast in Fury (review), Cast in Silence (review), Cast in Chaos (review), Cast in Ruin […]

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