Once again Michelle Sagara writes an excellent book. Good plot, great world development. My 3 star rating is due to the complete lack of character development, specifically the main character Kaylin. She's a great character, interesting, etc. However in 12 books she hasn't changed a bit. She's saved the city a few times, saved the world, met with immortals and powers far beyond what anyone could expect. She started in book one an 18 year old with no understanding of what/who she was. That was fine, it was book one. But we're on book 12, she's aged several years at least, yet still acts like that same 18 year old. I'll keep buying the books, they're good stories. But as a series there there needs to be change, development, and growth.
With "Cast in Flight," her 12th "Chronicles of Elantra"/"Cast in ..." novel, Michelle Sagara continues to develop the world of Elantra, focusing this time on the winged Aerians that main character Kaylin Neya admires so greatly. Moran, an Aerian and the primary medic for the Elantran Hawks (constables), was injured in "Cast in Honor" and can no longer fly. She reluctantly becomes Kaylin's housemate and guest of Helen, the sentient self-modifying house. After Kaylin and her familiar help thwart an assassination attempt on Moran, and after Kaylin and Severn uncover ominous evidence of magical foul play aimed at Moran while walking their beat, it quickly becomes clear that something odd and dangerous is occurring within the Aerian community. This "something" appears to involve the mysterious substance known as "Shadow" and could even be related to the dark lord of the city called Ravellon.
Keeping a series alive and moving forward for so long is an admirable achievement. Sagara does it both by continuing to deepen our (and her own, I'm sure) understanding of this world of Elantra; by adding and developing characters; and by keeping the timeline tight (no more than two years have passed in Elantra since the first novel). This strategy is not without its frustrations to readers, as the pace of world-building is a slow, the cast of characters has grown enormous; and Kaylin's continued reliance on instinct and intuition at the expense of knowledge grows annoying, especially with most of the other characters harping on her ignorance. Furthermore, relationships between characters also tend to develop at a glacial pace. Moran's relationship with all other characters is transformed in this book, but Kaylin's relationships with others barely budge, with the only other interpersonal change of note involving the dragon Bellusdeo and her would-be suitor, the dragon emperor.
That said, it's important to keep in mind the apparent target audience for this series: young women growing up in an increasingly diverse world. One of Kaylin's chief virtues is her willingness to confront and overcome her own prejudices, which, as in this case, can include idealization of "exotic" others. Another of her virtues is a selfless dedication to the greater good (which, not infrequently, edges over into reckless heroics), and that is also on display here. One of her faults is resistance to change, but, as in every previous book she is forced to confront and adapt to change, and she does so with as much grace as she can manage. I don't have a daughter, but if I did, I would be happy to see her taking lessons from Kaylin.
I should also note that an important piece of this novel concerns saviors (or messiahs) and devils. Is it a privilege or a burden to be a savior? Is the devil evil, or merely misguided, or something else entirely? There are no firm answers in this book, especially with regard to the devil, but I'm sure we will be learning more in the future.
Bottom line: Another worthy addition to an enjoyable and engaging fantasy series.
I have read all the Elantra books. I'm a big Sagara fan. I enjoyed this book (4 stars). But I'm starting to lose patience with this series (minus 1 star). This is book 12 and Kaylin has aged from 18 to 21 but she has matured very little. Important questions are still unanswered. What is a Chosen exactly? What is the Black Dragon's goal (power of course but what does that look like)? What is Nightshade's plan for Kaylin? What does he feel for her exactly? With every book the world is developed and broadened. It's the best part of these books. But Kaylin remains the same...so frustrating.
This is one of those books that is like a good bottle of wine. It takes a few pages in to really open up and develop the story. Once it gets going, it is hard to put down or do anything else but keep reading. Sagara's writing is not like a Grisham or a Patterson book. It is an acquired taste, but one that is rich, multi-layered and very rewarding. The characters are the best part of the story, of course, for a Sagara book. And, one has to remember that the time between each book in Elantran time is relatively short, Thus the action from the first book and the last books results in an elapse of time that seems one about one year or so in Earth time. Otherwise, how do we explain the hard-headedness and stubbornness of the heroine, Kaylin, to ever learn any lessons from her interaction with folks from other races. Yet, she is very like us in the real world, because we, too, have great difficulty in learning how to grow up and live in a complex world with lots of different cultures/races/religions. In fact, her Cast in .... books, though developed in a fantasy world, have lessons in them for us today on how to live with, tolerate and enjoy, and even understand others, even if Kaylin is not very sophisticated when it comes to deference and diplomacy. What she does teach us humans is that we need to have a good heart and have faith in others, even in those who on the surface look rather menacing. Yet, she never gives in, stands up to injustice, yet is forever forgiving and loving, even though she pretends not to understand what "love" is. Finally, let me add, that I loved the development of Moran, as a fully fleshed out and complex character. Her sense of duty to the Hawks infirmary is now matched by that same sense of duty to the Hawks "race." Her story was, I think, a slow burn lasting over two books, but it was well worth the time and wait to see how it all comes out. I also greatly enjoyed the dialogue she has with the dragons at the famous dinner she was forced to host between the Emperor in his mortal form and Bellusdeo, the only female dragon alive, but was amplified by the self-invitation by the Hawklord and others. The arrival of Nightshade was so inopportune, as to be priceless in its awkwardness and amusement for some (mainly me). There were many other such moments throughout the book that were terrific. I think this was one of the best books in the series. By the way, I think the continuing stories of Annarion and Mandoran are also excellent, and I hope their stories continue in the next books of the series. I loved this book, and I eagerly await her next one in the series. For those who may see this book for the first time, I do strongly suggest that they go back to the first book and start there to have a more thoroughgoing introduction to the characters, some of whom are more peripheral in this story, but have been central in others.