When we left our heroine two books back in Cast in Flame, Hawk Private and human healer Kaylin Neya was a part of a huge battle in which we saw Dragons and Aerians in the sky and Barrani on the ground in a bloody clash with the shadow dragon of Ravellon. Kaylin found a new place to live (with an avatar now named Helen) with her translucent familiar and various guests-come-roommates. She also ended up giving relationship advice to the Emperor. Cast in Honor, the most recent book, called Kaylin to investigate a homicide and a growing rift in reality that threatened to tear the city out of the space-time continuum of Elantra. However, Cast in Honor was a weird after school special that is almost irrelevant to the series plot-arc at the moment.
The current book, Cast in Flight, builds directly off of the battle-ending from Cast in Flame, with only a few referential callbacks to the shadows exposed in Cast in Honor. Kaylin offers Hawk Sergeant (and Aerian healer) Moran lodging at/with Helen while Moran’s wings heal from battle wounds. Unfortunately, Moran is not claiming all that she is, and shadow-laden assassins show up to prove the point. Kaylin is repeatedly told to stay out of what is declared to be an Aerian-exclusive matter. Insatiable curiosity does not mix well with obeying orders, so Kaylin keeps digging. Her vocational quest for fairness and justice – and answers – brings the ensemble cast together to keep Moran alive, stop the attempted murder, and expose the dark plots. Bellusdeo and Teela provide unstoppable muscle. Severn is the quiet voice of reason. Mandoran provides surprising assistance as well.
I love this series as a whole. The world building is fascinating. The main characters are complex and layered even when their decisions are stark. I find it fun how Kaylin has slowly collected – through plot and action over many books - a group of very powerful friends and allies, now possibly including the Emperor. And I appreciate that Sagara allows for knowledgeable and powerful people of all types to have their foibles without becoming caricatures of themselves.
However, I’ve had ups and downs with specific Elantra books. About four books back, we got to the point of too many cast members for everyone to be active in any one book. Formerly critical people, such as Marcus and Maggaron, were given two seconds of stage time. While there is plenty of action sprinkled through Cast in Flight, be prepared for what is basically a running, multi-speaker, 400-page conversation over identities and responsibilities. Nightshade’s argument with Annarion got old before we finished the introduction, and provided only a tinge of flavor to the main discussion. Also, apparently Sagara’s editor took leave of absence during both the plot-tuning and the proofing. (For example, the Emperor’s name was changed from Dariandaros to Darranatos.)
I know authors dislike hearing this, but readers need to: Don’t start the Chronicles of Elantra series here if you have the time and interest to run the table. Yes, the plot is self-contained. Yes, you can understand the conclusion without any backstory. But you would be missing so much useful and interesting knowledge! Start at the beginning so that you can understand why almost every person/place/thing/event is referenced or occurs. And you can meet characters with strong histories, amazing talents, and heartbreaking insights.
I maintain my stance that the even-numbered Elantra books are better than the odd-numbered ones. This was a good one. So if the last one made you wonder if you should go on, I say dooooo it!
Books for 2016