Michelle Sagara – Cast In Shadow

Another go at an urban fantasy, it seems the season for it. This time it is Cast In Shadow (2005) by Michelle Sagara, the first novel of the Chronicles Of Elantra. It stays away from the typical urban fantasy mold by being set in a unique fantastical world where other species are not hidden from normal society but instead dominate it. Humanity is the so-called weakest of the races, at least in the eyes of the other races.Unfortunately that is the only original premise of this novel. The main character is a young woman with a bad past and strange hidden powers who generates a lot of sexual tension with several male characters who happen to be similarly mysterious and also are so-called ‘bad’ men. The young woman defies with passion but is attracted to everything she should avoid.

The plot thunders straight ahead, pretty much from the start. There is no time for contemplation. We rush from event to event and where possible a lot of information is disclosed. There is supposedly much secrecy but that seems to be only for pretension’s sake because whenever the main protagonist is around everyone’s mouth can’t keep shut. They try to resist, a bit, with futility. Already very early on big revelations are made before we get to know the characters and the world a bit and this goes on with a steady frequency. I could keep up, but that’s only because I like complex novels and can handle a lot of information. I can imagine other readers might feel swamped and lose coherency on what is going on. I barely felt any tension in scenes, between characters or the plot build-up. It was all too fast. Sagara’s prose was okay and she presented everything in readable chunks but it was like eating a dinner with only main courses and far too many of those.

With all that up-high tempo I did not feel there was any real character development. Sagara put in a few crisis moments for the main protagonist but the change in emotional turnarounds was simply not logical and lacked sense. I could not connect with her and neither with the other characters. These remained rather flat and without depth although Sagara tried to give them some background story. Even with such different races I barely felt that they were that much different from humans. They only had some special properties.

Quality-wise Cast In Shadow is quite poor. It would probably provide some quick and not too heavy reading on a vacation or when traveling. To some extent it was not that typical for an urban fantasy so it provides some different fare for those who do love the genre. I am not very inclined to read more of the series as it didn’t provide any attachment while reading and no interest in what would happen next.


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