the Little Red Reviewer

Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara

Posted on: February 21, 2012

Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara

Published in 2006

Where I got it: purchased used










A little bit Steven Brust, a little bit Ben Aaronovitch,  Cast in Shadow is a dark fantasy mystery with police procedural scenery. Even magical realms require law and police, and the city of Elantra is no different.  The three branches of law are the Hawks, the Wolves and the Swords, and young Kaylin is so very proud of having grown up to be a Hawk. She is proof that one can come from a very dark place to grow up and lead a life of light.

Kaylin isn’t young per se, but as humans are the most short lived race on this world, all the non-humans around her see her as a child, and treat her as one. Exposed to magic as a young child, Kaylin will go to great lengths to hide the strange tattoos on her arms and legs.

The magic of the world isn’t fully explained, but we know Kaylin is a healer, and that healing magic is very rare.  She’s late to work because she spends her nights healing in the orphanages and birthing caves. Once upon a time there was someone she couldn’t save, and she can’t bear to see that happen again.

When the killings start again, and the children’s tiny mutilated bodies are found with tattoos that nearly match Kaylin’s, all eyes are on her. She’s marked, but no one knows by who, and what for. Partnered up with a man from her past and a mysterious Dragon Lord, Kaylin is went back to the fief that defined her childhood to investigate. She’ll have to face every fear and every truth she’s been spending her entire adulthood avoiding.

I don’t read a lot of traditional urban fantasy, which is a shame, because it can be so much fun!  Although Cast in Shadow wasn’t easy for me to get into, once I did I had a really good time with it. Its got action, good fight scenes, emotion, politics, racial tensions, and the ultimate urban fantasy guilty pleasure the mysterious, handsome, misunderstood immortal dude with the overdramatic title of Lord Nightshade. Kaylin’s mortal old flame Severn hasn’t got a chance against that guy! Scenes with Nightshade put me in the mood to watch Underworld again.

Sure, Kaylin’s naivety got stale after a while, but damnit, I liked her as a heroine! She’s not the smartest girl on the block or the most beautiful, but when something needs to be done, damnit, she does it.  Even better, she’s wonderfully feminine.  She’s conflicted about romantic feelings for men in her life, has body image issues, knows when the sound of a certain man’s laugh turns her on, hates cleaning her apartment, and has a weakness for saving the lives of orphans.  She’s not a tomboy in the slightest, and she doesn’t want to be. She just wants to be her.  For very personal reasons, I really appreciated all of that.

Like I said, I had a tough time getting into Cast in Shadow, and that may be in part because Sagara throws the reader in at the deep end. At first, we don’t know who any of these characters are, where we are, why people are speaking different languages, and that some of them are naturally immortal. I stumbled a lot in those first 80 pages or so.  But the book practically oozes potential, and Sagara’s city of Elantra feels very fleshed out even if the characters don’t always.  She pulled me in with just the right quantity of information and I wanted to know more. Clunky prose and oddly edited dialog aside, I wanted to know what had happened in Kaylin’s dark past, and what her future held.

If you’re looking for a fun read that’s going to entertain without flipping your brain inside out, Cast in Shadow is a good bet.  It’s not the best book you’re ever going to read, but you’ll have a good time and you’ll be entertained.


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12 Responses to "Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara"

I also love Underworld and if this book has that same feel, I am there!


Not sure I would call that a resounding review. But perhaps the author has great potential in the future.


Cast in Shadows certainly didn’t blow my mind, but it kept me interested and entertained me. I’ve been reading a lot of heavy stuff lately, so some light fun urban fantasy was just what I needed.


I have this book, but just haven’t gotten around to reading it. I think I’ll give it a try and move it into the TBR pile. Great review :)


Interesting. Thanks for your review. I think I’ll give this a try. :D


I’d been wavering on whether or not to add this to the TBR mountain. Sounds like I should keep it in mind for the next time I’m in the mood for some urban fantasy. (Oddly, that’s not often… Never been sure why, since I tend to enjoy it when I do read it.)


“Never been sure why, since I tend to enjoy it when I do read it”

Same thing here! what’s the deal with that??


No idea! There are so many books out there I’ll never get to no matter how hard I try, though, so I can’t really bear to dwell on it. :)


Hmmm… interesting… I tend to avoid a lot of the newer fantasy that seems to have any kind of romantic angle these days because of the prevelance of the twitlight phenomenon but this sounds like it might be worth a look at the least.


I hear ya on that one. Yes, this book has a teensy bit of romance, or at least romantic feelings between characters, but the attitude is more “maybe I’ll have time to decide how I feel about you after we’ve kicked the bad guy’s ass and saved the city,” instead of “getting that guy to notice me is the most important thing in my life”.

Once upon a time urban fantasy and paranormal romance were completely different genres, but these days the lines have been blurring and it’s tough to tell just by reading the blurbs on the backs.


I know precisely what you mean.
Thanks again for the review, nice to see something a little less cheesy and annoying as an option.


The first book is ok, but the series just gets better…trust me:)


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