Book Review: Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Sorrow

Posted January 31, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Michelle Sagara’s Cast in Sorrow

Cast in Sorrow


Michelle Sagara

fantasy in Paperback edition that was published by Harlequin Luna on August 27, 2013 and has 478 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Harvest Moon, Cast in Shadow, Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret, Cast in Silence, Cast in Fury, Cast in Chaos, Cast in Ruin, Cast in Peril, Cast in Flame, Cast in Honor, Cast in Flight

Ninth in the Chronicles of Elantra fantasy series for Young Adults and revolving around Private Kaylin Neya.

This is a complex story with lots of ins and outs. I would seriously recommend starting this series from the beginning with the prequel in Mercedes Lackey’s Harvest Moon: “Cast in Moonlight“, 0.5.

My Take

It’s the most incredible world that Sagara has created. I’ve never read anything like it, and I’m wanting to re-read it already. It’s magic with what we might consider an elvish race — the Barrani — but with very little similarity. More haughty, I think. While there are usually a greater variety of living beings in Sagara’s series, this installment restricts itself to a couple of humans, a dragon, sentient beings and dreams, and a mention of sorcerers, lion-men, birdmen, and dragonshifters.

The story continues on from where we left off in Cast in Peril, 8, with Kaylin trekking to the West March with the Barrani, and she’ll never believe a painter again with those idyllic canvases of lush greens. They left out the bugs! Nor does she believe this forced vacation is a paid one. Even if the Halls of Law insisted she go.

It’s tense, terrifying, and you’ll find yourself laughing. It’s also incredibly complex — I don’t know how Sagara keeps all of this straight in her mind! There is also a great deal of Barrani history in this. It’s Teela’s past, a huge reveal about the lost, more about the Hallionne and the green, and thought provoking insight into Barrani fears, general and specific.

Sagara is so inventive with her Barrani culture and incredibly consistent in applying it! For as complicated as it is, I’m really impressed. I like too that Sagara creates personalities for everyone. I’m writing that and wondering well, of course everyone has a personality?? And yet, you have to read this to understand better what I mean. The Barrani are so cold and standoffish. So calculating, and yet they come across as warm and concerned. I love the Lord of the West March’s humor in this; it’s so unexpected.

There’s confirmation with what we learned from Cast in Peril about the Ferals — this alone is enough to send me back to Cast in Shadow, 1.

It’s clever of Sagara to set up her world as she has — it doesn’t always have to make sense! There were a number of actions which I did not understand, bits and pieces sometimes, but it can take a couple readings to pull it all in. The absorption of the birds, how the Lord of the West March fits into the West March, and what part Lord Barian plays,

I simply adore Kaylin’s dialog, her thoughts, and herself. She’s cheeky, irreverent, and real.

“It’s probably stupid,” she said, after a long pause, “for me to open my mouth at all.”

The Lord of the West March is explaining how the courts work, and I’m confused. He says the West March has the Court of the Vale, so I’m going to assume that he means the actual West March. Ah, found it. The Court of the Vale is what the West March calls its Court; it’s separate from the Lord of the March.

“Finding fact offensive is pointless.”

How sad is it that Kaylin mistrusts respect given to her, and that Kaylin sees her work at the midwives guild as an act of atonement.

“Death is … endless. It was loss. It was loss every day. It was an emptiness and a permanent lack of warmth.”

The Story

The trek to the West March for the recitation of the regalia continues and many are injured, with most refusing Kaylin’s healing aid. The sacred green dress only goes so far to ensure respect for her as the harmoniste. Lucky for Kaylin as the Barrani idea of gratitude is a knife in a dark alley.

In fact, despite the dress, Kaylin is in danger, “the only point in her favor” is that Hallionne Orbaranne is standing (Cast in Peril, 8).

It is Kaylin’s friendship with Teela, that influences the green to choose her as harmoniste, the speaker who will gather the words the Teller says into a story that will change people, shift their perceptions.

Of course, it’s never that simple…

The Characters

Born poor and orphaned early in her life, the cynical Private Kaylin Neya is more than human, more than a Lord of the Barrani, more than a titular significant other to Nightshade, Kaylin is Chosen and bears the marks. Most importantly, she is a healer. The small dragon (the Barrani and the sorcerers believe he is a familiar and covet him) is still with Kaylin and extremely protective.

Bellusdeo is the dragon roommate she had to leave behind in Elantra. Lord Sanabalis is the dragon at Court who has been tutoring Kaylin; he required that she wear his emblem while among the Barrani.

Lord Severn Handred was part of Kaylin’s orphan band until the others died, and then Kaylin ran. He entered the Wolves and has been seconded to the Hawks, to Kaylin specifically. He also passed the Tower’s test when Kaylin did which entitles him to the title of lord (Cast in Courtlight, 2).

Lord An’Teela is both Barrani, a member of both the West March and the High Court, and one of the Hawks. Kaylin’s friend and coworker, and she claims Kaylin as kyuthe. Vivienne was Teela’s mother, of the line of Wardens and Guardians of the West March. When Kaylin was younger, the Emperor thought she was a danger and wanted her killed. Teela donned her rank and let the Emperor know she was willing to go to war for Kaylin.

Lirienne, the Lord of the West March, is Lord of the High Halls and all the Barrani, and his sister, the Consort, a.k.a., the Lady, is the Mother of the Barrani. He is also the Lord of the Green. He also claims Kaylin as kyuthe, kin, mostly because Kaylin amuses him.

Lord Ynpharion is furious and terrified that Kaylin knows his True name, even if it did bring him back from the Shadows. Lord Evarrim, Teela’s cousin, uses a lot of Arcane magic, and he despises Kaylin.

Lord Nightshade, an Outcaste Barrani and a fieflord (think of him as a crime boss), was once Lord Calarnenne, and the Consort insists on using his name. In this story, he will participate in the recitation of the regalia as the Teller.

The West March
Lord Barian is the Warden of the West March. And a cousin of Teela’s. His duty is to absorb the nightmares of the Hallionne and converse with it, to visit. Avonelle, the Guardian of the green, is Barian’s mother and Teela’s aunt; she is also hostile toward Kaylin, but hates the Lord of the West March. Lord Tanniase is angry with Severn for the events of a previous visit of his to the West March. Gaedin and Serian are the Barrani assigned to serve Kaylin.

The birds that are normally absorbed by the Lady or the Warden are also known as the Dreams of Alsanis, the Hallionne in the West March.

Iberrienne was the one who was sacrificing mortals, see Cast in Peril, 8.

The lost ones
Sedarias was the leader; Eddorian is Iberrienne’s brother; Annarion is like Sedarias, cold and proud and Nightshade’s brother; Mandoran has a lovely sense of humor; the ambitious Terrano had a sense of humor; the shy and very big, Allaron liked the small and helpless; Valliant hates his name; Serralynn is the other female; Torrisant is clothes-obsessed and attracts birds; Fallessian is a bully; and, Karian is grim and controlled.

Hallionne are the Barrani version of an inn: sentient, alive, and able to read minds. It is their duty to recreate the best comforts of a guest’s home. Hallionne Alsanis is the inn in the West March that is betrayed. Tha’alaan appear in the Barrani fountains to Kaylin (Cast in Fury, 4). The Outlands are a potential space, gray and formless, and you could never count on everyone reaching the same destination. The green is a place, like a sentient city with laws and customs.

The Cover and Title

The cover is golden as Kaylin, wearing the green dress of the honoriste, perches on the fountain’s edge, dips her fingers through the water, and chats with the Tha’aalani in the fountain.

The title is all about the Shadows and the Barrani, for they have been Cast in Sorrow.