Book Review: Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara

Posted February 26, 2020 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara

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

Cast in Oblivion by Michelle Sagara
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Mira Books on January 29, 2019
Pages: 544
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Cast in Sorrow, Cast in Flame, Cast in Honor, Cast in Flight, Cast in Wisdom, Cast in Deception, The Emperor's Wolves

Fourteenth in The Chronicles of Elantra fantasy series and revolving around Private Lord Kaylin Neya, a naive peacekeeper with powers she doesn’t understand and a house full of guests.

My Take

It’s about choices, and the freedom it brings. And several characters learn that the grass is not always greener. It’s also about trust and relationships, as Kaylin, Sedarias, and Terrano learn. It was Sedarias who had wanted to build a family of the cohort. To have a family that wouldn’t betray her or try to kill her. Ain’t that a sad state of affairs…

As for Kaylin, nope, Kaylin is not getting out of the Consort coming to dinner. Poor girl. She’s a friendly girl, and in a moment of weakness, Kaylin invited the Consort to dinner. And then the Consort tried to capture her friends. Oops.

It’s huge in the potential of its political disastrousness with all the high muckety-mucks of Elantra worrying about this dinner. Especially Diarmat, lol, as he’s sent a HUGE packet of rules for Kaylin to memorize. And the Emperor wants Bellusdeo to come back to the Imperial Palace to stay. Another oops.

“A perfect world didn’t exist because perfect people didn’t exist.”

Kaylin truly is a sweetheart with a strong sense of right and wrong. But she hasn’t a clue about diplomacy or etiquette. Nor does she want to learn. She really doesn’t want to learn how to deal with her magic. Which is one of the issues I have with her character. She’s stuck with it. Why not learn how to best use it? To deal with it? At least to understand it better??

On the other hand, Kaylin tends to take offense when any of her friends or the dragons make fun of her lacks — it’s that third person protagonist point-of-view from Kaylin’s perspective that helps there. Then the Consort wants Kaylin to learn the etiquette of the Barrani Court. Poor baby.

Bellusdeo is a fascinating character. She’s so strong and with such power in herself, and yet, dang, she’s prickly. And she’s frustrated that she has nothing, so Kaylin and her problems gives her something to do, to protect.

Interesting. Edelonne suggests that Shadow may be a fifth element.

That greener grass is pretty elusive, as Edelonne is telling Kaylin how awful her life and others like her have it. Bootlicking those who have power. Edelonne may be Barrani, but it does show Kaylin that there are levels of power everywhere.

It’s a weird fantasy world filled with a nasty, twisty mess of betrayals and politics. Sagara has created a story filled with action…but most of it is cerebral, and most definitely character-driven. It’s the prose that most drives me nuts. Sagara writes in such a convoluted fashion that it can be difficult to make connections with what’s been happening. Or why!

A good, if small, example of my frustration with Sagara’s roundabout writing is that scene when Kaylin recounts her conversation with David. I couldn’t figure out if Leila was the wife or the lover. And David’s “arguments” as to why he cheated on his wife made absolutely no sense.

“Choice is the defining factor of independent life.”

Sigh…everybody has bad days.

The Story

It’s the cohort. They’re a threat to the High Halls, and when one of them insists on undergoing the Test of Name, the rest intend to test themselves as well. Tain is one of them.

The Consort is determined to assess whether the cohort will be a threat to those High Halls. To the High Lord. To the Barrani. Then there are those plotting against the High Lord and the Consort.

All aim to free the dead, for their own purposes.

The Characters

Private Lord Kaylin Neya is a Hawk, the Chosen with magic and yet she is allergic to some magics. Hope, a.k.a., small and squawky, is Kaylin’s small familiar who can morph into a really big dragon. Helen is the altered Avatar of the house in which Kaylin lives. Helen needs a “master”, a tenant, to thrive, and she can rearrange the house to suit her tenant and/or guests. Lord Bellusdeo is a dragon and a former queen of another world, one taken by Shadow. She’s also the only female dragon and insists on staying with Kaylin, which drives the Emperor crazy. Mandoran and Annarion have been Kaylin’s housemates as well.

The cohort were/are…
…twelve Barrani sent to the green 900 years ago to gain power. They are also known as the forsaken, the children of the green. That experiment didn’t work. The remaining eleven did, however, forget about privacy in their success at living in each other’s minds; they thought they would only ever have each other. Sedarias Mellarionne is their “captain”, a very bossy one. Mandoran is the least reverent. Annarion is Nightshade’s brother and the last Solanance and so very angry with him. Terrano is the most changed of them and can no longer hear them in his mind. Because he no longer has a name. The rest include Allaron, who is the tallest of them, Torrisant, Serralyn, Karian Reymar, Valliant, Eddorian Gennave, and Fallessian.

The Barrani are…
…enemies of the dragons. They’re arrogant, immortal, and “know” they’re superior to anyone. The Consort, a.k.a., the Lady, is the mother of all Barrani, and she likes Kaylin. The ruling center of the Barrani is the High Halls in Elantra where the High Lord, the Consort’s older brother, rules. Lord Ynpharion is forced to communicate with Kaylin because she holds his True Name. He really hates Kaylin. Lord Evarrim is an Arcanist and Kaylin’s enemy.

Coravante An’Mellarionne is Sedarias’ brother and the head of the family. Sedarias’ sister had tried to kill her before she was sent to the green. Lord Bressarian is adjutant to An’Mellarionne; his father is Lord Lorimar Veranelle. Lord Fianora is Bressarian’s sister who has been missing for three days.

Karellan Coravalle is Annarion’s uncle of the Solanace line. Reyenne is Karellan’s daughter. Illmarin Reymar is the head of Karian’s line. An’Gennave is Eddorian’s sister; his brother is Lord Iberrienne who had tried to save Eddorian. Lumennar An’Casarre, Lord Edelonne, and Lord Averen are part of the plot.

The Adversary is the Shadow trapped in the cage the Tower created. Passing the Test of Name proves you are immune to the corruption of what is caged beneath the Tower, and the successful become a Lord of the High Court.

Alsanis, the Hallionne where the cohort used to live in the West March, is one of the way stations created by the Ancients. Winston is brother to the Hallionne Bertolle.

The Halls of Law

There are three halls: the Hawks which investigate and walk a beat; the Swords who perform riot control; and, the Wolves who are the black ops branch.

The Hawks are…
…commanded by Lord Grammayre, the Hawklord, an Aerian. Corporal Teela Danelle, a.k.a., Lord An’Teela of the High Halls, is a Barrani Hawk and currently living at Kaylin’s. Teela also carries one of the three, Kariannos. Corporal Tain Korrin is Teela’s Barrani Hawk partner.

Corporal Severn Handred has been seconded to the Hawks from the Wolves; he and Kaylin have known each other since childhood. David is a Sword who cheated on his wife with Leila, a Hawk.

The Dragons

The Eternal Emperor rules in Elantra, a city/state. The Arkon is the oldest existing dragon and is in charge of the Imperial Library, his hoard. His actual name is Lannagaros, and he’s an old friend of Bellusdeo — and actually likes Kaylin. Lord Diarmat does not like Kaylin and must teach her court etiquette, so the Emperor doesn’t have to kill her. Lord Sanabalis is a mage and is teaching Kaylin magic…when she shows up. Lord Emmerian is another dragon at court.

I think a Dragon Flight is like an air battalion.

The Fiefs

When Ravellon became threatening with Shadows, six Towers rose up to surround it, each with an Avatar to protect Elantra against those Shadows. Each fief, think of it as a large neighborhood, chooses a fieflord who then gives their name to the name of the fief. The Ferals, Shadow dogs who kill, come from Ravellon, and are shape-changed Barrani.

Nightshade is…
…the fief we first experienced and Lord Nightshade, an outcast Barrani, is its fieflord who lives in Castle Nightshade. His True Name is Calarnenne, and he holds Melianos, one of the three swords that can kill dragons. He has marked Kaylin in such a way that has offended all Barrani. But we still haven’t a clue why.

Tiamaris had been…
…the fief of Barren but Lord Tiamaris, a dragon, took it over in Cast in Silence, 5, and now runs it in partnership with his Tower’s Avatar, Tara, who loves to garden. Both are friends with Kaylin. Morse is Tiamaris’ second-in-command; she’d been friends with Kaylin.

Maggaron is Bellusdeo’s personal Ascendant, a bodyguard, who now lives in Tamaris with his people, the Norannir.

Candallar is…
…a fief where Barrani messengers meet to avoid the eye of the Barrani Court.

Ravellon is…
…a fief filled with Shadow and that appears in all worlds, is considered the heart of all worlds. Makkuron, the Dragon outcaste, lives there and can leave it as he desires.

Gilbert is of Shadow and had been a guest in Kaylin’s house. Spike is another being from Shadow in Ravellon, an historian who was carried out by a Barrani lord and is concerned for Kaylin’s safety (Cast in Deception, 13).

The Cover and Title

The cover is gorgeous in its subtle yet rich lilac grays. Kaylin’s back is to us as she prepares to ascend a wide flight of gray stone stairs that end at a huge arch that frames the Towers of the fiefs. She’s wearing a sari-like gown of purples and teal with embroidered bands that form the right half of the upper back, another band around the top edge, and another shaped band at the hip. The glyphs of the Chosen are visible on her bare back and arms. Her long dark hair is pulled back in a long ponytail. On her left forearm, her bracer is visible even as her open hand seems to caress a spreading explosion of light. Two more sparkles are on the right. Most of the text is in white starting with an info blurb at the very top with the author’s name immediately below it and above Kaylin’s head. The series information is below Kaylin’s knees with the title immediately below that. At the very bottom of the cover is a testimonial in two shades of lilac.

I suspect the title refers to the lost, Terrano as well as the Adversary, for they seem Cast in Oblivion.

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