Book Review: Sword and Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Posted May 27, 2022 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Book Review: Sword and Shadow 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.

Sword and Shadow by Michelle Sagara
Published by MIRA on February 22, 2022
Pages: 496
Format: eBook
Source: my own shelves

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

Second in The Wolves of Elantra fantasy series, a prequel to The Chronicles of Elantra, revolving around Severn Handred.

I would suggest reading The Chronicles of Elantra and then The Wolves of Elantra.

My Take

Sagara uses third person global subjective point-of-view from the perspective of a number of characters.

Severn, the primary protagonist, is a complex character who definitely utilizes what he learned from his guardian. Loyal, always assessing in a practical sense and thinking for himself.

We get a whole heckuva lot of back history on Severn, a man who follows his conscience with mindfulness, revealing all those mysteries of how he was born and who his guardian was in those first ten years of his life, why he’s so comfortable in different levels of society, and where he got that chain he slings about.

The Tha’alaan are an amazing people who, mostly, cannot keep secrets from each other, and I adore how they raise their children. They’re so cared for and encouraged.

The complete opposite are the Barrani who are just plain nasty, brutal! The individual considers only themself. Brothers and sisters are enemies, willing to stab each other in the back. That An’Avonelle is typical of her race, and she is something else and appears to directly channel her father’s attitude toward the High Court.

While there is action, it’s mostly culture- and then character-driven in a pace that takes in all the plotting and history of the Barrani. It’s easily confusing to comprehend because of this, but definitely fascinating.

It’s a complex world Sagara has created and not always easy to follow.

It’s politics, power, and family, as it can be used.

The Story

The sometimes frivolous An’Tellarus plans a trip to the West March and insists on Elluvian and Severn Handred accompanying her. It’ll take some bribery — a highly desired piece of information — to entice Severn to join her.

It’s a trip fraught with danger, for the Barrani acknowledge no one as being as important as themselves and no one more important than their own self.

The Characters

Growing up in the fief of Nightshade, Severn Handred is the newest member of the Wolves. The Barrani guardian he’d had for the first ten years of his life was known as Regellius. After he was abandoned, Severn found Tara and her daughter, Elianne.

The Wolves are . . .
. . . the third branch of law enforcement. Think of them as the black ops division. Their leader is Helmat Marlin, the Lord of Wolves. Elluvian, a.k.a. the Emperor’s Dog or the Emperor’s Wolf, a Barrani (and kin to An’Tellarus) has pledged to the Emperor. En. Other agents include the injured Rosen “Rosie”, Jaren, and the suspicious Mellianne. Darrell had an inflated opinion of himself.

Dariandaros, a dragon, is now the Emperor. Saidh Mankev is the head of the Imperial Security (IS) offices. Anderson is part of the IS.

The Barrani are . . .

. . . highly skilled and essentially immortal, i.e., they cannot die unless you kill them. They’re not truly born until the High Lord’s Consort gives them a name. Two hundred years ago, the Barrani enslaved humans. Leofswuld is a ritual when a new High Lord is chosen. The color of their eyes reflects their emotion with purple the shade of grief. The Three are Barrani-held swords meant for killing dragons.

The West March is . . .
. . . not part of the Emperor’s territory but Barrani and ruled by Lirienne, the Lord of the West March. The land also includes the sentient green, which is overseen by the Warden, Lord Barian. Barian’s mother, Lord Avonelle, is highly ambitious and has already lost a son to the Test of Name. Lord Tanniase is heir to the line Kosmarre and loyal to Avonelle.

Cediela, An’Tellarus, a Barrani Lord of the High Court, is the lord of Tellarus, notorious and feared. Her hated yet admired, powerful older sister, Leveanne, disappeared into the green. Handred had been Leveanne’s slave.

Yvonne, forced into the Darrowelm clan, had been a friend of An’Sennarin, used as a hostage for his behavior. Lord Rowan had once been friends with Lord Leveanne.

A friend of Yvonne, Ollarin of Sennarin, had shown aptitude for water. Verranian never wants to leave the green. Elluvian had been of what was once Danarre; he should have been An’Danarrre. Onuri will be their valued guide.

Alsanis is the Hallione, a sentient inn, in the West March with roots in the green from whence the Dreams of Alsanis, spirit eagles, emerge. The Shards of Tyron have been lost in the green for centuries.

The High Court is . . .
. . . located in the capitol and the seat of Barrani power where the Test of Name is taken. It is led by the High Lord and His Consort, who does not care for An’Tellarus, although their daughter likes her. An’Sennarin, a.k.a. Ollarin, is at the heart of the High Court. Lord Corvallan and his wife, Cassandre, are members of the High Court and associated with the Mellarionne faction.

The Tha’alaan are . . .
. . . a race of mind readers feared by others. Their castelord, Ybelline Rabon’alani, is one of the Tha’alani, a subgroup within the Tha’alaan who work as interrogators for the Emperor and can stay sane and keep what they learn from the rest of their people. Draalzyn is one who works in the Halls of Law. Scoros had taught Ybelline. Adellos, the former castelord who had tried to murder Severn, is a close friend to An’Sennarin.

The fiefs exist to prevent the shadows of Ravellon from leaving. No one is safe there. Water can be sentient. Shadow is a taint that manifests in beings, infects them.

The Cover and Title

It’s a simple cover that conveys more than one expects with its soft blue-gray background with the gray silhouette of the hooded and cloaked Severn, on one knee and appearing to pray, as his cloak billows out behind him on the left. Severn’s profile is a frame for the deep blue sky with its ground-hugging clouds and full moon of the West March and its skyline of buildings. Most of the text is in a deep maroon starting with the series info at the top with a double deeper blue horizontal rule below it. The title is mostly just below the rules and passing over the tip of Severn’s hood. At his calf is a testimonial in a navy blue. Immediately beneath Severn is an info blurb followed by the author’s name.

The title is a metaphor for the weapon-wielding Barrani of Sword and Shadow for the questions that hover.

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