Cast in Courtlight by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Courtlight

by Michelle Sagara

copyright 2006 by Michelle Sagara, published by LUNA Books, Worldwide Library, 233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279 USA, ISBN 978-0-373-80282-1

Cast in Courtlight by Michelle Sagara is a change for our reviews. It is one in a sequence of six books and I recommend reading the first novel in the series, Cast in Shadow as there are some missing pieces of back story that leave you wondering exactly what is going on. Most of this revolves around the various species (ie., dragon,¬† imperial, Barrani, outcaste) and their relationships to one another – or lack thereof. Part of this may be due to Sagara’s writing style as she prefers to lead her readers in a general direction and then allow them to draw their own conclusions, but I feel it is more due to reading the books out of order.

I’m very familiar with Michelle Sagara, having read her under both her current name of Michelle Sagara and her previous name of Michelle Sagara West. She has also written under the name of Michelle West. Michelle Sagara is a writer of epic and high fantasy and Cast in Courtlight is a prime example of both combined into one elegant text. The story is compelling and has a mix of light and dark forces, as well as some political tension, though this element is not that well-defined so it doesn’t bore the reader. In fact, the book makes a point of how the heroine, Kaylin, failed her classes in politics, and history for that matter because, except for where they had practical applications she didn’t care about them. So the political scenes in the book are directly relevant to the plot, and thankfully very brief.

Cast in Courtlight is peopled with interesting characters, the most fascinating of which is of course, the heroine, Kaylin Neya. Kaylin has tatoo like marks covering at least her arms, although the book cover also shows them on her back. they are some type of ancient rune, which, it would appear, none of the existing species can read, though it is believed the runes are written in the language of the “Old Ones.” Kaylin has fought and killed a dragon bent on destruction – We are told briefly of this event. Apparently it happened in the first book. She gains various magical and other powers during this book and reveals some of her existing powers to a few people who were unaware of her abilities.

What follows is an excerpt from Cast in Courtlight:

“Above, birds flew from branch to branch; they were colored so brightly, they caught her eye. Their voices were not the tiny, fluting voices of sparrows. they were raucous and squawking. She hoped they didn’t crap on her dress.

Severn’s lips compressed in a line that almost resembled a smile. She wondered if he’d had the same thought.

But the forest – or the trees – cleared, pulling away like a planted curtain, and the stones beneath their feet broadened in a large circle. Flowers were interspersed among those stones, and small fountains were laid along the circle’s edge.

If she had wondered where all the Barrani were, she now had an answer: they were congregated here, in this odd chamber, trees rising like columns, and hemming them in like walls. They sat upon the edges of fountains, and stood, as if on display, among the careful artistry of flowering plants. They spoke in groups of three and four, moving slowly and gracefully when they moved at all.

In the center of the large circle Рand it was huge, once it was entered Рwas a chair that was, like the others she had seen, a living symbol; it had branches that flowered with white blossoms  and golden hearts. They rode above the seat like tines, and cast similar shadows, smaller than the ones that rose above, higher and higher, until it broke the line of trees that hemmed them in.

A Barrani Lord sat upon this throne, and it was a throne, even if it hadn’t yet been cut from the wood that formed it. He spoke with a woman who stood by the side of the chair, dressed in pale green and gold, her arms and shoulders bare, her pale hair hound in a braid that seemed to be composed of equal parts hair and blossom. she looked young, delicate, ethereal. Kaylin had to tighten her mouth to stop herself from gaping. She was the only Barrani Kaylin had seen whose hair was not black.

This was the castelord and his consort. Not even Kaylin could have mistaken them for anyone else. She hesitated, feeling so profoundly awkward she was suddenly certain a step in the wrong direction would crush flowers and crack stone. But Teela moved with a quiet confidence toward the throne, and if that was the last place Kaylin wanted to go, it was also the only place she would be allowed.

She knew it. And because she’d been in places far worse – although she had to force herself to remember them, they seemed so far away – she followed Teela, trying not to cling too hard to Severn’s arm. She was grateful for the presence of the two Barrani guards, simply because they were Barrani. They had their order; they followed her like shadows cast by unseen light.”

Cast in Courtlight by Michele Sagara is an interesting read and a good experience in epic, high fantasy. It is not however, great. It loses something because it really is necessary to read the first book in the series. I consider books that aren’t truly “stand alones” a weakness in the novel. It also has the drawback of leaving you hanging at the conclusion. There is the required release of tension a novel needs, but there is no complete resolution as the intent is to draw you into the next books in the series. In terms of the Pigeon evaluation this one is sitting on the nest, leaning well toward Pigeon droppings. It has the capacity to be a great read, but falls short. IF you’re interested in committing to a read of at least six books, then you might really want to get into this series, if not, know it’s an interesting read, but leaves some information shrouded in the past and more information hidden in the mists of the future.

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