Cast in Secret by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Secret

by Michelle Sagara

copyright 2007 by Michelle Sagara

published by LUNA Books and under an agreement with Harlequin Books S.A., Worldwide Library, 233 Broadway, New York, NY 10279 U.S.A.

I rarely do reviews that are part of a series, the exceptions are when I really like the author or the series of books. As you could tell from my previous review of Cast in Courtlight I wasn’t that impressed with the book and didn’t feel interested enough to pursue reading the remaining volumes in the six volume series. But, I do love Michelle Sagara’s writing. I couldn’t figure out how she could write such a seemingly bad novel, so I decided to read the next volume in the series to see if it cleared up any of the problems I saw with Cast in Courtlight.

Reading Cast in Secret was a totally different experience than reading Cast in Courtlight. It made it clear part of what I felt could be signs of disjointed writing did, in fact, come from the experience of reading the books out of order. Sagara however, does a much better job of referring to the events of Cast in Courtlight only briefly and in passing. Perhaps she did the same with events in the prequel to Cast in Courtlight, but when those references have to do with key elements of the character and items such as winning a battle with a dragon gone crazy, it makes it hard to stay with the current storyline because you’re wondering what on earth happened in the previous novel.

Cast in Secret does make reference to the fact Kaylin Neya is a Barrani Lord. It also implies this event was unusual and happened in the not so distant past, but at no time do the questions this raises overpower the current storyline. It also references the fact she is marked by the outcaste Barrani Lord Nightshade. Why this is significant, how it came to pass, or even why Nightshade is an outcaste among his people remain unanswered questions. Whether some of these questions were answered in the first volume, which I admittedly have not read, or whether they remain to tantalize the reader into the remaining volumes is currently unknown.

Cast in Secret was much better than its predecessor. I found the story more interesting because it dealt with the fears we all deal with when meeting a group of people, in this case a different human species, who are vastly different from us and who we must eventually come to know.

Kaylin is forced to confront her own prejudices and fears about a species who have the ability, through touch, to read the thoughts, and essentially the history of the person they touch. These people called the Tha’alani are in need at this point in time, but can’t go through official channels, so one of their members, who has formed a bond of sorts with Kaylin calls upon her to assist them. Kaylin’s love for children, all children, is well known and one of their children is missing. It is a matter for their collective, not for official inquiry, but they feel it could be tied to another case Kaylin is investigating and even if it weren’t, Kaylin would help her anyway.

What follows is a passage from Cast in Secret:


The word was heavy. It opened between them like a chasm created by the breaking of earth in the aftermath of magic. Kaylin did not look at Severn, but she was aware that he was watching her. Not staring, not exactly, but aware of her reaction. She schooled her expression – a phrase she hated – with care, entirely for his benefit.

“You haven’t reported her as missing.” Not a question.

“No,” Ybelline said, and she almost shuddered. Did, although it was subtle, a ripple that passed through her and left her changed.

“You don’t believe she just wandered out of the quarter on her own.” Flat words.

“No,” Ybelline replied.

Which made sense. The young child Kaylin had so unselfconsciously lifted had had the attention of everyone in the street simply because he wanted it and the adults were happy to indulge the simple desire of someone who was certain he was loved. Any child, Kaylin thought, would have that certainty, among the Tha’alani. She felt a pang as she thought of the orphans in the Foundling Halls, Marrin’s kits. They had never been certain of that.

Kaylin stepped back, but not physically. She was a Hawk, and reminded herself that that was what she had chosen to be. And a Hawk asked questions, sought answers, sifted through facts. No matter how much they dreaded them.

“What happened?” she asked, not bothering to hide that dread.

Ybelline did not close her eyes as she turned back to them, and her eyes were dark. The color, Kaylin thought, of either sorrow or horror. She still wasn’t sure.

“She was not at her home,” Ybelline began. “Understand that we have a…looser sense of home…than your kin. We are aware of where our children are and we watch them, as a community. We listen for them. We hear their pain or their fear, and any one of us – any – will come to their rescue if rescue is required.

“Mayalee is a wanderer,” she added. “A young explorer. And she is fond of night, and stars, and navigation. She is bold – ” The words stopped for a moment. “She is afraid of very little. Not even heights or falling.

“And none of our children – in the Tha’alaan -are afraid of strangers. We have no word for it,” she added, “that does not mean outsider. And no outsiders come here.”

“You think one did.”

“One must have,” Ybelline said bitterly. But something was not right, something about the words hinted at evasion.Kaylin looked at Severn to see if he had noticed, but she read nothing in his face, nothing in his expression. He was, as Ybelline had said, careful.

Kaylin was not. “You’re not certain it was an outsider,” she said at last.

Ybelline raised a golden eyebrow.”

Cast in Secret is better and easier to read than Cast in Courtlight. The story flows fairly naturally, though there are points where if you don’t read carefully you could easily miss a thread of information critical to the storyline and find yourself confused later. Still, as I said, it is much better than its predecessor and a large part of that is probably due to the fact I read volume two first; still, the books don’t seem to rise to Michelle Sagara’s usual epic story-telling standards. I was easily able to put the book down and come back to it some time later without feeling I was really missing anything. It was a good story, an interesting one even, but it was not wonderful, fascinating or spellbinding. It fell short of what great story-telling should be though the classic story-telling qualities were there, they simply weren’t strong enough to make it notable.

Unlike Cast in Courtlight, Cast in Secret isn’t definitively leaning toward the Pigeon dropping pile, but it’s backside is absolutely over the nest waiting to see if the other volumes can redeem the series as a whole.

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