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Cast in Courtlight    by Michelle Sagara order for
Cast in Courtlight
by Michelle Sagara
Order:  USA  Can
Luna, 2006 (2006)
*   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Kaylin Neya likes the danger and excitement that comes with being a Ground Hawk of the Halls of Law. As a Ground Hawk, she can be among people, policing the streets as an officer. What she doesn't like is being locked in a room, practicing magic. Unfortunately for Kaylin, that's exactly what she's had to do repeatedly since learning she possessed magical abilities, talents she can't control. But after her sullen, stubborn attitude drives away yet another mage tasked with training her, it becomes clear to everyone that sitting in a room trying to light a candle using only magic isn't the right way for Kaylin to learn to control her skills.

Things get complicated when Kaylin is called to the Barrani High Court. She's used to enforcing the law on the streets among commoners, not dressing in silks and jewels to face royalty, so her discomfort is immediately palpable. Political intrigue and scheming abounds, and the more Kaylin tries to distance herself from it, the more involved she becomes. The fact that she wears the mark of Lord Nightshade, a Barrani outcast, doesn't make things any easier. Now it's up to Kaylin to learn to control her healing magic and save the life of the High Lord's heir. If she can't, the entire Barrani race may pay the price for her failure.

Cast in Courtlight is an immensely complex fantasy novel. Sagara writes deeply intricate plots, settings and characters, which requires enormous focus on the part of the reader. I found myself constantly confused while reading this novel, and often had to backtrack to figure out what I'd missed. The story moves quickly, yet it seems to jump around from one event to the next. The author doesn't give much thought to readers not familiar with the first book in the series, and many elaborate details are not explained when they're first introduced.

Sagara's strength lies in her world building. The world she's developed houses five different species: Human, Barrani, Leontine, Aerian, Thasalani and Dragon. Each is intricately developed, with specific cultural beliefs, biases and prejudices, many of which are never clearly explained. It takes a tremendous amount of concentration to keep everything straight, and things become even more complicated when the political intrigue is introduced, which happens very quickly. We're never given much of a chance to get to know Kaylin before she's thrust into the fierce machinations of the supporting cast, and the complexity of the world often overshadows her character.

Readers familiar with the first book in the series may be able to understand all the delicate nuances of the follow-up novel, but those who haven't read Cast in Shadow would be advised to start at the beginning.

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