Cast in Ruin by Michelle Sagara *****

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With Cast in Ruin, I have to give Michelle Sagara what is—in my mind—the highest compliment: Her books make me want to write.  I always come away from a Chronicles of Elantra book wanting to pick up pen and paper or get to a keyboard and go all BIC HOK TAM.  They feel like home to me and the characters leap off the page and live in my head like only true friends and enemies can.
This book seriously delighted me.  Kaylin is growing and changing now that she has finally started dealing with her past, but her past has not left her.  I relate to Kaylin more than any other protagonist I’ve ever read.  She feels real and like she’s one of those people I would insist on being friends with.  Always late.  Always short on money.  Forgets to eat or doesn’t have time.  Doesn’t prize manners above just about anything.  Is messy and sometimes just purely a mess.  She doesn’t sleep much and when she does it’s always interrupted.  Sure, the girl has flaws and it makes me love her all the more because she also is fiercely loyal to her friends, loves children and will do anything to protect them, and will give everything she can to help those in need.  She’s intuitive, smart, and a little more street than tame.  She’s also endlessly curious and always asking questions that would often be better not asked.
And in this book, the guy I’m rooting for—Severn Handred—finally seems to be rooting for himself.  They actually have that talk that I’ve been waiting for—you know, the one where Kaylin explains what she’s so afraid of being with him—and it’s a credible reason given her background.  He’s finally started to say what’s on his mind and I’m grateful.  I’ve had a soft spot for the scarred man of few words and boundless understanding since we learned what actually happened and Kaylin realized she didn’t need to hunt him down and kill him.  I’m hoping that eventually she’ll realize that he is Home.  As to the other man people seem to be rooting for, we see less of Nightshade but have promise of a goodly portion of the next book focusing on both him and the West March, which is always interesting.
Speaking of focus, every book seems to close in on one of the races and this is a story about Dragons.  Though we have yet to meet the Emperor, all of the other Dragons make an appearance except for Emmerian, who is only mentioned once.  I have always loved the Dragon Court characters and even the danger represented by the Outcaste so I was exceedingly happy about this turn of events.  The murder this time happens in Tiamaris’ new Fief and the fact that it is where Kaylin had the darkest times of her past just adds layers.  That the refugees, now known as the Norannir, moved to the Fief formerly known as Barren, and now known as Tiamaris, means that this book is also largely about them.  New cultures always hold intrigue for me so I love the fact that we get to learn a whole new history in this one.  Add on top of that a new Dragon who has even less reverence than Kaylin and I am one happy reader.
Between the Norannir, the new Dragon, the Barrani, the ongoing investigation into the Exchequer, and what is sure to be more of a push and pull between Severn and Nightshade, this next book looks like it will be just as fun and interesting as this one.

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