The thing about the Chronicles of Elantra series is that I adore the characters and the world that Sagara has created. Ten books into the series and I still devour these books. For me, they’re fall asleep reading, wake up hugging the book sort of tales. The fabric of Kaylin Neya’s world is rich with strands from all of the books coming together to add layers. New and old characters gain new depth in each installment. While the cast is pretty massive at this point, they remain individuals and not caricatures or paint-by-numbers creations. They lovable, but flawed.
This book picks up right after the events of Cast in Sorrow. Kaylin and Co. have returned from the West March with more connections and complications. Kaylin is actively looking for a new home, since hers was blown up in an assassination attempt against her roommate in Cast in Peril, and neither Kaylin nor Beullusdeo are happy with the restrictions placed upon them in the Imperial Palace. While searching for a home and not simply a place to lay her head at night Kaylin has to deal with the unintentional havoc Mandoran and Annarion reap on the fiefs of Nightshade and Tiamaras as well as the Imperial City and the Garden. The recently returned Barrani are like snarky teenagers with massive amounts of power and no self control, which results in Teela, Tain, and Kaylin being their babysitters, laugh-out-loud humor, and plenty of facepalm moments. Characters we adore from previous books, remain themselves. Small and squawky, also known as Hope, is still the master of sarcastic body language. The Arkon and Evanton are as curmudgeonly as ever and are rather fond of Kaylin regardless of however much they grump. Severn, as always, is by Kaylin’s side trying to both protect her and talk her through it all. Nightshade is amused, patronizing, and funny while also being shady, full of power, and a keeper of secrets (though we do get a few more hints about why he is Outcaste).
Kaylin learns a bit more about what it means to be Chosen as she starts to put together not only picking True Words/True Names, but also figuring out how to return them to the Lake. She finally accepts that she is going to have several roommates for the rest of her life and that these people will stay with her, for good or ill, and finds a home that will allow them all to be together if that is what she chooses. Her home–as I guessed it would be–is slightly damaged, but healing, with a lot of personality, and the ability to protect those it cares about to some extent, just like Kaylin. We get to see how much of a mirror image she is to her home when the Emperor drops by, attended by the Arkon and none of his guards, to try to figure out why he and Bellusdeo keep fighting all the time. I was glad to see that he had a bit of a sense of humor, a lot of confusion, and some anger all wrapped up in one. I found him believable as a master of all he surveys confounded by what he does not understand. He is, like a lot of real life people, someone who has a hard time seeing people for who they are and realizing that someone with a different life experience has another way to view the world. Interestingly, he seems to have chosen Kaylin as his teacher in expanding his perspective and allows her to yell at him, lecture him, and interrupt him. Severn, meanwhile, tries to mentally interject common sense in hopes that Kaylin won’t be stupid and get eaten as she is rather informal and emperor’s generally aren’t a fan of that.
This book made me laugh, choked me up, and made me want to smack various characters upside their heads. I got to like a character that I previously wanted to strangle. Decided that another one, while I don’t really like him and would never be friends with him in real life, would be missed if he died. And totally wanted to hug some of the others. I am looking forward to the next book, Cast in Honor, which the author is currently writing and seeing how Kaylin grows now that she has a place she can truly call her home.