Last year I decided I want to re-read Michelle Sagara’s Chronicles of Elantra (more widely known as “the Cast books”) because I’d fallen a couple of books behind and while they’re not quite Big Fat Epic Fantasy, they’re big enough books that I kinda wanted a refresher before reading what I’d missed.
Now, I’d enjoyed them the first time through, obviously, or I wouldn’t have been re-reading them to begin with, but OMG I LOVED THEM EVEN MORE the second time through.
I think a huge reason I liked them even more is because there are a lot of characters and unusual names and complicated relationships, and reading the books originally was at least partially a challenge in just straight-up keeping track of who was who. But in the re-read, I absolutely, definitely knew who everybody was, and so every time someone ‘new’ would show up I’d be like “YAY! HERE’S HOW THEY FIT IN!” instead of “oh god okay and they are, um, who?” and that was just ENORMOUSLY enjoyable.
Anyway, so there I was charging along through the books and then I hit CAST IN PERIL, which is like book 8, and it turned out…I hadn’t read it. I thought I had, but also in reading the later books there’s a character I didn’t know exactly how they’d shown up and thought I must have just kind of forgotten, but…no, it turns out they show up in PERIL and I’d just totally missed reading it somehow (where ‘somehow’ is ‘I had a 2 year old the year the book came out, that’s excuse enough’). So then I started wondering if I had missed OTHER BOOKS…but I hadn’t, as it turned out. Not, at least, before the point where I *knew* I hadn’t read them yet.
Re-reading them all at once (well, okay, over about 6 months, because there are 15 of them and I did a lot of work last year) really emphasized the themes of found family and (in Frozen 2 terms) “do the next right thing”, which…I don’t know, in the world as it is today, those things were heartening to me. I think I actually liked Kaylin (our heroine) more in the re-read than in the initial reading, although *laughs* I gotta say:
There are readers and reviewers who were really annoyed with me for the amount of time it took Joanne Walker to face up to the fact that she had powers and she was gonna have to learn to use them properly because people were getting hurt because she couldn’t*. But it took THREE BOOKS–two, really, because by the end of THUNDERBIRD she’d accepted she needed to–and here’s Kaylin out there sliding into BOOK FIFTEEN and only just now resolving to actually LEARN TO USE her damn powers! So I’m like: really!? Like, they all were mad at ME for Jo’s slow learning curve which took place over like 2.5 books and 4 months when Kaylin’s been refusing lessons on her power for over a year of book time and for 9 or so years of having them?!
Which is neither here nor there, really. I just thought it was funny. :)
Anyway, Kaylin came off really well in a re-read of the series, and my already-considerable love for the supporting cast, particularly the Dragons, was multiplied. I kept laughing out loud at character interactions, and honestly, Michelle says she can’t write romance but these books have a MURDEROUSLY good slow burn with LAYERS of complication and I am here for until the end of damn TIME.
So if you’re looking for a solid, long-running fantasy series with an urban fantasy feel but set in an entirely secondary world, the Chronicles of Elantra are a good choice. The 15th book (16th if you count the novella CAST IN MOONLIGHT) is out later this month, and I’m super-duper looking forward to it now that I’m all caught up.
* I still maintain “putting my head in the sand and hoping REALLY HARD that this will all just GO AWAY” is an extremely common and natural human reaction, but holy shit people got upset about it. My editor, at some point, said to me, “I think maybe you like a little too much reality in your fantasy,” AND MAYBE I DO, BUT DAMN, PEOPLE! Like! Have you not met *people*!? And like! I know “omg i have magic powers YAY SO COOL!” is the more common fantasy book response to, y’know, omg, you have magic powers, BUT THAT’S PART OF WHY JOANNE DIDN’T THINK IT WAS GREAT! The whole idea was to have a character for whom this was problematic! A struggle! I was trying, right from the start, to make her different from Harry Dresden & Anita Blake (which were really the only two urban fantasy series out, when I wrote URBAN SHAMAN, altho by the time it got published it was a whole different story) both of whom were all in for their magic, so her trying to nope on out of there was BY DESIGN! And yet it really got up peoples’ noses. :)