A series of gruesome child killings in the lawless area of town known as the Fiefs has shocked the entire city of Elantra. The Hawklord, head of the city's investigative force, sends Hawk Kaylin to investigate. She knows the Fiefs—she grew up there and hoped never to return. But now she must go back—with her most despised enemy as a partner and a mysterious dragon lord as the third member of their team.

Kaylin will face down a madman, but it is her personal demons that may do her the most harm. She will learn unsuspected truths about her own origin and the mysterious power that enables her to both heal and kill.

Cast in Shadow effectively blends sword-and-sorcery elements with police procedural to produce an absorbing tale. Sagara (aka Michelle West) has woven a fantasy world with believable interspecies interactions and caste systems—as well as Washington-level bureaucracy. The tale does occasionally get bogged down in its effort to keep the reader guessing. Sagara goes to extraordinary lengths to muddy the waters of a complicated plot, namely with Kaylin's annoying habit of not allowing people to explain themselves.

This convention is easy to overlook, however, because the fast-paced plot and intriguing characters beguile. Presumably, lingering loose ends will be tied up in forthcoming entries. (Aug., 400 pp., $13.95)
Reviewed by: 
Jen Talley Exum