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Stars: 4 out of 5.
This is my favorite book of the series so far.
I like how in each new book, we uncover another side of this very complex world. It is hinted in the first book that Elantra is built on the ruins of previous civilizations. And the second book show us a little bit about what those were, as well as why the Barani have to have a strong presence in the city (hint: they are containing an even bigger evil).
I also like that Kaylin has to confront her own preconceptions in each consecutive book, which often changes her whole opinion about a situation, or in this case, an entire race of people. Last book it was the Barani, this time we learn more about the Thal’anni, a race of telepaths that Kaylin absolutely abhorred in the previous books because she only considered what they could do to her – break into her mind and discover her worst secrets. She never stopped to think the price they paid for that ability.
I loved this exploration of the origins of an entire race and the decisions that led to this particular race choosing to be peaceful, when they had the means and the ability to dominate this world (not to mention destroy it). In fact, they almost did just that once, a long time ago.
Kaylin had to confront the toll mind reading exerts from the Thal’anni, and realize that they don’t do it willingly at all. Those Thal’anni working for the Emperor are a tribute the race has to pay for being left in peace. And those tributes often come back damaged by the experiences they are forced to pry out of the minds of the people they interrogate.
While Kaylin still irritates me most of the time, because she behaves like a teenager younger than the 17 years she is supposed to be in this book, I love her unwavering loyalty to children in need. Protecting children who can’t protect themselves is at the core of her being. It defines her ever since her little family in Nightshade. It’s the murder of those children that she couldn’t forgive Severn for, or herself. So her trying to care for the children in the Foundling Hall, or do everything in her power to save women in difficult labor is what defines her character. And you know what? I can stand behind that. And I can forgive a lot of her other quirks and stupid knee jerk decisions she makes because of that.
Especially since she get a little bit more character growth in this book. She learns that she was wrong hating a race of people because of a bad experience with one of them. And that experience wasn’t even that interrogator’s fault. She acknowledges her wrong and manages to grow past it. To see individual people where before she saw monsters. That’s a very mature step to take that not many adults are capable of even in our world.
As it stands, I want to learn more about this world. Every book gives me a little glimpse into it and keeps me hooked. I also want to learn more about the forces behind the marks on Kaylin’s arms and what it all means for the world of Elantra. Onward to book 4.