Its been sometime since I have been this invested in a series. I’m usually a little wary of starting a series when it is already about 8 books down and in part I started reading it because I thought that the 9th book would probably be the last in the series, but having read the rest of them, I don’t think that’s very likely. But I am very glad I did because it is one of the most intense series I’ve read in a while, very well written and the world and the characters in it are so well conceived. This review is very hard to write because there are just so many things happening in the books and so many characters that I have no idea where to start and how much to mention because I don’t want to give away any plot points. But I’ll try and I hope it makes sense to those of you who take the time to go through this muddled mess. Here goes. I read them back-to-back and this can sometimes be a bad thing because the intensity becomes tiresome and repetitive. Thankfully, that didn’t happen here. The writing style definitely helped, it was very descriptive and the world the characters inhabit grew more detailed with each passing book. Also it didn’t hurt that the problems that had to be overcome in each of the books bordered on the apocalyptic.The main protagonist of the series is Kaylin Neya. At 20 years of age, she is a private and serves the Hawks. This is the investigative wing of the Halls of Law, which also includes the Swords (peacekeepers) and the Wolves (Empire sanctioned assassins and man-hunters sent in search of fugitives and criminals) But what makes Kaylin very different from the rest of the populace of Elantra (I’ll get to the other races in a bit) are the strange marks on her body. The significance and meaning of these marks becomes more apparent as the books progress. She is one of most ‘human’ characters that I have read in popular fiction. Kaylin had a very tough childhood growing up in the ‘fiefs; these are the relatively lawless and unregulated lands that border the Empire of Elantra but they’re outside the purview of the Emperor. All kinds of activities that would be illegal in the Empire, flourish here. Naturally then, the fiefs are no place for the young and protected. Kaylin, when she lived in the fiefs, was both, orphaned at a young age, she survived because she found help in the form of other fieflings but that survival came at a price, one that defined her choices well into adulthood.And I loved that despite those challenges she retains spark and spunk and a healthy dose of sarcasm. She is stubborn and loyal (to a fault.) She has strong prejudices but is unwilling to let them dictate her actions. That she rushes into dangerous situations without any concern for herself. And of course, her absolute inability to reach anyplace on time. Something a lot of my friends also have trouble with unfortunately. The world of Elantra is inhabited by very different beings ranging from the immortals races of the Dragons and the Barrani (tall and pale beings and they have pointy ears), to the mortal ones of the humans, Leontines (lion-like but stand upright), Aerians (human in appearance except they have wings growing out of their back and can therefore fly) and Thala’ani (also human in appearance except they have 2 stalks growing out of their heads.) Each of the books more or less focuses on one of these races and this was great because it gave the readers an insight into that particular race’s culture, history and quirks. There are many secondary characters in the series. Normally when you have so many of them, more often than not, they tend to get lost as the narrative progresses or are so poorly conceived that they retain no personality of their own. This was not the case here. The secondary characters here were an absolute treat and made the series so much fun. They are such a great foil for Kaylin and her growth results not just from her experiences but also from her interaction with these characters. As far these secondary characters go, it was very hard to really dislike them and I think that just goes to show just how well envisioned they were. Ok, that’s not completely honest, there was one character that I absolutely couldn’t stand but when you have a list of characters this long, this is saying something. Some of the more important characters are Severn (Human), Teela (Barrani) (she became one of my favourites early on) Marcus (Leontine), Tiamaris, Sanabalis, the Arkon (all of them Dragons), Nightshade (Barrani). There are others but I don’t want to give out their names and reveal something without meaning to. What is really striking about this series, is that these characters grow just as Kaylin does and we learn more about them as we read on. The villain in most of these books is a Dragon Makkuron and slowly his story is also emerging and giving us a better sense of who he was. My only grouse is that, throughout the series, we heard a lot about the Dragon Emperor but he hasn’t made an appearance yet. I thought maybe we would finally meet him in the 8th book, but alas, no such luck. And I doubt that he’ll make an appearance in the next installment Cast in Sorrow. The silver lining? The series doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, so maybe we can hope that it won’t be long before we meet him. The dark cloud? Now, I’ll have to wait till the next book and then after reading that, for the one after that and so on… UGH!! So not looking forward to that! Cast in Sorrow will at least release in 2013 but I don’t think it’ll be anytime before August because so far the release date only says 2013. So we have a bit of a wait ahead of us.This review doesn’t really do these books justice at all. I loved the series and it’s very highly recommended. Also before I forget, there is some great fan art that I stumbled upon by this guy called Mathia Arkoniel. Be sure to check them out. His chibi illustrations are especially funny, although they may not make a lot of sense to you if you haven’t read the 7th and 8th books. Enjoy reading!!