The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli
Published September 27th by Gollancz
Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. When they were angry, mirrors shattered, and when they were happy, flowers bloomed. It was a magic they cherished – until the day a terrible accident took Essie’s life and trapped her soul in this world.
Dax – the heir to Firgaard’s throne – was responsible for the accident. Roa swore to hate him forever. But eight years later he returned, begging for her help. He was determined to dethrone his cruel father, under whose oppressive reign Roa’s people had suffered. Roa made him a deal: she’d give him the army he needed if he made her queen.
Together with Dax and his sister, Asha, Roa and her people waged war and deposed a tyrant. But now Asha is on the run, hiding from the price on her head. And Roa is an outlander queen, far from home and married to her enemy. Worst of all: Dax’s promises go unfulfilled. Roa’s people continue to suffer.
Then a chance to right every wrong arises – an opportunity for Roa to rid herself of this enemy king and rescue her beloved sister. During the Relinquishing, when the spirits of the dead are said to return, Roa can reclaim her sister for good.
All she has to do is kill the king.
Having heard about The Caged Queen at the Orion blogger Brunch earlier in the year I was already pretty excited for this book and jumped at the chance to receive a review copy from the lovely people at Gollancz.
Having not long ago finished The Last Namsara which I ADORED, I was so very ready for more of the same in The Caged Queen and although I really enjoyed it, The Caged queen is quite a different type of book. This isn’t a bad thing but something I wish I had thought of before I dived straight in expecting loads of fight scenes, more dragons and more characters like Asha (I think I may actually be in love with her at this point to be honest.) I hate to compare books but it’s hard not to with them being sequels and I think it’s very important to understand that although Roa is another brilliant, strong character like Asha is and she can certainly fight she is different and this is her story which is fairly different kind of story. Whereas Asha’s story was, like her, a bit more wild and urgent Roa’s story is complex and complicated, filled with lies, deceit and pain (but also some fun sword play, more interesting characters, plots for treason and hard choices) and I like that each story really feels like a part of the characters.
The Caged Queen is a little slow to start and takes a little while to gain traction. This plot is very political and needs some setting up which takes some time but is worth the pay off for it later on. This does mean that the first half can appear a little slow at times but it’s peppered throughout with little “stories” a bit like the tales we had in The Last Namsara. We hear the tale of the skyweaver but most of the other are back story about Roa and her sister Essie, quite a few of which also feature Dax. These little flashbacks break up the sometimes less exciting or heavier chunks of the story without fluffing it out which is greatly appreciated and I think works extremely well. The second half of the book starts to pick up the pace a bit and the stakes are raised ever higher but like it’s predecessor the book really comes into his own in the last third. Secrets are revealed, everyone starts to show their hand a little more, there’s a bit more action and feeling to it and it just blew me away. The twists in the story are brilliant and I shed a few tears as well as gasping in shock a time or two.
At this point we already know a great deal of the characters but like with many sequels we really get to know them much better in this book. Roa and Dax were amazing and although on a very different level to Asha they shine in their own ways and despite the storyline still managed to have pretty amazing chemistry I feel. We had some new characters that were introduced and although we don’t get to know them as well as the ones already established they’re certainly no less interesting or memorable.
There is definitely less of a fantasy element to The Caged Queen but it is still present and I feel just the right amount for this kind of story where I think too much of it would have drowned or removed focus from the plot which I think some fantasy, especially adult high fantasy can have a tendency to do. The Iskari books feel like a much more diverse and rich version of the first few Throne of Glass books and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on more of them. Once again Kristen has done a fantastic job, The Caged Queen is well written, intriguing and painfully pulls you in every direction, a very well worth it read!