book reviews, spoiler free

The Caged Queen – Spoiler Free Review

40873495The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

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!

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book reviews, spoiler free

The Last Namsara – Spoiler Free Review

32667458The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

Rating: XXXXX

Published October 12th 2017 by Gollancz

Asha lured the dragon with a story.
It was an ancient story, older than the mountains at her back, and Asha had to dredge it up from where it lay deep and dormant inside her.

In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.

These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up learning in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.

Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.

I actually received this in a FairyLoot Box last year and it turned into one of those books I had to read but took forever to get around to, now with The Caged Queen coming out on the 25th September I figured this would be a great time to get it read so I’m all ready for the next book in the Iskari series.

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First of all can I just say…Dragons.

I was pretty sure from the get go that I would enjoy this book but I hadn’t been prepared for just how much. I love the interweaving of the old tales interwoven throughout the story and I would love for Kristen to write a whole book of tales because even stand alone they were interesting, beautifully written and captivating. The writing in the rest of the book is very good as well obviously but there was just felt like a particular kind of artistry to the tales that really made them feel like they had power.

 

The characters in The Last Namsara are well-rounded and fleshed out, each have their particular flaws which were not shied away from and helped to build their character and give them a richness. Asha was a particular favourite for me, she had a real fire to her and goes to show that great characters can be hugely unsure of themselves but still confident, physically strong but smart and most importantly not always right. I really loved seeing her attitudes change as she uncovered things throughout the story and how she reacted to situations. I feel like Asha is a fantastic example of a strong woman in fantasy without a lot of the stereotypes that usually get pinned to those kind of characters. She is a character that I think will stay with me for a long time.

The plot is intriguing if not a little up and down. The political intrigue side of things was a little slow to get going and become of any real interest but Asha herself kept the first half of the book going single-handedly (I think I honestly may be in love with her) and then by the second half of the book a lot more other characters began to come out of their shell, stakes got even higher and it felt like everyone had more purpose. The romance begins to get a little heavier in the second half as well and I’m usually not overly interested in that side of things I feel that the relationship was done very well and was a well thought out plot point all of its own that felt very well handled.

The Last Namsara is a refreshing take on fantasy and a fantastic debut from Kristen Ciccarelli and a book I highly recommend checking it out! The sequel, A Caged Queen, is out in the UK tomorrow September 27th.

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