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Review: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

Review: The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli

‘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.’

I loved The Last Namsara and I’m delighted to say that The Caged Queen is everything that I was looking for in a follow-up. I was initially a little concerned that the shift in point of view from Asha to Roa would make the story not quite as easy to get into as it would have been were the point of view to be consistent, but I soon found that Roa was just as wonderful and complex a character. Despite the change, there are still references to what is happening to Asha and Torwin throughout the story, letting them play a significant role in the novel and be ‘present’ without being a permanent presence that might detract from Roa’s personal narrative. I’m not sure that I’ve ever been able to say that I’ve been as pleased by a sequel in a series as much as the opening book, and I’m thrilled that The Caged Queen is a novel that gives me the opportunity to most definitely state that I loved it as much as The Last Namsara.

One of the (many) things that I love about both The Last Namsara and The Caged Queen is the use of myth, story and history between particular chapters to slowly reveal the details that enhance the narrative without making it a complicated matter of employing jumps in time. With the importance placed on stories and their key role in the narrative of The Last Namsara, it was fantastic to see the same in both the structure of The Caged Queen and the story itself. The magic of Roa’s world is primarily tied into spirituality and not so much to do with actual magic power, allowing the use of magic to be a solid component of the story without being something that makes any single one of the characters ‘the strongest’ and most dangerous, also neatly sidestepping any opportunity for any one character to become overpowered.

I adored the dragons in The Last Namsara and what we see of them in The Caged Queen only cemented this. Unfortunately, I can’t really go into any further detail without giving any major spoilers, so I’ll have to stop there! However, what I can say is that if one is to take the use of winged creatures, such as the dragons and Essie’s hawk form, as metaphors and thus broader messages, they are incredibly effective. Any potential metaphors aside, they are also beautifully nuanced characters in their own right (Essie is charming both in her hawk form and as the girl the reader meets in tales told of the past).

Like Asha, Roa is a courageous and intelligent character who manages to avoid becoming one of the more stereotypical YA heroines who can do everything and anything on her own by using her unbelievable powers. Roa uses her mind to try and handle the situations that she finds herself in, and, though she is more than capable of physical combat, this does not define who she is. Roa feels more strongly than she would have most people believe, her focus more on familial love and the bond between herself and Essie than romantic attraction (though there is a love triangle involved in her tale). Though there is a romantic love story in The Caged Queen, its focus is on the concepts of friendship, trust, familial love and loyalty, and it’s that these are at its heart that makes it such a wonderful read. I can’t wait to see what the third in the series brings.

Publisher: Gollancz

Pub date: 27th September 2018

I received an ARC of The Caged Queen from NetGalley and the publisher.