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The Caged Queen (Iskari)

Review

The Caged Queen (Iskari)

Kristen Ciccarelli is a young adult fantasy novelist. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as an artisanal baker, indie bookseller and ceramic artist. Her debut novel, THE LAST NAMSARA, is an international bestseller. The start of a three-book series, THE LAST NAMSARA begins three companion novels set in the same world following different characters. The second book, THE CAGED QUEEN, is her second novel and a September 2018 release.

Roa is a daughter of the powerful House of Song, one of the scrublander organizations. Several years prior, Roa’s sister Essie died in a tragic accident, and that continues to affect Roa’s decision making significantly. Jax is the new king of Firaagard, gaining the throne after Roa and her people helped him overthrow his tyrant father. In exchange for her help, Jax agreed to marry Roa to make his government more favorable toward scrublanders. Roa is unsatisfied with the limited changes Jax has made so far to protect her people, and she is given the opportunity to overthrow him and get her sister back. Will she take it?

I read THE LAST NAMSARA earlier this year and enjoyed it, but it was not the best fantasy novel I have ever read. I found it a little slow to get into. When I learned the sequel would be a companion about Roa and Dax, I knew I would be reading it. THE CAGED QUEEN is a masterpiece that as soon as I began reading it, I knew I would love it much more than THE LAST NAMSARA. Its strongest attribute is the fact that it is a companion novel that is entirely different than the first story. Roa and Dax were instantly more compelling characters, and I was immediately intrigued by the history between the two. Their position in the world is higher-stakes because they are already married at the beginning of the book. I don’t think I have ever read a YA novel like that before, and that made for a very unique dynamic between the two because they certainly don’t act married. Their relationship is instantly rocky and not very romantic, and I appreciated the absence of insta-love in this story.

The world of THE CAGED QUEEN is already set up in the first book, but the inner-workings of the scrublands and even the politics of the monarchy is a cause of many problems for Roa and Dax. The plot was interesting but not necessarily action-packed. Driven by the politics of Roa’s and Dax’s very different people, the story was very immensely entertaining nevertheless. Less dragon-centered than the first book, THE CAGED QUEEN focuses much more on character development. The novel is told from only Roa’s point of view, and, while I wish we had gotten Jax’s point of view as well, I understand that it was necessary just to have Roa’s. Roa never stopped frustrating me, but that only made me want to keep reading. Her new role as queen of people who dislike her, her less than perfect relationship with Dax and her love for her sister are all factors that lead her to make frustrating decisions. It left me so frustrated I couldn't stop reading.

THE CAGED QUEEN was surprisingly not very long, especially for a fantasy novel. The length worked very well for me, and the story never stopped being engaging. I would have liked to see more of an epilogue or a little more time after the resolution, but I’m not too upset that it wasn’t there. Ultimately, THE CAGED QUEEN was two steps up from THE LAST NAMSARA and has me on board for anything Ciccarelli writes in this world or another world in the future. While it is best to read THE LAST NAMSARA before this book if you are going to read it at all, I don’t believe it is absolutely necessary. I highly recommend this series to fantasy fanatics as well as fans of THRONE OF GLASS, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES and worlds with dragons.

Reviewed by Grace P., Teen Board Member on October 16, 2018

The Caged Queen (Iskari)
by Kristen Ciccarelli