I read and enjoyed The Caged Queen before I even discovered it is considered book two of the Iskari series. Needless to say, in my opinion, you don’t need to have read The Last Namsara, the first in the series, to enjoy The Caged Queen.
Kristen Ciccarelli’s story is set in a fantasy world. If you look closely, there are dragons, but it almost doesn’t matter. This is a story of a young woman who becomes queen after arranging a coup and a political marriage. The result? She’s left with an idiot husband of a king, who sleeps around, and she risks scandal each time she creeps out to meet the man she actually loves. The Caged Queen is a story about the decisions we make and the consequences they have.
This is a fantasy, and there’s a significant quirk (if that’s not an oxymoron) that can’t be ignored. The Queen’s sister is a hawk. Yep; a bird with feathers. She wasn’t born a hawk, of course, she was born human but died in an accident, and her soul failed to move on properly. As a result, the Queen’s sister is a hawk, and much of the book is about the quest to undo that curse and return her to life.
It’s strange, as I read through The Caged Queen I thought the story was a bit slow and it would take ages to reach any sort of dramatic conclusion. The end of the book caught me by surprise. Needless to say, it’s not a slow story, and it’s a cleverly paced story from Ciccarelli.
Each of the characters in The Caged Queen is understated but interesting. Roa didn’t become Queen out of (entirely) selfish reasons – she very much wanted to protect her oppressed people. We even get to talk to Essie, the hawk-sister, who seems to be quite wise despite being transformed into a bird.
What about the King? Dax, as it turns out, is actually quite likeable and I suspect readers will quickly begin theorising whether he’s as shallow as the Queen thinks he is. Ciccarelli, of course, anticipates that too and the flow of the story seamlessly incorporates those ponderings.
I’ve still not read the first book, but a quick scan of the syposis and reviews tells me we do have overlapping characters. It’s hard to say whether or not The Caged Queen is a worthy successor to The Last Namsara but easy to say that The Caged Queen, as a standalone, is worthy of your time as a fan of fantasy fiction. My strong feeling is that if you’ve any insight on the characters in this book because you’ve read The Last Namsara, is that you’ll enjoy it more and the stakes will be higher.
Overall? Recommended. Check it out.
My copy of The Caged Queen was provided for view. It’s published by Gollancz in the UK.