THE CAGED QUEEN | Kristen Ciccarelli
Series: Iskari (Book 2)
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
“Once there were two sisters born with a bond so strong that it forged them together forever. Roa and Essie called it the hum. 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. Only as queen could she save her people from Firgaard’s rule.
Then a chance arises to right every wrong—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 discovers she can reclaim her sister for good.
All she has to do is kill the king.”
Disclaimer: Thank you to HarperTeen for sending me a copy of The Caged Queen in exchange for review. All opinions are my own.
I finished The Caged Queen in one sitting, mostly due to its short length and my abundance of time on Sunday, but I also finished it in one day because this book is a pretty quick and easy read like its predecessor.
The second book of the Iskari series is a companion to the first novel. The overall plot of The Caged Queen pulls in some characters and events from the first book, but the narrative focuses mainly on a different set of characters.
We’ve moved on from Asha and Torwin to explore the individual journey of Roa, Dax’s wife and Asha’s sister-in-law, as well as her relationship with Dax. Roa’s presence in the first book was pretty mysterious. Not much was known about her except that she has some affect on Asha’s brother and that she’s responsible for offering reinforcements during the coupe in exchange for her marriage to Dax. In this book, however, all of that mystery disappears to reveal an intriguingly polarizing individual.
I thought it an interesting decision to write from the perspective of Roa rather than Dax, which would have seemed like a natural progression from Asha. The audience already has a good sense of Dax’s character and motivations (which was set up in the first book) while Roa, on the other hand, is an enigma. To peel back that mystery and explore her story rather than Dax’s resulted in a completely unexpected experience. It turns out that her opinion of Dax frequently conflicted with my view of him, and so throughout the entire book, I was just waiting for the ball to drop and for everything to be put to rights.
In many ways, this made me dislike Roa quite a bit. Her intentions were good when it came to standing up for her people, and she’s very determined to get things done, but her thoughts and actions were often messy. She contradicted herself more than once, and I couldn’t tell if this was a purposeful character flaw or if her character development was lacking in some aspect.
The romantic drama was almost entirely conjured from misunderstandings and miscommunication, and so I was thoroughly entertained by all the bad choices that were being made. They were frustrating, but you knew that everything would be resolved in the end. However, I can’t say that I thought that the romance between Roa and Dax was well-earned, mostly because I don’t think Roa completed her redemption arc. I thought she was forgiven far too easily and was let off the hook simply for love.
That being said, the strongest part of the book lies within Roa’s internal struggles. She must make a very hard choice by the end and I enjoyed watching her come to terms with the inevitable outcome. Her sister, Essie, is an important character in the book. Roa’s actions are completely driven by her need to save her sister and her people, and I think that her love for her sister and her connection with Dax provide a nice counterbalance to one another.
Overall, The Caged Queen is much more dramatic in its take on love and family. It was a bit slower than the first, as there were less action scenes (and hardly any dragons), but the intimacy between Roa and her loved ones, and the attention to political movements in Firgaard help move the story forward. It was a well-written, enjoyable read, just like the first and I’m excited to read the final book, especially since it focuses on my favorite character, Safire!