Today I’m going to be talking about a book I was really excited for this year – The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli, companion novel to The Last Namsara. When the lovely Stevie at Gollancz got in touch about the blog tour for this book, of course I said I’d love to take part in it!
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 Reliquishing, 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.
Although this book follows on from the storyline of The Last Namsara, it follows different characters and what became of them after TLN.
At its heart, The Caged Queen is a story of feminism, family, love and political tactics. Roa, a Scrublander of the House of Song, agrees to marry Dax, king of Firgaard, and become Queen of a city that hates her in an attempt to both secure her peoples’ safety and get revenge for her dead twin sister. I absolutely loved Asha in The Last Namsara, however, I adored Roa. She’s immediately portrayed as a strong woman, a seasoned warrior, ambitious but not over confident, and always willing to put the needs of her people above her own. Roa was close with Dax when they were children, but after her twin sister Essie died (more on this later) and Firgaard’s hatred towards the Scrublanders became more apparent to Roa, she grew apart from their future king and only reluctantly entered into an alliance with him where The Caged Queen picks up. Despite Roa’s great traits, she also has a lot of flaws and makes mistakes, especially when forced into harsher political situations. Although some of her mistakes or misjudgments made me want to tear my hair out, her positive points certainly made up for this, and I’m glad she wasn’t written purely as this perfect protagonist who can be thrown into being a Queen without struggling.
Again, although Dax wasn’t always portrayed in the best light, he was an easy character to root for and has a lot more depth than it initially seems – I was definitely shipping him and Roa, too! At first he appears to have no interest in politics and no skill in battle, something that is definitely confusing considering he plotted to overthrow his father in The Last Namsara. Roa quickly dismisses him after witnessing his many apparent faults, but as I say, there’s definitely more to Dax than there looks and he’s a character worth watching!
So, after Essie’s accident, her spirit became trapped within the body of a bird, who now follows Roa everywhere and can telepathically communicate with her. A big part of The Last Namsara was the various folk tales from the world, and this continues in The Caged Queen, with a big focus being on the story of the Relinquishing – a night where Scrublanders believe that lost spirits return to them as they are closest to the earth at this point. Roa believes that with the knife from her folktales, she has a chance to restore Essie’s spirit to its human body, but only if she kills the one who should have died in Essie’s place – who just happens to be Dax.
Although there certainly is a big focus on political intrigue with just enough action thrown in, The Caged Queen really focuses on character development and relationships. For me, each piece of the story fit together so well and it had the perfect balance and pacing. I think the way that this series has been written – with each book following different characters whose lives meet, rather than following different events of the same character – has really worked in its favour, and I definitely can’t wait to read more from the Iskari world.
Overall, The Caged Queen was a feminist-fuelled, character driven book, and I loved it so much that I read it in one sitting. I have to say that I actually enjoyed it more than The Last Namsara; it definitely didn’t suffer from second book syndrome. If you’ve read TLN, you need to pick this up – and the two books work in a way that you could read either of them first, or probably separately without much issue at all!
Thanks again to Gollancz for sending me a copy of The Caged Queen and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour!
lots of love,