THE CAGED QUEEN by Kristen Ciccarelli.

THE CAGED QUEEN by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Gollancz. p/b. £12.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

Theo’s chair sits empty, her former husband-to-be gone. She betrayed him and this is the consequence. Roa, Daughter of Song, has given up so much to get here, and now Essie, her beloved sister, may be gone forever too. There is silence where before she was ever present. Has Roa so disappointed her, or has she finally succumbed to a long-awaited death?

People call her an outlander queen, now she is wedded to the dragon king. The alliance is forged, though they do not trust her. Her king, Dax, whom she has known since childhood, does not share her bed; her marriage goes on unconsummated. That secret is safe with husband and wife, but for how much longer?

Roa’s new life has placed a rift between so many, even as it has freed her people from the clutches of others. She married her enemy, the man who took so much from her, and now she faces a terrible choice. There may be a way to save her sister, but is it a price too high to pay?

Set in the same world as The Last Namsara, Roa’s story plays out after the events of Asha’s tale, with the relationship between Asha’s brother and his new queen taking the main narrative alongside Roa’s desperate desire to save her sister. The Caged Queen moves at a fast pace and is not lacking heart-wrenching decisions and determined enemies.

Roa comes across as a younger and in many ways more naïve heroine, in that she does not quite carry the same captivating strength that Asha did in the first book. Her decisions, though weighty, are made with less surety and feel ill considered at times. The tie between her and her sister adds a depth to the underlying narrative, as do the glimpses of the past that fall in between each of the main chapters adding context to Roa and Dax’s history and helping to immerse the reader back into this world.