THE GILDED CAGE by @LynetteNoni from @HodderBooks

THE GILDED CAGE by Lynette Noni.

Hodder & Stoughton. h/back. £14.99.

Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins.

It is six weeks since Kiva escaped Zalindov, the prison where she spent half of her young life. Since escaping with the aid of the crown prince, Jaren remains at her side and much as she tries to resist, her feelings for the man who should be her sworn enemy grow by the day. It is six weeks since Tilda Corentine, the Rebel Queen and Kiva’s mother, died. Six weeks since Jaren’s family took her in, welcomed her with open arms, not knowing the terrible secrets she has kept from them.

Rumour has it that the rebels are growing in strength, led now (unbeknownst by the Vallentis family) by Kiva’s brother and sister. No matter how comfortable her life has turned out to be outside of Zalindov, no matter the joy she has taken in sneaking into the Silverthorn Academy for healers just as her father did before her, Kiva must find her siblings so that her family can finally take back what was theirs. She has only one clue to their whereabouts – Oakhollow.

Kiva has had six weeks of freedom if you can call living with the people you plan to overthrow freedom. Six weeks that she could have spent planning to take back her family’s crown, finally having revenge on those who stole her father, her childhood and her future. Instead, Kiva finds herself living happily among the royal family and now even has a chance to become a student at the academy. Should she remain loyal to her family and the plan that kept her alive during her 10 years at Zalindov, or dare she plans for a future that she once thought would never be available to her? Tonight is the River Festival. She will allow herself one more night before she leaves for  Oakhollow.

The Gilded Cage, like its predecessor, is an easy read that keeps the pages turning effortlessly from start to finish. Kiva finds herself torn between hard choices and is drawn ever deeper into a dilemma as she reunites with her siblings and slowly uncovers more and more of the family history and the developments she missed during her years of imprisonment.

This is one of those books where a love story develops but is handled with a light touch so that it does not detract from the main narrative. Jaren’s various family members provide distraction and entertainment, both to Kiva and the reader, as the story unfolds, and while some elements of the tale head in exactly the direction the reader predicts they will, Noni builds to an explosive, gut-punch of an ending that leaves you thinking: “so that’s where it’s heading!” and has you looking up the release date for the next book in the series.