If you saw my review of The Last Namsara you would have known I loved the dragons. So I was so excited for The Caged Queen which is not a direct sequel in the traditional sense, but takes the POV of a side character and advances the story.
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: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
At the beginning I was confused because while this is a sequel to The Last Namsara, it’s also a companion novel. Taking place after the events of The Last Namsara, it focuses on Roa and Dax – who were side characters in the first. But once I got the hang of these characters who I thought I knew, but only scratched the surface. That’s what I love about companion novels. I thought I had Dax and Roa all figured out, and while I did, how they ended up on the page was so different from how I had them in my mind.
Alongside this note, The Caged Queen is really about how we deal with our decisions. In The Last Namsara, Dax and Roa were married as a political and military alliance, but The Caged Queen is about the afterwards. How do we deal with the compromises we had to make and ourselves afterwards?
Sisters Get Me Every Time
That being said, The Caged Queen is a story about sisters. That’s really why I loved this book so much. Roa’s love for her sister Essie propels her throughout the entire story basically. The guilt and revenge she feels for her sister keeps her rage burning at night. But even more than that, Roa feels a fear for her people and the ones she loves – which was a huge theme in The Last Namsara.
The Caged Queen also tackles loyalty in a big way. There are so many characters who we don’t know what side they are on. Are their actions worth more than their words? Can we trust what they say? How can people trust our own actions? This story was FULL Of treachery, betrayal, and subterfuge. By the end, I didn’t know if anyone was how I thought they were. Past relationships came back to haunt us like ghosts. There’s also a hate to love romance that is full of angst.
Flashbacks and Memories
I also loved that The Caged Queen has SO many memories. There are so many flashbacks, but not in a confusing way. It allowed us to see the full evolution of the relationship between Roa and Dax – how they were childhood friends and playmates until an utter act of betrayal – a mistake. In many ways, that incident changed, irreparably, Dax, Essie, and Roa. So Ciccarelli allows us to see the before actions, personalities, memories, and desires of these characters BEFORE. A moment of resentment and revenge, bound by a second.
It took me a while to warm up to Roa and so for the first quarter I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue or if I liked Roa. With some time to reflect, I think it was just because I didn’t agree with what her character was doing – so I had to take a step back and wonder who Roa was as a character – a girl trying to save her sister. In many ways, Roa has been scarred by her past decisions and the resentment has been building up for years until she isn’t sure who she is anymore. What her words and promises mean anymore.