Okay, it’s official. I’m now a fully paid-up member of the Kristen Ciccarelli fan club. How is she so good at writing?! I have no idea, but I’m absolutely here for it and for the excellent, excellent read that is The Caged Queen.
So, the first thing you have to know is that this is set in the world of The Last Namsara, but it’s very low on Asha. Instead, we get the story of Roa, the scrublander queen who married Dax and now finds herself ruler of Firgaard, with a husband that she hates. There’s good news, though: if she can kill Dax, she can get back her sister, Essie, who died eight years ago and is currently imprisoned in the body of a hawk. But where do her loyalties really lie?
Make no bones about it, this is a cracking YA novel. I’m in love with Ciccarelli’s writing style: it’s spare, but elegant, and creates the same effect in two sentences that other writers take two paragraphs to do. Not a word is wasted, and as a result, the plot really shines- but we also get a really vivid idea of the world that she’s built around her characters, sketched out in between chapters with really lovely myths and legends which breathe even more life into the land of dragons and spirits. It also really helps as we get a crash course in Essie and Roa’s past, and in the spirit world, which is basically at the centre of this book.
Poor Essie. I think the reason that I love this so much is because the beating heart of the book is about the relationship between the two sisters. Essie is the most important person in Roa’s life, and seeing such an unapologetic celebration of sisterhood and female love is not only fresh, but damn near heartbreaking (I cried like a baby at the end of this book and I defy you not to do the same). Roa herself is a great heroine: she’s complex, divided and hemmed in on all sides: by her duties, by her growing feelings for Dax, by the marriage she made in haste. She really is a caged queen, and Ciccarelli doesn’t make it easy for her. There are no ways out, and you really don’t know how the book is going to resolve itself- as all the best books should go.
However, this is also a YA novel, and so we do also get a lot of teenage angst, particularly in the relationship between Roa and Dax. I love it: it’s love-hate, it’s fraught by misunderstanding and complicated by the fact that neither Roa nor Dax are what they appear to be. There’s also a lot of sexual tension there, so watching them twist and turn and flirt and try to decipher their feelings is great fun. Who wants a boring normal relationship, eh? Especially not when plots are afoot, and true to form, the plot ratchets up and up, combining moments of intimacy with old friends like Safire and Asha with nail-biting tension.
The moment I put The Caged Queen down, I wanted to read it again. A beautiful story that’s all about the power of love, and knowing when to let go, I couldn’t really recommend it highly enough. Magic? Check. Adventure? Check. Love? Check, check and check. Read it!
So that’s my review, but what does everybody else think? Find out in the rest of the tour…