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REVIEW: Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Caged Warrior (Dragon Kings #1) by Lindsey Piper

Dear Ms. Piper:

This book was billed as “Book 1 of the Dragon Kings” so imagine my confusion when the book featured neither dragons nor kings. I spent the first fifty pages or so wondering when the dragons were going to show up. Is the hero’s magical power turning into a dragon? No. Is it the heroine’s magical power? No. Are they going to be kings? No. Were they kings? No.

The hero is, however, a caged warrior. The mythology in the book took me a while to unpack but here goes. Leto is a slave kept for fighting in underground caverns owned by humans. Despite Leto and his people stronger, quicker to heal, and having some sort of magical powers, they are subservient to human criminal cartels. In the underground, these captives are forced to fight until death. Leto’s family has been part of the underground for generations. The prize of the annual “Grievance” is the right to procreate with any other slave of your choice, willing or unwilling.

Leto believes in the system and takes pride that he is the baddest muthfucka in the underground. He’s so alpha that he knocks around the heroine when they first meet, to establish his dominance and to show her that resistance is unwelcome. This is Leto’s world:

Leto had no key. He was let in and out by the Asters’ human guards. Cattle prods, Tasers, and napalm bullets kept even the most powerful Dragon King in check. The collars made it so.

Leto had never fought back. Why would he? This subterranean complex had always been his place of glory and purpose, where his father had fought. Where, in service to his loved ones, his father had died.

The slaves that fight and win are called Dragon Kings. Audrey MacLaren was kidnapped and forced into slavery. She hoped that she would survive to see her son but to do so she must learn to embrace a power she didn’t realize she possessed. Some world building takes the form of using “Dragon” as an adverb with Audrey says things like “Dragon be” and “Dragon damn” and “Dragon knows”.

The most challenging aspect of this book, other than the fact that Leto was really dislikeable, was that on the one hand we are to believe that the Dragon Kings aka slaves were so powerful that they could only be killed in one way, they harnessed kinetic energy and could release it like a weapon, yet were somehow subservient to humans who had to use all kinds of weaponry to keep the Dragon Kings contained. And it wasn’t this way for one year or two but generationally.  Later Leto, still imprisoned, says “He’s not a god,” Leto hissed. “He’s a lonayíp human.
We’re the gods.”

Much of the book is spent trying to teach Audrey how to claim her inner spirit and control her. This requires Leto to treat with her regular brutality which made a sort of sick sense. All he was trained to do was fight, hurt, win for the purpose of procreation. Leto’s character was confusing to me. Maybe I am too linear of a thinker to understand him. He did not seek freedom. He did not even feel himself oppressed yet he understood victimhood and expressed distaste toward Audrey for allowing herself to be mistreated.

The world building faltered a bit because procreation was really prized for the Dragon Kings, these underworld slaves, and reportedly it was very hard for them to have offspring. Audrey, however, has a natural born dragon warrior from a non Dragon King male. (This was one part of the story I did like – that Audrey had a previous marriage that was happy and satisfying).  Audrey was an outcast instead of being prized.  The inter family politics of the Dragon Kings was only lightly alluded to and not in a way that provided good explanation for Audrey’s position or even Leto’s position. I guess I’d find out in later Dragon King books but even though I love a good barbarian romance, this just didn’t do it for me.

Yes, the characters grew and yes, Leto came to the realization that Audrey’s weaknesses were really strengths but it takes a lot of really awful behavior to get to that point and I’m not really sure that I’m prepared to undergo that again for a book with a so so romance and confusing worldbuilding.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

5 Comments

  1. mari
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 08:52:27

    This one got a good review over at AAR and I bought the book based on that review. Should have waited for this review before investing the money! O wow, did I hate this book! The hero (!) smacks the heroine around repeatedly, forces her into a degrading and humliating position with another man, and dehumanizes her AND her dead human husband! The violence in this story was so graphic and over-the-top that the only way I could deal with it was by distancing myself from the story. I love
    women in peril stories, but peril at the hero’s hands???? No thank you! Also one of my most DESPISED fictional tropes is present: child torture. Yeah, the heroine has a child being captive and terrible things are being done to him. Lovely. Sorry, could not stomach this one. At all!

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  2. Lisa J
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 10:14:59

    Thank you for the review; this is one I may have picked up if not for the review. Between the hero smacking around the heroine and Mari’s addition of child torture to the mix – NO!

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  3. Nita
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 11:02:01

    I really liked this one. I guess the way the hero treated the heroine, especially in the beginning, didn’t bother me because he was treating her the same way he treated all his trainees. It’s a cruel world down there and he needed her to toughen up and be able to fight. His family depended on her fighting and winning alongside Leto. I really liked seeing his struggle through the realization that there can be more to his life than just fighting.
    It’s a dark and violent story and I enjoy dark, violent stories. It also reminded me of the TV show Spartacus (ah, Gannicus, how I miss you). I agree, though, the world building is a bit confusing. But I thought the whole race were Dragon Kings, not just the winners of these caged fights, and that not all Dragon Kings are enslaved by humans? I’m hoping the second book is more forthcoming about this world.

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  4. Bethie R
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 18:19:56

    I actually really enjoyed this book, so obviously different strokes and all. One thing I think should be made clear – the reason that Leto continues to remain a slave and fight is because it is the only way that his SISTER is allowed to procreate. In the Dragon King world (I agree – no dragons or kings ?!?) it is nearly impossible to conceive without the help of Dr. Astor, who knows some way to make it happen. But his price is Leto’s fighing for the Astor family. As long as Leto does this and continues to win, his sister can try to have children and add to Leto’s dwindling clan. This is why Leto’s father fought – so that Leto and his sisters could come into being. When this motivation comes into play, I think Leto’s actions make more sense. Too, I got that the collars they are forced to wear render their powers impotent.

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  5. Bethie R
    Jul 24, 2013 @ 18:21:40

    I actually really enjoyed this book, so obviously different strokes and all. One thing about the story that I think isn’t quite clear here – the reason that Leto continues to remain a slave and fight is because it is the only way that his SISTER is allowed to procreate. In the Dragon King world (I agree – no dragons or kings ?!?) it is nearly impossible to conceive without the help of Dr. Astor, who knows some way to make it happen. But his price is Leto’s fighing for the Astor family. As long as Leto does this and continues to win, his sister can try to have children and add to Leto’s dwindling clan. This is why Leto’s father fought – so that Leto and his sisters could come into being. When this motivation comes into play, I think Leto’s actions make more sense. Too, I got that the collars they are forced to wear render their powers impotent.

    ReplyReply

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