Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation—which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientist whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments.
Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey’s astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.
And here is Celia's review:
I tend to be a confused reader. When I read something and it’s not A+B=C, I’m like “say what?” and have to reread it. So I read the first chapter of this book. Didn’t get it. Read it again. Still not getting it. On the third reading, I decided just to move on, maybe cohesive ideas would form in the subsequent chapters. And they did, a bit. I understood that bad stuff has happened to Audrey/Nynn and more bad things are going to happen soon and for some reason she’s totally naked. Oh – but she has on a spiky collar to inhibit the powers she doesn’t know she has.
Can you tell this wasn’t my book? First off, there wasn’t enough world building for a fantasy/paranormal book. Instead of answers, all I got were more questions. How did the human cartels get the power? (For that matter, who were the “human cartels”?) If the Dragon Kings are these all powerful beings, who taught the Greek and Roman gods, and why are they enslaved to these human mob boss guys?
And another thing, why exactly couldn’t the Dragon Kings have children? The cage warriors are only allowed to have sex after a victory (so like once a month), which would make things challenging but what about these Dragon Kings who aren’t cage warriors? There’s a brief allusion to clan in-breeding being the cause of the infertility but it is seriously underdeveloped. Considering the amount of time characters spend talking about the “infertility problem” and how rare Nynn’s natural born child is, I expected an explanation.
On the bright side, kudos to Lindsey Piper for creating the best sexual tension plot device I’ve ever read. See the warriors can’t have sex until after they win a battle. Which means there’s a highly charged, adrenaline-filled battle scene before an even more highly charged sex scene. Brilliant plotting. The sexual tension was so intense I thought my book would incinerate in my hands. It’s the reason I gave the book a C instead of a D.
However, there were a lot of parts where the book bordered on old skool. First there’s Leto. Now, I usually go for the beta heroes. Give me a nerdy guy who’s fit and hot beneath his glasses any day. Leto, on the other hand, is alpha all the way through (per old skool convention). He’s golden skinned, scarred, and rippling with muscles. He speaks in monosyllables and is wounded to the core from his harsh upbringing and enslavement. I found myself, right from the beginning, preferring Nynn’s dead husband to Leto. I mean, the dead husband is barely mentioned and I thought he sounded better than the hero of the story! That doesn’t bode well for my reading enjoyment.
Because of this whole “You are my neophyte and I will train you to cage fight and I control your every waking and sleeping moment” thing, Leto and Nynn’s relationship is all about her submitting to him. He greets her, knowing she’s been tortured for a year by a heartless sadist, and goes ahead and tortures her some more! The first thing he does is make her beg for food and soap while she’s shivering naked in a stone cage, covered in dirt and blood. Nynn is torn between hating and wanting Leto, but it’s not the “You seem like kind of a jerk” hate. It’s the “You are humiliating me, abusing me, and treating me like shit” type of hate. Super old skool. In fact, while their first kiss is all fireworks and tenderness, their second is definitely rapey. Leto holds her down and forcibly kisses her, even when she bites his tongue hard enough to draw blood. But, you know, it’s okay because she actually does want him, she just doesn’t know it yet. Yeah, no. Definitely rapey. Then he shows how afraid for her he was by forcing her to decide whether she’ll suck off this creepy dude or submit to Leto’s control. I’m not even sure what to say about that.
The only thing that keeps this book from being completely old skool is how Nynn fights back. She is a strong, interesting character with all sorts of kick ass powers. I knew she would succeed and I honestly felt she didn’t need a man to do it. I didn’t want her to be broken and I hated Leto for breaking her. There, I think, is the heart of my problem with this book. I honestly didn’t like Leto that much. I didn’t like their relationship and its dynamic of male dominance and female submission. I’ve read that story. I keep reading that story. I hoped Caged Warrior would give me something new but it didn’t.
My favorite characters were Hark and Silence. There was so much going with their relationship. I wanted to see more of them. I wanted to know why Silence never talks and Hark never stops talking. I wanted to know how they ended up in the cages and why they stayed. Instead they showed up only when they were useful to the plot, to be fascinating but under developed.
All in all, I think the best word to describe this book is confusing. Instead of feeling that bubbly satisfaction I usually get at the end of a good romance novel, I feel let down. Now if there were a sequel where Nynn resurrects her dead husband…I’d be all over that.