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 Tabs' review:
Caged Warrior starts out with the heroine, Nynn, being awoken in a cell in an underground gladiator facility. She’s being held prisoner by a human cartel who killed her husband, has imprisoned, tortured, raped, and abused her for months, and is holding her very young son hostage in order to do medical testing on him.
So, right off the bat we have a child in peril and a victimized heroine. Well, that’s certainly setting the tone.
What about the hero? What’s his deal?
His name is Leto and his deal is that he’s a voluntary fighter for the cartel… which essentially makes him a slave-master collaborator. Leto was raised in the cages since birth and he fights so that his sister can be given the fertility treatments the cartel controls so she can continue their family line. Since he’s appointed to be Nynn's trainer and partner in the ring, it's his job to prepare her to fight and to put on a good show. He does this by repeatedly trying to break her in various ways that include starvations, beatings, and even, in a pretty graphic scene, threatening to let a guard rape her to teach her a lesson.
He’s a fucking prince, yo.
So how do Nynn and Leto possibly develop feelings for each other because this is a romance after all, right? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
No wait, never mind, I remember now.
SPOILERS (Highlight text to read):
First, the cartel has to reprogram Nynn’s mind and have all memories of her husband and child and kidnapping completely erased. Yup, the heroine is mind-raped in the middle of the book and loses her total sense of self, essentially. Because what this story really needed was for the heroine to be victimized further.
Then, Leto has to show he’s not a complete asshole by stopping her from getting a tattoo symbolizing her loyalty to the cartel when he knows she wouldn’t want that if she was in control of her own damn mind. But wait, don’t start feeling sympathetic to ol’ Leto here. He then immediately helps her celebrate a winning match in the ring with some sex.
The worst thing about that sex scene is that he takes the time to think “This is wrong, she wouldn’t consent” and proceeds anyway. So, lets check the stats here. Tattoo without consent: Bad. Sex without consent: Okay. Good to know where your priorities stand, buddy boy.
This was my last straw with Leto. There was literally nothing he could do at this point to satisfactorily redeem himself for me so the romance aspect of the story totally tanked. Unfortunately, Leto also becomes the main character at this point in the story so not thinking of him as a total shitstain of a person was imperative to keeping the momentum of the whole book going.
Not everything about this book was bad. Even pissed off at the hero and not invested in the outcome at all, I didn’t put the book down until I had finished it. And I then I went and grabbed the next book in the series from the library. But because many of the narrative choices didn’t work for me, I had to grade this pretty poorly.