Book Review

To Cage a God by Elizabeth May

To Cage a God is a fantasy novel with romantic elements that I think will work well for a lot of readers. It’s got similar vibes to the Grisha/ Shadow and Bone Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, has a sapphic romance, has a morality chain romance, and has disability rep. All of that is topped off by a unique magic system and some really fun world-building.

The world in To Cage a God is reminiscent of Imperial Russia, but here the ruling class (the alurea) have magical powers as the result of being bound to a god. The god is described as being caged within their body, and their abilities depend on the god they are bonded to. The god-bond is passed down family lines. The current Empress has devastating powers that allow her to burn down entire villages with ease.

Galina and Sera are sisters whose mother was a rebel, fighting the rule of the alurea. She was also a scientist and discovered a way to create the god-bond artificially, and experimented on her own daughters. As a result both of them are god-bonded, a secret they’ve managed to keep. They’re plotting to take down the current Empress, a cruel despot, and create a more democratic form of rule.

Galina goes undercover at the palace as an orphaned child of a noble who was kept in a convent until recently. It’s there that she is able to see the Empress’s cruelty up close. She also meets the Empress’s only child, Vasilisa, a princess who has been kept largely out of sight. Galina learns that there is a genetic disease, almost always fatal, among the children of the alurea that the Empress is desperate to keep a secret. Vasilisa is affected and often uses a wheelchair. Vasilisa is disgusted by her mother’s cruelty and as she and Galina slowly begin to trust each other–and to fall in love–she joins the plot to overthrow her mother’s regime.

While Galina is working from inside the palace, Sera works with the rebels on the outside. This reunites her with her estranged husband, Vitaly. Vitaly has no idea about Sera’s god-bond because she believes that his hatred of the alurea will lead to him hating her. He is also far more willing to accept civilian casualties in his mission to overthrow the Empress, something Sera disagrees with.

Sera and Vitaly have a morality-chain kind of relationship that will work for some readers and maybe not at all for others. Vitaly can be vicious and it’s his love for Sera that keeps him in check–a darkness that I think some readers won’t be able to accept in a romantic hero. Sera and Vitaly have an almost feral, desperate need for each other that will work best for fans of dark romance.

So we have a plot to overthrow an evil Empress, a sapphic romance with disability rep, a dark romance with morality-chain elements, and a lot of action here. Once this book gets rolling it’s almost impossible to stop reading. The momentum in the pacing is fantastic. I also appreciated the uniqueness of the magic system and world building here. It feels like most fantasy-romance is currently about the fae (thanks ACOTAR) so this was a nice break.

To Cage a God is technically part of a series, but the book ends in a place that you can stop there and be satisfied. Everything immediate is resolved, including the romance, but there’s space for more adventures in this world.

If you’re looking to read beyond the current fae-oriented romantasy offerings, want a book with lots of action and some great romance woven in, then I highly recommend To Cage a God. If you’re put off by dark romance anti-heroes, you might want to skip this one.

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To Cage a God by Elizabeth May

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  1. LisaM says:

    I generally avoid dark romance, but this sounds really intriguing, especially the setting. My library has this one, and as usual the waiting list for the print copies is significantly shorter than for the ebooks.

  2. Kareni says:

    I’m unfamiliar with the term morality chain romance. What am I missing?

  3. Elyse says:

    @kareni It’s when one character is morally gray but chooses to be good because of the other main character

  4. Kareni says:

    @Elyse: Thank you for the explanation. I’ve read some books in the past with that element.

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