Cover Image: To Cage a God

To Cage a God

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Thank you for the Arc! I had been watching this book since I saw it pop up on Amazon. I was very interested based on the blurb.

So let's get into it...

The beginning of this book felt a bit dense and hard to get through. There wasn't much world building. I felt like we are just thrown into a world with little explanation.

We jump between 5 different character’s POVs which is a lot! It makes it a bit frustrating. I think there were far too many POV's for a single book especially one this length.

The concept behind the plot was great, I loved the idea of Gods being caged within people and the amount of power they would be able to yield.

I could see how this could lead to the characters having god complexes and believing they’re better than the commoners. However, I feel like the author could have excecuted this concept more in depth.

The magic system is unique and interesting. Dragon Gods pulled from their realm to be put into the physical bodies of human hosts.

Overall I think the book fell short for me personally. It was a bit confusing at times and didn't flow well enough for me to be pulled in. I felt like my interest was short lived.

I would give this a 3 star.

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I wanted to love this book because when I first read the blurb it had so many things I usually like, but in the end it was an okay read with some parts I thoroughly enjoyed and others that fell a little flat for me. I think my main problem was the pacing, which was slower than what I usually like for a good chunk of the story. This definitely made it a longer reading experience and I found myself a little confused with the worldbuilding at times which is inspired by Imperial Russia. However, I enjoyed the magic and the dragon gods as it was a good concept.

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To Cage a God
by Elizabeth May
These Monstrous Gods #1
NetGalley ARC
Pub Date: Feb 20, 2024
Ages: 18+

Bones painfully grafted as young children by their mother, commoners Galina and Sera have unwilling gods in their bodies. The girls were remade to become weapons to overthrow the rulers who were born as vessels for the same gods.

Galina poses as nobility, gaining entrance to the palace, but still at the mercy of the Empress, a tyrant with a powerful fire-welding god, who takes pleasure in burning people alive.

That's pretty much the story. It wasn't bad, but it did drag along. The two sisters both get their own chapters, (as do a few others), Galina in the palace and Sera outside attempting to finish their mother's work to create a serum that will do something extra to Galina's god, but what that is is not explained very well. Other information and backstory about the gods and how everything came about is missing. The point of view from a few of those gods could have given the story more depth.

The romance, ehh... of course that had to be added, though not too graphic, but it was only filler and really not needed in that much detail.

A lot is missing from this book: the magic and the world, but there is plenty about Sera and her husband. Remove the romance and give more love to the world, magic, and those gods, and BAM a better story.

Will I look for the next in the series... Nah.

2 Stars

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*Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review*

Elizabeth May has been a favourite author of mine since I found The Falconer trilogy back in grade 11. The Falconer trilogy continues to be one of my favourite series of all time, and when I heard that May was releasing an adult romantasy, oh my GOD was I excited. And this? TO CAGE A GOD exceeded my expectations.

First of all, both the US and UK covers are two of the best covers out there. Secondly, this book was phenomenal. I was never bored. The pacing was amazing. The story was so GOODDDD. I'm desperate for more. I need the next one.

If you've read The Falconer trilogy and love the banter between Aileana, Kiaran, Aithinne, and Derek, oh my god you are in for a TREAT in To Cage A God!!!!!!!! I was hoping for banter, and I got what I wanted.

Elizabeth May, you've done it again.

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Imperialist Russia–inspired fantasy with strong M/F and F/F romantic subplots, chronic illness representation, and found family.

Here’s the plot: generations ago, some people summoned dragons / gods against their will from their own realm and caged the gods and their powers inside themselves. These people promptly call themselves divine, put themselves in charge, and have been oppressing and terrorizing everyone else for centuries. Four of our five POV characters are rebels seeking to overthrow these god-containing nobles.

This was slow and violent to start and slow to draw me into the story, but the pace picked up about halfway through and kept me turning the pages till the end. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4, and I’ll be on the lookout for the sequel.

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3.5 Stars

The premise is excellent: A dark slavic-inspired sapphic fantasy where dragons can be caged inside humans to grant them godpower. This power is reserved for nobility who use it to gain power and oppress those without it, except for 2 sisters who were forcibly instilled with the gods to serve as the turning point of the resistance. One will resist undercover from inside the palace and the other will continue the work outside.

However, it didn’t live up to the promise of what it could have been. From the onset it feels like you are dropped into the middle of the story and are left to kind of figure out where you are in relation to the characters, plot, and setting. This isn't uncommon in fantasy novels and sometimes you have to just trust the process, but it did make it difficult to feel connected with the story and the characters as you tried to get your footing in the story. It’s not that the story was bad, but I didn't feel the pull to come back to it in between reading due to that lack of connection.

The characters were interesting and I loved how much insight we were given into Sera, Galina, and Vasilisa’s past. I wish the same level of attention had been given to Katya and Vatalik. Vatalik in particular didn't need to be a POV because there simply just wasn't enough time to properly flesh his character, therefore making him seem like a caricature of a morally grey male love interest rather than a full fleshed out and integral part of the storyline. I DID enjoy the banter between Sera and Vitalik.

The world-building and magic system was intriguing but I wanted more. I loved how the godmagic could present as different types of magic; elemental (fire/frost) or healing and it would have been so interesting to understand the different types/classes of magic and the interplay between those types of magic and the types of dragon.

I enjoyed the sapphic and chronic illness/pain representation in the book and I felt like the physical disability rep was done very well - this character was maybe my favorite overall! Some of the sex scenes for both partners felt forced or inappropriately timed and that pulled me out of the story. The pacing was slow to start, leveled out through the middle and then felt rushed through the end.

I cant get over how much potential this book had and how much I wanted that to be realized. I’m undecided on if I will continue with the series but if it is an opportunity to expand upon the things that were done well and right in this book, I would strongly consider it!

Thank you to netgalley and DAW Books for the opportunity to read To Cage A God as an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I was really looking forward to enjoying this book a lot more than I did.
Russia? Dragon? Gods? All sounds good...
But it read like the same YA, cliche driven stories that I keep putting aside more and more often lately.
I'd just really hoped for more...

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I wanted to love this book because when I first read the blurb it had so many things I usually like, but in the end it was an okay read with some parts I thoroughly enjoyed and others that fell a little flat for me. I think my main problem was the pacing, which was slower than what I usually like for a good chunk of the story. This definitely made it a longer reading experience and I found myself a little confused with the worldbuilding at times which is inspired by Imperial Russia. However, I enjoyed the magic and the dragon gods as it was a good concept.

Something I noticed is that the characters said each other’s full names a lot, to the point where it was hard not to notice and I found it a little weird. There were quite a few POVs in this book and I only connected with a couple of them, such as Katya and Galina who are mainly at the palace for most of the story. I also enjoyed the sapphic romance much more than the M/F one, but that’s a personal preference as I’m not one for the “bad boys” anymore.

On a whole it was a good story and while the ending definitely rounds this up to 3.5 stars, I’m not sure it’s enough to bring me back to the world in future.

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Thank you, NetGalley and DAW, for the chance to read this book in exchange of an honest review.

Galina and Sera's mother used ancient secrets to graft gods into their bones and now they are bound to violent gods and granted powers, usually granted to royalties. Now they are forced to become living weapon against a brutal empire, willing to crush commoners in its wake. After a failed revolutions, with their mother gone and their country ready to war again, Sera and Galina come up with a plan to infiltrate the palace and take the elm of the rebellion, ending the power of the royal family. Divide and conquer. Sera is, reluctantly, reunited with her former lover, now violent rebel leader and Galina infiltrate the palace, meaning to destroy it from the inside. In this brutal world, Galina's only respite is the brilliant and sharp-tongued princess, leading her to become torn between desire and duty, between working together to expose the lies of an empire or destroying it.

To Cage a God is my first book by Elizabeth May, but it will not be the last. I fell in love with the author's writing style and in this book she created a perfect romantasy, an epic story, filled with romance, action, violence, blood, but also, desire, family, found family and love, an Imperial Russian inspired story. Set in a world where dragons are grafted in the bones of the alurea, the royalty and the commoner are crushed under rules, taxes and violently eliminated, Sera and Galina share a traumatic past, filled with experiments, violence and pain, thanks to their mother, a past filled with the royal family's brutality and their desire to get a better world for the common people.
The story is told by multiple POVs, mostly Galina's and Sera's, while they divide and conquer, but, also, struggling because of desire, love, duty and pain, in a complex and intricate story, filled with secrets, magic and power.
I loved everything in this book!

Perfect for romantasy fans of Fourth Wing and Shadow and Bone, this dark, Imperial Russia-inspired romantic fantasy novel launches the These Monstrous Gods duology of draconic gods, political revolutions, and deadly magical powers from a Sunday Times bestselling author

"This series opener delivers on not just epic fantasy, but epic action and romance." —Kirkus

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This book is a masterclass in how to shove every cliché possible into one 380pg story. Also the prose in this story was simply not my style and felt all over the place - and also just very surface level. Also, some of the dialogue made me actually cringe to the point of second hand embarrassment. Maybe I don't exactly have it nailed down as to what my tastes in books quite is, but I have certainly figured out what it isn't, and that would be To Cage a God.

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To Cage a God was divine. Fun storyline, interesting magic system, enemies to lovers, forbidden romance... honestly what more could you ask for? It was interesting from start to finish without any real dull moments. There were multiple POVs and they were all fun to read. I had a great time with this book and can't wait to continue the series.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This book promised tropes and vibes of some of my favourite books and it fell completely flat. This could have been an amazing book but everything felt so generic and reused. This one was going to be a top tier favourite of 2024 but it’s definitely not.

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So honestly I don’t think this book was for me. I think it has really good bones but I think the execution just really isn’t a style that I jam with. It was a fast read so that was nice, especially in a time when I feel like so many books are hundreds of pages too long. I was under the impression this was an “adult” book but it felt very YA in many ways (characters, plot, etc) so I think that may have affected my experience since it’s not what I had expected going in.

I think it may have been a stronger book if the blatant Russian ties were a bit more unique instead of lots of cliches and tropes thrown in randomly.

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There is, I am sure, an audience for whom this book hits all the right spots. That audience, though, very definitively does not include me, as this 1-star review will attest.

I should have realised this from the very start. My very first note about this one is that it’s “that particular kind of writing that’s trying too hard to be quotable”. But I’d liked one of this author’s other books so, foolishly as it turned out, I persevered.

To Cage A God is another casualty of the tendency nowadays to distil a book into a set of tropes and not much else. I do not care that this book has [insert trope of choice here], I want people to be thinking about how they craft the damn thing instead of how it’s going to appeal to the masses on TikTok! This one in particular seems more concerned with how many tropes it can cram into the two romances than, you know, developing a solid story with believable characters — actually developing just anything that might make me want to continue reading.

I realise there’s a certain amount of YMMV to the above point so, if we set that aside just for a moment, let’s instead look at the other aspects of this book that just didn’t work for me. First up, a mish-mash paragraph about worldbuilding and plot. The latter is just a retelling of the Russian Revolution but it’s got some magic involved. Oh and the rebels aren’t actually socialist or communist or whatever adjective you want to add in here, they’re just kind of against abuse of power. So we’re talking a Russian Revolution drained of the politics that drove it. I wrote in my notes that I couldn’t really be bothered to wrap my head around either the fantasy elements of this or the politicking, but it’s not like there’s much politicking to wrap your head around. Not when none of it has any meaning.

About halfway through reading this one, I got bored and went to read some bad reviews of it, specifically one which pointed out the quite gaping large plot holes inherent to even the set-up of the book. In terms of the magic system, somehow you’re supposed to believe that the nobility has this, for want of a better term, power whereby they’re born with these sigils that permit them to call on gods? Hence, to cage a god. (Side note: is this genetic? It implies it, if it’s only the nobility who have this power. But then, which came first, the power or the nobles? So many questions, so few answers!) Anyway, the original rebellion leader discovers that you can force this and thus give the power to people who aren’t part of these noble families (so, not genetic?). So, does she create an army? Of course not! She gives the powers to two small girls so that they might be traumatised and become your standard YA protagonists (oops, sorry, I forgot this one claims to be adult. There’s sex in it and everything). Also to be noted is the fact that these gods don’t appear to have any checks and balances to the power they grant their users. The whole reason these two girls are given powers is because only someone with a god’s power can kill another. (Although, apparently they can be blown up, but this book is, as you will see!, anti-violence.) Another point in favour of just giving so many people this power that they outnumber the nobility (who have to wait for these kids to be born, after all).

But enough about those pesky plot holes because if we didn’t have those we wouldn’t have an angst ridden story about two traumatised girls who just want to find peace. Yes, it’s time to talk characters! Honestly, they were all just incredibly boring to me. You could sum each of them up with a line or so of description and that was it. And the author insists on giving each of them a POV. They didn’t need it! Just pick the two sisters and be done with it! Although having said that, I, shockingly, found the male love interest of the straight sister to be the most intriguing POV (he of the violent revolutionary inclinations — more on that in a second). I say shockingly because, when he was in this straight sister’s POV, it was all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes. God forbid a fictional straight woman get pissed off at a man and remain not turned on at the same time. Especially a proto-typical “bad boy” man who says such vomit-inducing things as “I once won your sweet affection with nothing but a lethal blend of charm and well-sharpened blades”. I mean, really. Have some standards. (Probably also worth noting that I’m not a fan of plots that rely on angsty second chance romances when I’ve no reason to be rooting for them. You’ve just chucked me into the middle of a relationship, I’m not gonna care about it.)

Not that the lesbian relationship was any more compelling. In fact, it was really quite dry and bland. The hets got to be all horny and have on page sex. You’ll never guess what happened with the lesbians! (But in all seriousness, I thought we were slowly getting past this hang-up of not letting lesbian characters experience sexual attraction. Guess I was wrong!) Anyway, it’s a bland romance. It’s a romance I couldn’t have given two shits about (and, given that it was up against a het romance I also couldn’t have given a shit about, that’s pretty impressive). I’m pretty sure this book is being marketed as a “““romantasy”””, so it’d be nice to, you know, like the romances I’m meant to be caring about.

Before I let you go, I have one last point, and that’s all about the violent revolution part that I’ve been referencing throughout. Namely, this book does not care for it. This book, a book modelled on the Russian Revolution, is solidly anti-violent revolution. And frankly, that’s quite embarrassing for it! This is a book that wants a violent revolutionary character to be a viable love interest without fully committing itself to being in favour of violent revolution and it’s a fucking weird combination (excuse my language). It wants the sexiness of that aesthetic, but it doesn’t want you to take from it that violent revolution can be (is!) necessary. This violent revolutionary character doesn’t care who he hurts (as long as it’s not her, of course. Excuse me while I break out the sick bag again), but that’s for the sexiness of it, not because we condone violent revolution here, oh no! Don’t worry, though: to appease his love interest, he tones down the willingness to do violence. Actually at one point he’s even described as having an “abyss of villainy”, simply because he’s for violent revolution. Ha! Ha ha! Ha ha ha!

I said that was my last point: I lied, I thought of another! Namely that, from the start, the lesbian mc’s intrusive thoughts are represented by speech in brackets. (Much like I’ve been doing throughout this review!) (I suppose it’s one way of showing intrusiveness.) Which could have been kind of neat but the author clearly didn’t trust her readers to work it out because she literally has a part where these thoughts show up and the next sentence is about the character trying to push her intrusive thoughts aside. And then they just completely disappear from the book altogether, roughly around the time she meets her love interest (cool, love can wipe out mental illness huh!).

Anyway, I apologise for how long this review got. I hadn’t quite realised the depth of my frustration over this book, but now it’s done, the rant is out of my system. And I will be doing my utmost to never think about this book again.

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If you're looking for a book that sits on the cusp of romantasy and epic fantasy, combining some light inspiration from Russian history and literature with an adventure that doesn't stop, this is the book for you. I had so much fun reading this book about revolutionaries working together to bring down a tyrannical ruling class!

It may help to know that I was a Dostoyevsky junkie: I might not have a comprehensive grasp on Russian history and politics of the 19th Century, but I was obsessed with reading about his revolutionary Russian princes, all of the different underground revolutionary groups, and the intense retribution from the ruling aristocracy. (I still think about the fake execution in The Idiot sometimes at night when I can't sleep.) To Cage a God gets these Dostoyevskian vibes really right: Sera and Galina are committed to seeing the end of the injustice of their empire. They've also been exploited by their foster mother, a revolutionary leader in her own right, so they're estranged from their revolutionary brothers and sisters. They come up with a ridiculously dangerous (and let's be honest, slightly illogical) plan to bring down the empress that includes Galina's infiltrating the court while Sera does some alchemical research. Their plan might not hold up too well to close scrutiny on the reader's part, but May does a great job of never letting up on the throttle. This means the characters (and the reader) don't get much of a chance to think about the plan since they're already executing it. And look - I had a really great time reading it!

In addition to the rollicking adventure plot, there are two romances that both captured my attention. Sera used to be involved with a fellow revolutionary, so this is a second-chance romance between two morally gray characters. I do not love an antihero, but Vitaly got under my skin thanks to the fact that he is absolutely GONE for Sera from the very beginning. No matter what she does, he's there for her. (Literally: she foils his revolutionary plans on several occasions, and his only response is "I love when she flirts with me.") The other relationship is a sapphic romance between Galina and the crown princess, Vasilisa. Vasilisa is suffering from a congenital condition (another callback to Russian history), and she has a fraught relationship with her mother, the empress. Both Galina and Vasilisa have secrets in their past. Watching them come together was a delight.

Sooooo in sum: I really, really, liked this! Check it out if you're a fantasy reader who can be skeptical of romantasy (like me!) or a romantasy fan who is interested in checking out some older characters and the Russian-inspired setting.

This objective review is based on a complimentary copy of the novel.

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Sera and Galina are sisters who have dragon gods (summoned by their mother) caged inside of them. They are able to wield the god’s powers, but at a cost. Need I say more? If that doesn’t make you want to dive into this book immediately, I’ll throw in that there’s also multiple POVs, two enemies to lovers romances, Imperial Russia inspired fantasy and political intrigue. The worldbuilding is well written, I never felt lost in the sauce and it never felt too info dumpy. I loved the sisters, each one was so unique but equally lovable. Katya was also an incredible and brave character. My only issue was the pacing. It was so slow at times which made it hard to feel immersed in the story. There were, however, some really good action-packed moments. I liked how the story wrapped up without much of a cliffhanger. Honestly, I think this would have been great as a standalone! I’m undecided on whether I’ll be reading the next book or not.

Thank you to DAW for providing an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Galina and Sera have brutal gods grafted into their bones by their mother. Wielding uncommon power they must take charge in the rebellion since she was killed. End the cruel reign of the royals possessed by destructive gods. Sera reunites with her former lover turned violent rebel leader. Galina infiltrates the palace and gets entangled with a princess, putting everything in jeopardy. Will they succeed in bringing down the empire?

Immediately engrossing and utterly readable, it presents us with a gut-wrenching, dark prologue that sets the tone of the book. This is a world with shades of Imperial Russia, plagued by insatiable rulers wanting more power.

The girls' clever quips color the narrative with humor. A narrative so poignant and expressive. Portraying emotions and this world with to-the-point, evocative visuals. Wording of lyrical embellishments, setting the scenes. Scenes that reverberate in your imagination. The figurative speech is plentiful and creative and I really liked it.

The sisterly bond tugs at your heartstrings. The relationships with their respective gods accompany their pain and are interesting to read. It was a pleasant surprise that the gods were dragons. Both prospective romantic interests are smile-worthy, the battle of wits with each sister a joy to read. One is reignited love, the other enemies to lovers, even though one party does not know the part about being enemies. The attraction is displayed invitingly.

I must mention there are also POVs of characters who will instantly grab your attention. I wonder which you will adore and root for, if not for all of them. Not that the sisters are not equally likeable. The villain is ideally hateful and you will unquestionably anticipate them being destroyed.

The unfurling of the plot is clever and exciting, the flow of the story gliding at the appropriate pace, while the changes between POVs never hinder it. There are several schemes and agendas throughout creating a symphony of devious or/and perilous ploys and I love it.

There were some things that niggled at my brain concerning the book. One was ill-timed spicy or romantic scenes, delicious but not making sense in my opinion at that point in the story. Most importantly I had difficulty understanding the actual caging of the gods, wishing it was explained more. Is the whole dragon inside or is it a mental sort of bond? How is it possible? I am hoping it will be made clear in the sequel.

This book is about the dangers of power, the chasm between those who have it and those who don't. How war is wrong, a topic unfortunately relative today. About being true to yourself and what you believe in. This is a story of revenge, of revolution, with a premise and characters worthy of obsessing over. After that explosive finale, I cannot wait for the next book.

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Genre: romantasy
Russian inspired setting

Sera and Galina, foster sisters, have gods living inside them. Their dragon gods aren't natural, like those of the rulers, but were summoned by Sera's mother when Sera and Galina were children. It gives them great power, but also at a cost. When they return to the royal city four years after Sera last escaped, it's to seek their revenge and also to try to find a cure. But it's the midst of a revolution, and Sera's former lover is at the helm, putting Sera and Galya in the middle between the revolutionaries and the Empress.

To Cage a God was a really satisfying romantasy. Are there plot holes? Yes. Are there worldbuilding holes? Yes. But is it also a really interesting and satisfying story with two romances and an HEA? Also yes. The book moves quickly, and avoids info-dumping pitfalls because the primary focus of the story is the romance and character development. Elizabeth May explains things as needed, so even by the end of this first book, you are still learning about the zmei, the dragon gods bonded to the alurea, and the ways they interact with each other while caged inside human bodies and manifest their power. The choices May makes in adapting a Russian history to this fantasy realm are engaging, with real nods to historical revolutionary behavior.

There are five POVs and two romantic arcs in this story (though only four of the POVs are involved in this story’s romances). Sera and Vitaly have a second chance, enemies to lovers romance, with a strong case for their original breakup and a stronger case for their resolution. Vitaly is a “morally gray” love interest who flat out admits he’s got no ethics except to love Sera. We love a hero who falls first, falls hard, and knows that his heroine is the primary center of his morality. The complementary romance arc is sapphic, also enemies to lovers, with the disabled princess Vasilisa and Galina, both with caged zmei, but with a more fragile set of relationship circumstances. I love that there isn’t a primary and secondary romance, but that the two romances complement the character growth and plot propulsion on page.

Ultimately one of the reasons To Cage a God worked for me is that Sera is 30, Vitaly is 32, Galina is 28, and it’s easy to assume Katya and Vasilisa are similarly aged. Honestly, no 18-year-old is really going to run a revolution, and the fact that Vitaly and Sera are a little older than other romantasy characters I’ve encountered is simply refreshing. To Cage a God neatly avoids any “chosen one” tropes as well, since the zmei are forced onto Sere and Galina.

For those unused to reading anything with Russian characters - May chooses to use diminutives interchangeably throughout the book. It’s a lovely worldbuilding element, but jarring to readers who may not expect to see Galina, Galya, Galyusha all refer to the same character.

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To Cage a God

Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC and here’s my review.

To Cage A God is a dark fantasy full of politics, revenge and spiteful Gods and well female rage.

Let’s start with overall shall we? The story for me was well written and made me understand why the characters are the way they are so well. I also loved how science and academia(though only a small part) made a connection to the magic system in the story. Imagine being able to replicate an age old process just by synthesising plants. It was an intricate story of revenge with a romance plot that will make you fall in love with Sera and Galina.

This is multi POV with chapters from Sera, Galina, Vasilisa, Katya & Vitaly. What I like about the different POVs are the range of people you get to experience the story from and other than the main characters I truly love Katya’s the most. She showed true bravery and resilience as the handmaiden of the Empress who is working to overthrow the empire together with our fmc’s Sera & Galina. My least favourite? I’m glad you asked, it’s Vitalik. He just sounds lost without Sera, to an extent that his character is flat for me without Sera. I did find a lot things that he told Sera sweet and full of love, I also get his anger but for me he could have been a side character and the story would still go on.

Overall I would rate this a 4.5 stars with a 1.5 / 5 spice rating.

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This was a very quick, fast-paced book and a solid start to the series! The world building was done well, and I loved the setting. The two main characters, Galina and Sera, are well fleshed out and not one dimensional at all. The story is told in their alternating POVs and I found that they both have unique voices which were easy to distinguish. Overall, a great sapphic fantasy with goth punk elements!

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