Cover Image: To Cage a God

To Cage a God

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Member Reviews

I devoured this book. I could not put it down because I was so fascinated with the magic system and the characters. I absolutely loved Gallina and Vasilisa the most, but Sera’s plotting and character growth throughout were fantastic.

There are a lot of things that induce trauma on these characters so please check out the CWs before reading this (off the top of my head: cutting, traumatic childhood pain, torture, so much violence, hiding a chronic disease, alcoholism, suicide, stabbing (some self-inflicted), and emotional abuse).

There were a lot of things that felt familiar about this book, but with the biggest difference being a magic system that involves caging a god inside a persons body - and these gods are dragons! Now one thing I would have loved more of is some rules on this magic system, but hopefully we find out more in the sequel!

My ratings are often based on how a book makes me feel and this one made me feel all kinds of things - both good and bad (so much trauma)!


Thank you to DAW Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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4.5 -⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

"If you're a monster, then be a monster. Show the world your teeth. It makes no different to me...but don't ever use me as an excuse to make yourself smaller. That's something I won't stand for."

To Cage a God is the first in an adult fantasy romance series that VERY loosely draws inspiration from the Russian Revolution. It follows to sister, Sera and Galina, who have hidden from the world after the death of their revolutionary mother. In this world, the nobility have all the power, in addition to special abilities thanks to gods housed inside of them - great dragon like beings. In a desperate attempt to find a way to bring down these powerful beings, Sera and Galina's mother uncovers way to fight fire with forcing gods into her young daughters. They were raised to be weapons to fight their mother's war...until her demise. Years later and a greater war is looming. These two sisters realize something must be done (the rebellion isn't working) and they are must infiltrate the powerful courts with a tempting empress' daughter and estranged rebel lover. They must choose - reveal all the secrets within the empire or burn it to ash.

I had so much fun with book...mainly because of Vitaly and Vasilisa

Sera and Galina may not be biological sisters but they are bound together by deep ties. I loved their relationship but also how we get to see them as two distinct person trying to find a way. They both experience brutal upbringings and the gods within them are merciless. I felt this helped really connect them to the world and for me to see them rounded and raw and real.

Katya is another character that I truly did not expect. I found her story really helped cement the essentialness of Sera and Galina's coup as well as help readers understand the true devastation of the current status quo. The things she endures...I need her to get more of happy ending.

As I mentioned before, Vitaly and Vasilisa stole the show. Vitaly for his dark morally grey attitude and undying love for Sera - truly she could burn down his home and he would thank her. I loved his casualness yet underlying brutality. Vasilisa on the other hand shows a side to the monarchy that is refreshing and indicates the flaws within in. I enjoyed her openness and her love for Galina opened her eyes to world.

This book does contain spice. I would place is at around 1.5 spicy peppers out of 5 spicy peppers. There is a lot of bases being traversed here but any homeruns are no super descriptive. I found the romance was powerful and pulled on my strings but I wanted more of the cherry on top that comes with the union of spice.

"My morality begins and ends with you. It's always been that way. Always will be."

In terms of world and story - I will admit the beginning is a bit rough. You are thrust into the world quite abruptly and it takes some time to catch your bearings. The world fit a traditional view of rebellion and coups with oppressive regime bent on brutality and coldness. Yet when the relationships between characters started to build I fell in love with this book. I found their journeys and fight together meant more. I found the three different subplots going on with Galina, Katya, and Sera to be refreshing and I never wanted to skip one over the other. I still have questions but I ended the journey feeling good and wanting to continue exploring this world.

Overall, if you want a rebellion fantasy romance with god magic, compelling relationships, and espionage then this is a series to check out!

Thank you Daw for the arc!

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Let’s just say, I’m glad this is the cover for the U.S. version of the book. Check out the U.K. one if you don’t believe me! I mean, it’s definitely a statement…but it’s also not the type of cover I’d necessarily want starting out at me from my shelves! However, what truly caught my interest was the promise of a Russian-inspired fantasy world in which two sisters head up a rebel cause. I mean, that checks a pretty decent number of my personal preferences right there. Add in a dash of romance, and yep, I was excited to check this one out!

This book was a very hot and cold affair as far as my changing enjoyment levels throughout the story. It started off great, I will say. I was immediately drawn in to both Sera and Galina’s narration and their different styles. Here, finally, was a case where the two POVs felt distinct but each was enjoyable. I even felt fairly confident that the prickly but powerful Galina was going to be my favorite of the two. However, this strong start didn’t last. Much to my dismay, as the book progressed, we were introduced to a whopping three OTHER POV characters. And five…five is just too many.

And in this case, it was incredibly apparent that at least two of them had no business having POVs at all. We had a fair number of chapters from one of the Queen’s handmaidens, and yet every single chapter we heard from her, she literally went through the same exact story beats: the Queen killed her sister when her sister was a handmaiden, the Queen is violent and may kill her at any moment, she hates the Queen. Rinse and repeat and get ready to hear the same story about six more times, all to conclude in…yeah, nothing really. From there, we also got a handful (maybe three or four? not enough to amount to anything, that’s for sure) of chapters from Sera’s love interest, Vitaly. Again, this character had no arc or story of his own. The entire purpose of his chapters, apparently, was to give readers a glimpse into his mind as he repeated over and over that he was a bad guy, but he’d do anything for Sera. Which…we’d already heard him say aloud several times to Sera herself, thus completely negating any reason to hear directly from this character himself.

Lastly, we also had chapters from the Princess Vasilisa’s perspective. These, at least, were more worthwhile in that Vasilisa has the remnants of an arc to be found, in that she has had a troubled upbringing with her mother, the Queen, and must face the reality of her mother’s violent and unchanging nature. I’ll also say that this character having POV chapters was fairly necessary for this romance. Not for the reasons you’re thinking though! But because if she didn’t, we’d have had about a grand total of three interactions between her and Galina to build up a romance. As it stands, I really struggled with this romance either way. It’s classic instalove, and if you actually add up the time Galina and Vasilisa spend together, it rounds out to a few hours! Total! Before they’re professing love and Galina is insisting to Sera that Vasilisa will turn on her mother and side with the rebels. And she’s right, a few hours was all it did take! It’s all pretty crazy, and the focus on this romance was one of the reasons my interest in Galina’s storyline dropped quickly from my favorite to one I barely cared about.

Sera, instead, became my favorite character and actually took up the bulk of the action of the book. She’s the only one who is truly doing anything much of the time, and almost all of the action scenes come through her storyline. And if we had taken out Vitaly’s unnecessary chapters which I think managed to actually hurt the romance, I would have enjoyed this second chance love story as well.

Honestly, this book was a bit of a hot mess. The world-building and fantasy elements (the idea of gods being caged within people who can then harness their powers) all had a lot of potential. But the story fell apart due to failures of craft. There were moments when the writing was incredibly strong, but others when it felt all over the place. And then, worst of all, the decision to include so many POV characters, especially when so many of them had no real arcs of their own, really hurt the overall book. If things had been kept to just Sera and Galina’s stories, I think the story would have been massively more successful. As it stands, the bones of a good book can be seen in this one, but the author got into her own way too many times for it really come together. If you enjoy large casts of characters, however, you may still want to give this a shot. Sera’s story is still enjoyable, if you go in focusing on that.

Rating 7: I enjoyed one of the main characters a lot; unfortunately, she was one of five POVs, which drastically reduced my overall experience.

(Link will go live on The Library Ladies on February 28)

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DNF at 50%

There is nothing technically wrong with this book, and I'm sure plenty of people would enjoy it. For whatever reason, it is not grabbing me and I can't bring myself to care about any of the characters or anything that's happening. It's taken me a long time to even get to this point because I just don't want to pick it up. Again, the writing is fine and the synopsis was interesting enough for me to request it, but I can't seem to get into it right now.

I might try to read it again at some point in the future.

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What if you lived in a world where a class of people have trapped gods within them to use their powers? What if a way is found to do this to a common person?

Elizabeth May developed a world that was full of intrigue and revolution. She looked at how far people will go to find their way out from underneath the thumb of leaders who are literally burning the world down to keep their power. Enter two sisters who's mother found a way to give them the same powers.

The characters throughout the book are well developed, Sera has spent her whole life fighting, she is a warrior, but more than anything she is a protector. The god within her demands her blood for it's assistance.

Galina has lived a life of suffering and is placed in the heart of the empire to bring down the empress.

There is a small amount of spice in the book, but one of the most touching moments in the book shows deep caring and passion between two people. The way she wrote that moment showed love in a way that was so unique and said everything without using words.

I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to read more from Elizabeth May, thank you to Net Galley and DAW for the ARC

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I have been dying to read this and super excited I've had it on preorder and I'm so happy I was approved for the arc this was such a good book I loved it so much. I was completely hooked from the first page and couldn't put it down loved the story the writing and the characters so much

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I ended up DNF'ing this book at the midway point. I wanted to make a few notes about my review and as I was putting my thoughts down, I came to the conclusion that this was not a series I wanted to continue. Once I realized that, I started to question why I was even continuing the book. I've been working on this book for a week and I'm only 52% of the way through when this is something I should have been able to finish in about 5 days or so. I would have been more interested in finish the book and maybe continuing this series had this been a debut for the author, but since it is not, I feel confident in saying that their writing is just not for me.

Writing style: From the very beginning, I found myself getting confused every time a new person or environment was introduced. As I kept reading, the author was able to clear things up, but I was constantly finding myself confused about where we were going. I think this also led to how slowly I was reading this book. Another element that bothered me was the pacing and the fact that we were told rather than shown a lot of things. For example, we are simply told that Sera worked painstakingly to come up with a potential antidote, but we saw none of that. We didn't see her toil, we didn't see a passage of time, she just showed up with a finished product.

World building: I would describe the world building as both way too simple and way too complex. Overall, I think the author had too many elements going on and not enough depth to any of it. We had tons of... countries? - some groups of people involved, we have multiple characters and a lot of POVs, not to mention there were some unique terms in here and I don't think any of it was explained well. I think the author knew what she was talking about but didn't look at any of it through the lens of someone learning these things for the first time. A book with that many elements should have been at least another 100 pages. But, in reality, I think this would have benefited from being more simplistic so that it could focus on what the author did well, which is characters.

Character dynamics: The relationships on page are the only thing that kept me going and made it hard to decide to DNF. I loved Sera and Galina - we didn't get a lot of time with them together but I felt their love and commitment to each other early on. I also really enjoyed Sera and Vitaly - their dynamic was 5/5 for me. I think by making this book more simplistic, the author could have gone in a full on romantasy direction vs. a fantasy romance and focused more heavily on them, in particular, because I would have not only completed the book but probably given it a 4-5 star.

Final thoughts: While I think anyone who finds this synopsis intriguing should definitely pick it up, I cannot say that I would actively recommend it to anyone. I think it would be too confusing for a beginner, too dense for a romantasy lover, but not well crafted enough for a fantasy romance or epic fantasy lover. I think the author tried to do too much and would have benefited from picking a more specific lane.

*For the sake of this review, I consider a fantasy romance to be a book that puts more focus on a fantasy plot while a romantasy is more of a romance book that happens to have fantasy elements.

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May’s latest novel is a slow burning fantasy opener that promises love, death, pain and perseverance. While the beginning was too dense for my liking, the book picked up speed with each chapter. I enjoyed the romantic pairings and the magical lore.

I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this duology. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC.

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4.5 stars

I’ve always loved Elizabeth May’s books, and while this is very different from her other books, I still loved it. It’s high stakes, full of tension, plots, rebellion, super morally grey characters with foul mouths, and an interesting magic system. The gods as dragons caged within a person’s body was so unique.
There are 2 main romantic relationships, plus the relationship between the 2 sisters, and their relationships with their co-conspirators. Vitalik is one of those morally black characters who only loves one person in the world and I’m so here for it. He’s so infuriating, but his declarations were the best in the entire book. Sera and Galina (and Katya) have all been through so much trauma and abuse, so I was rooting so hard for them to triumph over the truly evil empress.
There’s so much action in this book and it keeps you on the edge of your seat. The relationships are slow burn with good payoff, and the end is satisfying; it ties up the current story threads well and sets up larger battles to come in future books.
If you love stabby foul mouthed heroines, this book is for you!

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a preview. All opinions are my own.

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Thank you to NetGalley and DAW for the ARC of this book!

Fantasy fans add this to your TBR list immediately. This new Imperial Russia-inspired romantic fantasy is the first book int he Monstrous Gods duology. Think Shadow and Bone but more. Evil rulers, political revolutions, impending war, and epic draconic powers. The ruling elite are born bodies able to cage gods for their power. Commoners have no power, until Galina and Sera's mother used forbidden knowledge to change their bodies so they too could cage a god and possess their power. Now their mother is dead and they make a plan to bring down the rulers from the inside by Galina infiltrating the palace. Great representation for LGBTQIAP+, and people living with chronic pain. And in the words of the author, everyone in this book is horny. So yes, you get romance and spice to go with your epic draconic god epic fantasy. The main villain reminds me of Maeve from Throne of Glass, fascinating character but you also hate her. There is violence and self harm within, so check content warnings.

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I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

To Cage a God by Elizabeth May is a multi-POV romantasy inspired by the Russian Revolution. Sisters Galina and Sera are bound to zmei, dragon-gods of immense power, and have been raised to destroy an empire by any means necessary. Galina enters the palace as a handmaiden and meets the isolated Princess Vasilisa while Sera reconnects with Vitaly, her former lover who is also a revolutionary.

What I liked was the romantic bits between Sera and Vitaly and Galina and Vasilisa. Vitaly is obsessed with getting Sera, his wife, back while Sera is doing her best to focus on the mission and making sure Galina makes it out alive. Vasilisa and Galina’s romance is more of an enemies-to-lovers vs the second chance romance of Sera and Vitaly. Galina and Vasilisa’s zmeya are drawn to each other and the two women are, in turn, attracted to each other almost from their first meeting.

There is more action in To Cage a God, the worldbuilding is lighter, and the chapters are on the shorter side, making it a faster-paced read. Each chapter flips between the five main POV characters so we see a lot of what different POV characters are doing in the plot and in the romantic aspects.

I would recommend this to fans of Anastasia retellings and readers looking for a fantasy that is more romance leaning.

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I was excited to get an eARC of this book as it has had a little buzz around it but I'm afraid this was not for me.

I understand editing teams are understaffed or underqualified post-COVID and books like this show it. This needed MANY more drafts, better character introductions and more believable interactions between the characters,
The only reason this is getting 2 stars and not 1 was because it was easy to follow.

I would skip this one,

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Thank you to DAW Books for this ARC of To Cage a God in exchange for an honest review. I love a family story and this one delivered. I love the high stakes politics and the dark fantasy elements within this novel and I could see the potential, but other than the family aspect, the way the plot tied together did not make a lot of sense. It is a duology, so I will be tuning into the next one.

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Half of it was good! I liked the wlw side romance, and Katya’s POV was my favorite!! The suspense and the dynamic between her and the empress was so good!! I wish Vasilisa and the empress’s relationship was half as complex / interesting. The empress is her mother! I just expected more from that side of things. But oh my gosh, I HATED Sera’s love interest. He was so bland and ANNOYING. HE ALMOST KILLED SERAS FRIENDS AND SISTER BUT SHE CAN’T STOP BEING HORNY!! SPOILER: when they fucked as their friend was being tortured, that was the last straw. Their relationship unfortunately soured the whole book for me, to the point where I was skipping their chapters.

I know this is just a part of publishing now, and I’m sure it wasn’t completely the author’s fault, but this book was advertised almost entirely with tropes. Knife-to-throat lovers-to-enemies was how she kept describing Sera’s relationship, but it was SO BORING! Like, that trope was the entirety of the relationship. However, I think readers who like Chloe Gong might like this relationship, so it’s worth checking out if it’s your thing!

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📣 a violent fantasy with two romantic-ish storylines & a rebellion to take down a corrupt Empress

📖 approximately what percentage of pics on your phone is related to bookstagram? 🤣 Gosh, mine feels like it’s 40%.

Thanks to the publisher & Netgalley for the complimentary ARC & the publisher for the complimentary hardcopy. All opinions provided are my own.

If you like dark-ish fantasies with characters who’re determined to pursue a greater good, come what may, you might like To Cage a God by Elizabeth May.

In this book, gods can live inside of people, either from birth or through violent body manipulations later in life. The latter is what happened to sisters Sera & Galina, & both suffer their own hardships trying to accommodate the god imprisoned within them.

Overarching everything is the evil empress, the most feared god-wielder in the land, who’s committed countless atrocities including against our leads’ families. The coup the sisters want to enact is both general & personal.

The leads’ efforts to protect each other offers some nice softness to this story, as does their growing attraction to their respective lovers. None of those entanglements are easy, & my romance-loving heart enjoyed both, especially the fervor of the morally grey Vitaly who loves Sera passionately, wholeheartedly.

Ending with an action-packed series of events & great disability rep, this book sets up book 2 in this duology with an oomph.

4 ⭐️ . Out 02/20.

Please see a trusted reviewer’s list of CWs.

[ID: Jess, a white woman wearing a yellow-sleeved sweater, holds the book over a pile of snow.]

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Overall, I really like the imperial Russian inspiredness of the book. I feel like I don’t really read a lot of books that are. I really liked Sera’s character in particular. I found that I was continuously intrigued by the world and magic system so it kept me on reading. I do wish the pacing was a little bit faster but enjoyed it overall. Intrigued to see what book two brings

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Con las lecturas del año pasado me di cuenta de que una parte nada desdeñable de lo leído pertenece al género romantasy, algo que me sorprendió pero que luego, con más reposo, vi que tenía mucho sentido. En la fantasía actual hay mucha tendencia a incluir tramas amorosas, a usar el enemies to lovers y en general, a dar más importancia a las relaciones interpersonales. To Cage a God es un buen ejemplo de esto.

Elizabeth May le da un barniz imperial ruso a su fantasía asemejando su mundo a los últimos años de los zares de Rusia. Es por lo tanto algo previsible parte del desarrollo de la historia, aunque la parte mágica sí que es más original. El poder que ostentan las clases más altas deviene de su relación con los dioses que habitan sus cuerpos, encarcelados de forma hereditaria. Resulta también interesante el paralelismo con la hemofilia de las familias reales de la época, que se refleja también en este mundo fantástico. Somos testigos de la magia y de la crueldad de la emperatriz en el primer capítulo, cuando asistimos a la destrucción de un pueblo entero en un ataque de ira.

Por otra parte, los rebeldes también han llevado a cabo sus experimentos mágicos y han conseguido que dos personas tengan un dios en su interior y puedan ejercer la magia, sin haberlo heredado genéticamente. To Cage a God nos irá mostrando la lucha de poder entre ambos estamentos.

Lo que parece ser muy interesante al principio, pronto se desinfla. Los personajes aparecen muy acartonados, y las relaciones entre ellos son previsibles en exceso. La trama está muy centrada en el palacio y la infiltración que llevan a cabo los rebeldes es, cuando menos, peregrina. Me temo que hay una acumulación de clichés importante y aunque reconozco que pueden resultar de interés las tramas amorosas, a mí me han dejado bastante fría. Tampoco es que se pueda destacar mucho la prosa de la autora. Es un libro perfectamente prescindible.

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Unfortunately I had to DNF this book. This was one of the most poorly written books I've been unfortunate enough to read. I did flip through what I did not read and yet the prose was unbearable through the rest of it. Most of it read as nonsensical. The characters were barely fleshed out and the romance was absolutely ridiculous. There are also 552 times the word "god" was mentioned. that's close to twice per page. Absolutely insane how everything about this was quite off putting and I'm not quite sure how this got a special edition.

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Shadow and Bone meets Imperial Russia-inspired romantasy. SAY WHAT!?

That line alone was enough to get me to pick up To Cage a God by Elizabeth May.

On to the nitty-gritty... I had a hard time getting into this one, but once I felt like the general world building was through- I had a much easier time. I loved the aspect of following two sisters on their journey leading a rebellion. Although, I am not usually a fan of following multiple main characters unless its just the Hero and Heroine. (same reason I had a hard time with Game of Thrones!)
In the case of To Cage a God- It was done well enough that I still was enjoying each characters journey and I wasn't bored and skimming pages waiting to get back to my favorite character.

This definitely gave me heist vibes and I'm always all for that. Secret missions? I'M IN.

My only flaw with this one is I definitely felt like it was written more YA style than NA or Adult. I was okay with that being I enjoyed the book, BUT I do wish the characters came across more mature. I think that would have moved up my rating for sure, only because I'm not a YA reader. If you read both YA and Adult fantasy I definitely think you'd get even more enjoyment out of this.

Thank you to netgally for a copy of To Cage a God in exchange for my honest review!

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This one was not for me. It has the ingredients of all the right things for a YA action fantasy with the romance and spice of a NA romantasy, but I didn't really like the characters very much and felt removed from the action. The best thing about the book is the Russian atmosphere, but again, I have read this done much better. I appreciated the main characters were revolutionaries, but the plot was very convoluted and the violence a bit overdone for effect. Sad to say this one fell flat for me, but I don't think I was quite the intended audience. If you are looking for alot of fights, some romance, and atmosphere and love anything with dragons, this may be your fare.

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