Cover Image: To Cage a God

To Cage a God

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This was such a wonderfully violent fantasy that puts so much focus on its characters, making it bloody and endearing in equal measures. It's truly just a blast to read.

Was this review helpful?

This was an enjoyable read. I definitely understand the comparison to Shadow and Bone; I really enjoyed the Russian-inspired culture and worldbuilding. The book begins years after Sera and Galina's mother died, but I wish there had been more flashbacks or a prologue that dealt with their lives before the beginning of the book. I think that the point in time that the book started made the worldbuilding a little shaky. I liked Galya's character a lot, as well as the romance she has with Princess Vasilisa. Sera's personality bothered me on and off throughout the book, and I definitely enjoyed Galina's plotline and character development a lot more.

Was this review helpful?

"To Cage a God" by Elizabeth May is an enthralling and intricate fantasy novel that takes readers on a journey into an Imperial Russia-inspired world filled with gods, politics, and deadly magical powers.

The story follows two sisters, Galina and Sera, who have been granted immense power through a forbidden ritual that bound gods into their very bones. Raised to overthrow an oppressive empire, the sisters are determined to use their newfound abilities to bring about change. With their mother gone and their country on the brink of war, they find themselves at the forefront of a rebellion against a royal family possessed by destructive deities.

The world-building in this novel is exceptional, immersing readers in a richly detailed and complex setting that draws inspiration from Imperial Russia. The blending of magic and politics adds depth to the narrative, creating a story that is both engaging and thought-provoking.

The characters, particularly Galina and Sera, are well-developed and undergo significant growth throughout the novel. Their complex relationship as sisters and their individual struggles with power and responsibility are central to the plot. The book also explores themes of duty, loyalty, and the consequences of wielding immense power.

The pacing is well-balanced, with plenty of action and intrigue to keep readers hooked. The story alternates between the perspectives of the two sisters, providing a comprehensive view of the unfolding events and the different challenges they face.

The writing style is evocative and draws the reader into the emotions and dilemmas of the characters. The themes of desire and duty are skillfully woven into the narrative, adding depth to the character dynamics.

Overall, "To Cage a God" is a captivating start to a dark fantasy duology that will appeal to fans of romantic fantasy with political intrigue. Elizabeth May's storytelling prowess shines through in this novel, making it a must-read for lovers of complex and immersive fantasy worlds.

Was this review helpful?

I started reading "To cage a God" with very high expectations because I loved "The Falconer" trilogy by the same author, but Elizabeth May's latest book didn't blow my mind.
The assumptions that attracted me were the duality between man and god - in fact that of "To cage a God" is a world where some humans carry a god trapped in their bones which allows them to use certain powers, in particular they have a god inside of them the protagonist sisters, Galine and Serafima.
Another of the things that intrigued me is the fact that these sisters had actually been on the run from the Empress's regime for years, but for some reason they had to return to face the regime, after the death of the Emperor at the hands of a (not so mysterious) murderer.
The book is set in a world clearly inspired, also thanks to the names of the protagonists, by the Russian Empire: it's a shame that I missed all the typical atmospheres of Russia where only the names and the American cover of the book reminded me of this element, because for the information given in the book - even, banally, culinary - I did not feel the setting nor the atmospheres that characterize books set in a similar context. It's a shame because it could have been a way to make the book stand out but this element is lost and it remains just a "tell but don't show".
Another peculiarity was that the protagonists were aged between 30 and 40, making them more mature - in line with the adult target of the book - but I found it almost something to further characterize the difference between other adult books of the genre rather than a real need for plot - if not chronological. In fact, on a behavioral level I didn't notice any difference with 18, 20, 22 year old protagonists belonging to this genre, so I wonder how much need there was to specify it.
The plot is interesting at the beginning, but then gets lost among many dialogues and somewhat filler chapters, leaving room for very few main events: where one romance thread is coherent, the other seemed a bit rushed and with a lack of real feelings behind it. Even the relationship between sisters is not addressed in a satisfactory way in my opinion, they spend most of the time during the book separated, the different POVs (we have 5) within the book help to understand the thoughts of the various characters but no one is particularly incisive compared to the others.
The writing style is good but I really missed some elements that had made "The Falconer" a Scottish steampunk marvel, while "To cage a god" seems like a half-hearted attempt at Russification of a generic young adult heist-plot.

Thanks to NetGalley and DAW for the chance to preview and review this ARC.

Was this review helpful?

An unusual take on the fantasy genre!

Set in Russia in a factioned land - the royalty with magic and the citizens without, we meet three FMCs with tragic pasts that want nothing but revenge! Magic is in the form of God Power, or caged dragons imprisoned inside the flesh of a human.

The POV switches were a little rough at the start. I had a tough time figuring out who was who and had trouble keeping track of what was happening to each. Once I was able to get situated the plot started to take off and it became hard to put down!

The spice is not overly spicy but enough to convey the romance. I am still swooning over Vitaly!

The violence and action are thrilling. The cruelty is heart-wrenching. The romance is heartbreaking.

Worth a read!!

Was this review helpful?

The premise of this book Russian history + dragon caged inside human bodies is brilliant, however the execution of this novel was not a success.
I liked the characters but they weren't believable. There are two couples in this book and I was't invested in them.
Maybe Galina and the princess were my favorite pair, but I couldn't connect much with them either.
I would have liked more depth regarding the dragons, more history more personality.
The story overall felt plain, no twists in the story and writing was so-so.

Was this review helpful?

So I really quite enjoyed this.

I haven't read a book by May in a long time, but I found the writing, characters, world, and storyline quite engaging. Already, I can tell that people are likely to take issue with May's writing style--it's a little... not quite flowery, but definitely superfluous at times, with the intent of sounding nice without driving the narrative forward. I liked it, because it worked well with the themes and story being presented. Ironically, being a fantasy romance, I did feel a little bit "meh" regarding that aspect of the book, but everything else was interesting enough for me to really, really like TO CAGE A GOD.

I can't speak of the representation in this book, but at least history-wise, it feels like May dug deep into Russian culture to craft a new, interesting world. I'd be interested, though, to see what people of Slavic decent have to say on that front, though.

Stellar effort from Elizabeth may and I am looking forward to seeing how the duology wraps up.

Was this review helpful?

I really enjoyed To Cage a God! I loved the wintery, brutal, Russian inspired world. My favorite part was definitely the characters. I loved how both Galina and Sera are strong, but in completely different ways. Their backstories are so interesting and sad that it made me want to read a prequel! I even enjoyed the POVs that came later in the story, which is saying something from me, as I'm usually a 1-2 POV kind of person. I also enjoyed the two different romances, though they didn't come into play until the second half of the book. That being said, the slow pace in the beginning, loose plot, and the sometimes vague imagery kept it from being a 5-star book for me.

Was this review helpful?

The cover is absolutely stunning, the first couple of chapters drew you in…. But then it was like I was reading for just the sake of reading and finishing the book. I did struggle with the first half of this book and the different POVs made it confusing for me.

It was overall a good story once I got past the first half. The second half drew me in and I couldn’t stop reading it! The ending was so good!

3.5/5

Was this review helpful?

Imperial Russia-Inspired Romantasy
Enemies to Lovers
Dragon Magic
Steamy
Political
New Adult
Multiple POV

The assassination of the Emperor of Tumanny, leaves the empire in danger of the ruling Empress, a cold, power hungry monarch who has no care or compassion for anyone she deems lesser than herself. The demise of her husband is an act of rebellion from the citizens of Blackshore, who have been oppressed because of their lack of power and magic. She also hides the fact that her daughter has a degenerate disease and makes her call upon her god power not caring about the effects it has on Vasalisa’s body just so that she can show off her power and give the illusion of extreme power and unity.

She launches a cover-up to hide the fact that someone as powerful as her husband died at the hands of normal humans, also known as the faithless who are not bonded to powerful, magical dragons. When she retaliates by burning down Dolsk where Sera’s home is, she and her foster sister Galina, formulate a plan to infiltrate the palace and overthrow the government. Although Sera and Galina are not born alureans, nobles born with bonded dragons caged inside them, they have been genetically altered by their mother who has forcefully bonded dragons to them.

Vitaly, an old flame of Sera is the leader of the rebellion who blew up the Emperor in his carriage. He has no moral compass and will do what he thinks is necessary to end the new rulers and anyone with a caged god. Sera has to stop Vitaly with his plans to assassinate everyone in the castle because he has no clue that Galina is her foster sister who infiltrated the castle to act as an alurean orphan who grew up with commoners so that she can kill Empress Isidora to avenge her family and town after it was burned down by the Empress with her godfire. Galina was the only survivor.

The world building was very good. The author gave enough description so that I could paint a clear picture in my mind of what the towns and Palace would look like in an early Eastern European Empire.

I loved most of the characters but Princess was my favourite character from beginning to end. It is a multiple POV which I do tend to enjoy if written well.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys political intrigue, fantasy and romance with spice.

A huge thank you to Netgalley and DAW for this e-arc in exchange for this honest review.

Was this review helpful?

I wasn’t super into the narrator’s voice, but it’s well written and interesting. I can see it being an easy three stars with the target, four to five for the right readers. I stopped after chapter 1 (3%).

Thank you to NetGalley and DAW for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?

Drawn in by the cool cover and the first chapter, I expected more from this than what I ultimately got. The introduction was so cool and well-written, but I felt as if the rest of the story lacked and lost focus.

You can’t like everything I suppose.

Was this review helpful?

No gods were caged in the telling of this story

A common idea in fantasy is that a sorcerer is a person who has a continuing relationship with a magical spirit of some kind, and the spirit is the thing that actually does magic for the sorcerer. Good examples are the Penric and Desdemona series, or the Bartimaeus series. Elizabeth May's To Cage a God has sorcerers of this type. The sorcerers are called alureans and the spirit things are called zmei -- they are the "gods" referred to in the title. A zmeya is imprisoned within each alurean (thus the title To Cage a God) and can be called on to do magical things for that person. As you might expect, zmei differ in their capabilities and in their willingness to cooperate, so we have less and more powerful alureans. Most of the alureans are people of noble ancestry -- the rulers. The most powerful of these is Empress Isidora, who is the brutal oppressor of her people.

No gods were caged in the telling of this story. That surprised me a bit. Although the title To Cage a God doesn't actually promise that the caging of gods will occur in the course of the action, I made that assumption. It turned out to be mistaken. All caged gods in this book were caged before the story begins.

Most of the caged gods are inside alurean nobles. It is a little vague how they got there -- apparently the children of alureans themselves become cages for gods of their own, though the mechanisms through which that occurs were entirely unclear to me. In addition, two of the heroes of the story, sisters Galina and Sera, acquired their gods through biotechnological (my word) manipulations some twenty years previous. (I have no hesitation in telling you this, because it's in the publisher's blurb.) Galina and Sera are leaders of the resistance, who have a plot to overthrow the Empress and establish something that looks more like a democracy.

Aside from palace intrigue, the plot consists mostly of two romances (also mentioned in the blurb). One is a lesbian Cinderella story. That one was rather charming. The second is a trope I hate, in which an admirable hero has the hots for a total jerk who lacks judgment or moral compass. And of course whenever they get together they are thrown into transports of sexual arousal and bad judgment, which we get to read about in sometimes rather explicit detail. So, yeah, it's the "Good Girl and irresistibly hot Bad Boy" cliché. Eww... Yuck.

In summary, it does what it says on the tin. It's a competent Young Adult/New Adult fantasy. It's readable but never surprises.

Thanks to NetGalley and DAW for an advance reader copy. This review expresses my honest opinions. Release date 23-Jan-2024.

Was this review helpful?

DNF @ 25%

It truly, truly pains me to give this book a bad review, because I was SO excited for it - in the midst of a glut of Slavic-inspired fantasy that gets misty-eyed about the beauty of Imperial Russia, finally a book from the perspective of the revolutionaries! And on the face of it, there's a lot to recommend this: the premise is fascinating, the character relationships as set up are compelling, and the mythology is fresh and interesting. Unfortunately, all of this is overshadowed by a problem that all the interesting concepts and characters in the world can't overcome: bad prose.

I mean really bad prose. "How did this get past an editor" prose. "Verging on incoherent" prose. Take, for instance, this sentence:

"A haze of smoky prayer herbs hung in the air, sweet and pungent, descending from thousands of braziers with incense in the snow."

What incense? What snow? I genuinely cannot make heads or tails of what's being described here. And that's one of the precious few instances where something IS actually being described, because what May does far more often is tell us what emotion the characters are feeling in bland, blunt language without doing anything to make it feel tangible. Observe:

"Leaning in, he exuded a presence that seemed to swallow the air whole."

How? What does "swallow the air whole" mean to Sera, our POV character? What about his manner gives this impression?

"The suite was a display of wealth and opulence, yet it left her cold. The glittering baubles and gilded decor held no interest. Shelves lined the walls, stacked with books and writing materials that were untouched and forgotten, gathering a fine layer of dust."

How is the room a display of wealth and opulence? What are the glittering baubles? What gilded decor? I can't picture any of this.

And here's how May depicts (or tries to) her characters' feelings:

"Galina's gut twisted as Ekaterina's grim words hung in the air. She couldn't help but feel responsible for the other woman's burden, and the debt Galina owed her could never be repaid."

Why can't she help but feel responsible? Why does she think the debt can't be repaid?

"But Galina's steps faltered, fear rising like bile in her throat. A chasm of terror opened beneath her feet, threatening to swallow her whole."

What does this chasm of terror feel like? What about the fear? What physical sensations accompany it? Is she nauseous, light-headed, feeling cold? How can the reader immerse themselves in the story when the prose skims over every emotional beat that might engage them?

A lot of this comes down to what I call "YA house style," which makes a certain amount of sense: May's background is in YA, after all. And despite the fact that this is advertised as an adult book, the only real "adult" thing about it is that one of our leads swears a lot and talks about fucking. It's a child's idea of what adulthood is like. There's nothing sophisticated about the prose (the vocabulary level is also pretty low - on a purely textual level, a clever twelve-year-old could probably read it with no comprehension issues) and while the ideas presented are thorny - the struggle between revolutionaries who want to blow up the world with no care for what comes after and those who want to hold back out of concern for what will happen to those caught in the crossfire - the prose resists actual engagement at every turn. I spent every page of this book that I read trying desperately to find SOMETHING I could connect to, and I kept coming up empty-handed. I have no idea what May's writing is like outside of this book - I never read her other titles - and so I don't know if a firm editorial hand and/or a second draft would have produced a better result. But I do know that the ideas being put forth here are utterly failed by their delivery, and it's a real shame.

Was this review helpful?

Join the rebellion to burn down a cruel tyrant in this heartracing new adult fantasy duology, perfect for fans of Shadow and Bone and The Wolf and the Woodsman.

This was a fun ride and I can't wait for book 2.

Was this review helpful?

To Cage a God is a fantasy that has everything you'll ever need, magic, twists, dragons and complex, dynamic relationships. I loved every part of this book the romance is incredibly and the worldbuilding sucks you right in. I think this is going to be a big hit for fantasy lovers and I can't wait to see what comes next.

Was this review helpful?

Really enjoyed this book. A page turner - dragons, complex family dynamics, queer characters and complex relationships. What’s not to like? Magic and mayhem - looking forward to a sequel! Thank you to #netgalley and the publisher for an advance copy.

Was this review helpful?

I wasn't able to enjoy this book as I found it very generic and unoriginal in its plotting, perhaps it'll fare better with a younger audience and people not that familiar with the history this draws inspiration from.

Was this review helpful?

The caging a god concept is very cool and this author can certainly write—but combined with so much complex political intrigue, I felt there was too much going on to follow comfortably.

Was this review helpful?

If you're looking for your next book hangover, look no further! Because Elizabeth May seriously brings it in To Cage a God. I can't say too much but gahhh this book is everything! I could NOT put it down once I started it! Mark your calendars because you are not going to want to miss this!

Was this review helpful?