Cover Image: To Cage a God

To Cage a God

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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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Neutral 3 stars

Pitched for fans of Shadow and Bone and Fourth Wing, I knew I needed to read this one. I was a little scared going in based on some of the early reviews I read, but I ended up pretty neutral on it. I’m not sure I truly enjoyed it as a whole, but I also didn’t hate it?

We follow Sera and Galina as they try to (metaphorically) burn their broken empire down (maybe literally, too). As a pair, I really enjoyed their sisterly dynamic, but individually I just found them to be poorly written. They’re not fully fleshed out, their romantic relationships are rushed. Even the side characters (Katya, Vasilisa and Vitaly) don’t really add much to the overall story, despite having their own POVs. I expected the story to focus more heavily on the sisters and their plotline, so the five POVs throughout the book really threw me off. I enjoyed how they rounded out the understanding of the story. As it picked up, it was way too many characters and motivations to keep track of when you’re not truly vested in any of them.

I found the plot was interesting once it picked up and the pieces fell together. The beginning awkward to grasp because it jumped into the action of the book without establishing the world it needed to. The concept of bonded dragons isn’t unique, but I really liked how this book handled it, with these physical, internal bonds. I wanted to know more about this empire we were dropped into and these political relationships were like without having to pick up crumbs along the way. This book really would have benefited from more world building early on vs. just a short prologue. The writing was just okay to me. It didn’t stand out one way or another. It was a little clunky.

I think I liked the concept of this one more than the execution. I'm torn on continuing the duology.

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This book just didn’t grab my attention or keep me engaged. There’s such an interesting concept here that just wasn’t explored or explained well enough. I think that a bit more backstory and world building would have been helpful. The story was really hard to grasp, and it did get more interesting about 60% of the way in, but it was really slow until that point.

The characters were okay. Katya was my favorite by far. I didn't feel like I knew enough about any of them to feel invested in their story. The romance between Sera and Vitaly seemed a bit forced. There wasn’t any kind of romantic tension, and I didn’t feel like either of the romances added to the story in a meaningful way. I would have loved to learn more about the dragon gods. Sera’s was particularly fiesty and interesting.. There was also a ton of violence, which I kind of expected, but it was still a lot.

Thank you to NetGalley and DAW for the ARC.

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This was somehow so bad that it was good. I kept telling my friend that I was going to DNF, but then just needed to see the train wreck happen.


My first issue is that I truly don’t care about what is happening. The characters are all meh to me, and I didn’t understand their motivations. Basically, Sera and Galina spend years on the run, but then suddenly Sera is like, “what if we fix the world instead?” Galina has no sense of agency so she thinks it’s a great idea and infiltrates the palace extremely easily despite the fact that the king was just killed. Then Sera does Things and eventually the good guys prevail.

The romance was decidedly not romancing. Sera and Vitaly were caricatures of lovers to enemies to lovers, except they were giving nothing. Vitaly “my morals begin and end with you” was such a walking trope of a morally gray assassin and I actually do not find it attractive when men don’t care about innocent people. Then it reveals that they’re married, which I guess was supposed to be a Moment but had me rolling my eyes, especially since they proceed to ONLY call each other husband and wife for the rest of the book, despite Sera claiming she hates him. And THEN it’s revealed that Sera ran from him for Galina, so there is literally no reason they’re enemies (except to please the enemies-to-lovers trope). Galina and Vasya were also meh. I truly have nothing to say about them.

The plot didn’t dip deep enough into much of anything. Truly, I don’t know why I finished this.

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3.5 rounded down. It took me a while to get into this, but once I was about 15% in, I was COMPLETELY sold for specific reasons (*cough* Vitaly's intro *cough* 😂) and ready to go along this journey. I enjoyed the ideas and worldbuilding here a lot, and while I appreciated the different POVs we are introduced, I kept finding myself wanting to get back to 2-3 specific ones.

I immediately was drawn in by Sera and Vitaly's dynamic and loved their arc here already. I also really enjoyed Galina's and Vasilisa's individual arcs and their romance as well. The romance was definitely the main draw and focus for me. The only reason it's a 3.5 is that while the book did get me out of a slump, I felt the writing style was a bit of a miss for me, as I feel like I could've been more invested in some of the characters if there wasn't so much going on perhaps? I also feel like the villain could've been a stronger character in the sense that I feel like she was more representative of her trope rather than being a person who embodies said trope.

Really enjoyed the god stuff here too and thought there were fun concepts. I am actually pretty excited to pick up book two though and can't wait to come back to this world in the sequel.

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To Cage a God was fast and easy to read. That’s really the only good thing I have to say. It was generic and full of clichés. The fantasy world lacked any real depth and the characters were boring.. I think this book tried too hard to be “smart”. It reads like a bad YA book but is marketed at NA. This books potiental was through the roof but was poorly executed.

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Sera and her foster sister Galina have gods caged inside their bodies. Their mother infused their bodies with these gods so that they would wield godpowers and essentially be turned into weapons to be used against the oppressive empire. However, power comes at a cost and not all the gods appreciate their cages and hosts. While Galina infiltrates the empress’s palace from the inside, Sera works on the outside with a rebel leader.

I didn’t love this book and I didn’t hate it. I was actually very neutral about it. It is a fast read. It’s entertaining to a degree. It is Russian inspired (with names and whatnot), which didn’t add to the book or take away from it. It’s advertised as a romantasy, but I didn’t really fr the romance vibes much nor was it all that spicy.

This is the first book of the These Monstrous Gods duology. I have no regrets reading the first book but will not be continuing on with the second.

This book kind of reminded me in part of The Priory of the Orange Tree as it had strong female leads, dragons, romance, and godpower. I would say it’s more like Priory than Fourth Wing as advertised.

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Rating this a 4 because I think it deserves higher than the 3.5 it currently has on here (compared to other books that I liked less that are currently rated much higher), but my personal rating is right around a 3.5.

I liked this far better than I thought I would have based on other early reviews. It’s definitely (aaaaalmost fatally) overwritten, but I found the story interesting enough to overcome the places where the writing stumbles. Also, because I read an ARC, my hope is that some of the more annoying bits of writing that other reviewers have highlighted will be corrected in the final version for publication.

The Russian backdrop is much less important to this novel than the marketing would make you think, which is neither good nor bad. Definitely Russian Revolution inspired, but beyond that, the cultural influence is present pretty much only in the occasional onion dome mention and in the use of patronymics.

The mythology itself feels entirely new and not derivative, but unfortunately is pretty under explained. Beyond the holes left in the mythology, To Cage a God feels like a standalone novel.

I loved Galina, Katya, and Vasilisa, but was meh on Sera. The only thing in the entire book that fell COMPLETELY flat for me was Vitaly. I hate when a character insists over and over that they’re a dirty rotten rat bastard/hardened criminal with no empathy, but at every point chooses to act like a nice enough dude, and Vitaly comes off as such an okay guy that it’s hard to believe his relationship with Sera is the thing that gives him a moral compass (or whatever).

Overall, solidly okay novel! I’m always a sucker for sapphic fantasy and I’m really interested to see how more people feel about this one!!

Thank you to Daphne Press and NetGalley for the ARC <3

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An inventive, war-torn world filled with gods and a vast chasm between those with power and those without, and long-shot rebellions.

[NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, my NetGalley feedback is not a blurb or endorsement. If a publisher wishes to use any part of my comments for promotional purposes, please contact me or my agent via email. I would prefer not to include star ratings but NetGalley won't let me post without one, so all will be 5 stars.]

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“ To cage a god is divine. To be divine is to rule. To rule is to destroy.”

Although short, this book packs a punch. I enjoyed every minute I spent within this world and I cannot wait for book two. I’ve read little Russian inspired fantasy and this did not disappoint.

I love the difference between the two sisters gods and the relationship they had with them.

This was a fun fast paced read and I cannot wait for the next book in this duology

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