Review: Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Caged Warrior by Lindsey PiperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Dragon Kings, #1
Length: 404 pages
Publisher: Pocket Books
Date Released: June 25, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Ten years ago, Audrey MacLaren chose to marry her human lover, making her an exile from the Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons once worshiped as earthly gods. Audrey and her husband managed to conceive, and their son is the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation—which makes him irresistible to the sadistic scientist whose mafia-funded technology allows demon procreation. In the year since her husband was murdered, Audrey and her little boy have endured hideous experiments.

Shackled with a collar and bound for life, Leto Garnis is a Cage warrior. Only through combat can Dragon Kings earn the privilege of conceiving children. Leto uses his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his two sisters to start families. After torture reveals Audrey’s astonishing pyrokenesis, she is sent to fight in the Cages. If she survives a year, she will be reunited with her son. Leto is charged with her training. Initially, he has no sympathy for her plight. But if natural conception is possible, what has he been fighting for? As enemies, sparring partners, lovers, and eventual allies, Leto and Audrey learn that in a violent underground world, love is the only prize worth winning.

My Review:

Silent Warrior by Lindsey PiperI think it probably helps to read Silent Warrior (reviewed here) first. Not just because the same characters show up later in Caged Warrior, but because you get a fuller picture of the way the world works.

The Dragon Kings are not dragons or dragon shifters. They do have demonic or paranormal powers, but exactly what kind of powers varies from clan to clan, and from person to person.

They also have a terrible infertility problem. Their race is dying out. Human science claims to have a solution, and many of the Dragon Kings have sold themselves into slavery for the right to have access to that science. Some just sell themselves for stupider reasons, and some criminals end up as slaves.

Slaves become cage fighters. Think of the Roman gladiatorial combats run by something like the Russian mafia, but with the gladiators’ willing consent. I think it’s more complicated, but the backstory is still murky.

In the front of this story we have two of the cage fighters one very willing, and one a kidnapped prisoner. That’s where we begin.

Leto of Garnis has been Champion for years. He thinks being a cage fighter is the best deal he can get, not just for himself, but also for his family. He doesn’t even think of himself as a slave. He truly believes that the Aster crime family values his service and has dealt honestly with him.

Then Audrey MacLaren is literally dropped into his world. She was born Nynn of Tigony, but was exiled and married a human. That should have been the end, but instead, something marvelous happened. She gave birth to a Dragon King without any of the special treatments that the Aster family laboratories had created. So they murdered her human husband and captured her and her son.

Then they tortured and experimented on her. (If you ever watched the reboot of Battlestar Galactica, think of the labs where the Cylons experimented on human women and you’ll get the idea, with the added bonus that the Doctor in charge of the lab in this case was a sadist with a special interest in Audrey/Nynn. Serious squick.)

Leto is tasked with training Nynn to become a cage warrior, and he has three weeks. If she survives three matches, his reward will be the long-term care of his sister, who is in a permanent coma. Audrey’s reward for surviving a year will be to see her son.

In order to train Audrey in this compressed time frame, Leto has to break her down, and then build her up. But he can’t break her so far that she can’t be built up again. (This is the concept behind the way drill sergeants treat recruits at boot camp.) She fights back from the very first second and some of what Leto does seems quite cruel.

This is a very dark, cruel, world. In order to survive and get her son back, Audrey has to go back to being Nynn, and learn what she needs to learn so she can fight back. Leto is her best choice, and she calculates that decision. She isn’t sure she likes herself when she does.

Leto isn’t sure what he’s been forced into. He’s never fought with a partner. Training Nynn, working with her, has also made him spend time with someone who has had a whole different experience from his own. The more he learns, the more he realizes that what he’s always believed might not be the whole truth.

And when the Asters send someone to remove her memories of her son, he knows that he’s been deceived all along.

Escape Rating B: For a romance, this is extremely dark. Not just because the world that Lindsey Piper has created is literally underground, but because truly awful things have happened to every character. Even at the end it’s not HEA or HFN, but together and still fighting for the light as the best outcome. Evil is still out there.

In fact, I think we’re still wondering who the big evil is. I bet we’ve only seen the little faces of evil, not that they weren’t sick enough.

I want to know how things came to this pass. The Dragon Kings are more powerful than humans. They used to be gods. How did they become enslaved? I can guess, there are multiple historic parallels. But which one (if any) is this one?

Speaking of which, I sincerely hope there was a reason the doctor needed to be sadistic on top of being the paranormal equivalent of Dr. Mengele. The bwahaha sexual sadism seemed over the top.

About Leto and Nynn. He starts out the story having big holes in his personality. She starts out the story having huge gaps in her memory. I did like the parallel that they both got their blank spots filled in during the course of the story. In effect, they each got un-brainwashed.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Silent Warrior by Lindsey Piper

Silent Warrior by Lindsey PiperFormat read: ebook provided by Edelweiss
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: Paranormal romance
Series: The Dragon Kings, #0.5
Length: 112 pages
Publisher: Pocket Star
Date Released: April 22, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

A silent woman ashamed of her criminal background becomes a Cage warrior to seek redemption. An unrepentant fortune hunter will do anything to escape his mounting debts. Although rivals on the streets of Hong Kong, they find common ground when seeking their clan’s stolen idol, but for vastly different reasons. Neither one suspects that love will begin when he becomes the first man in five years to hear her speak.

My Review:

Once they were worshipped as gods. Now they huddle in remote clan strongholds, clinging to the remnants of demonic power as their race slowly withers into extinction. Or they sell themselves into life-long slavery for access to the human science that has figured out a way around whatever has caused the rising infertility rate. Or just to pay off gambling debts.

The Dragon Kings are not actually dragons. They’re not shapeshifters either. What they are is descendants of the beings who inspired the great myths: the Norse Gods, the Egyptian and Greek pantheons, the Celtic fae, and I suspect, the Chinese Dragons. Not that those have been named so far.

Each of the five clans has a power.  One can bring the lightning, like Zeus. One can read minds. One clan has the power to take the powers of another Dragon King, for a brief time.

Of course, they aren’t all Kings. Some are Queens, but they’re not called that. Even the females are kings. I’m not quite sure whether or not to be annoyed about that.

And it’s important to remember that in a lot of mythology, the gods behaved very badly.

In Silent Warrior, the warrior is a woman who goes by the name of “Silence”, because she doesn’t speak. Not that can’t, but she won’t. Big difference. She spends her life in slavery to what is, in effect, a crime syndicate, for two reasons.

One is that she seeks redemption for the crimes that her family committed. They stole from the head of their clan, Clan Sath. Interestingly, the Sath are the thieves of the Dragon Kings. They can steal the power from another. It does have the unfortunate tendency to make them thieves of trinkets and treasures as well. Her family stole too much, and they paid the ultimate price.

But her second reason is a prophecy. She is working for the day that all the Dragon Kings can be freed from the crime syndicates, and that day is coming. Silence is biding her time, and searching for half of an idol that her family stole.

While she is out on assignment, she finds the other half of the stolen idol, in the hands of the only man who talks enough for both of them. He drives her crazy enough to make her finally talk back, after five years of silence.

If she trusts him enough to finally talk, he might be the one she can trust at her back as she fights for her life. Every single day. If he’s willing to trust her enough to go down into the dark with her.

Caged Warrior by Lindsey PiperEscape Rating B: In spite of the length, this story is pretty complete. In some ways, it is better than the novel that comes after it (Caged Warrior, reviewed later today) because Silence and Hark are equals.

The world of the Dragon Kings is harsh and brutal, and the people in it lead a bloody life filled with death and destruction. This is a story of unexpected love in a very dark place. They start out expecting a night of sweaty sex and nothing more, because that’s all their life holds.

Silence and Hark are flawed, fascinating people. They’re both terribly damaged, and yet they manage to find just enough faith in each other to make a giant leap together. I can’t even call the ending a “Happy For Now” because happy isn’t a word that applies in this world. Facing the future together, definitely and awesomely.

And Silence as a character is doubly awesome because she is unapologetically a woman warrior from the very beginning. She’s not following anyone. She’s not less. She’s not bait. She is ferocious.

I am annoyed that the book is named for her, but the cover picture is of him.

But I wish I had a few more clues about how things got to be the way they are. I’m saying this from a perspective at the end of Caged Warrior, and I’m still not sure. I’m making guesses based on other paranormals, fantasies, and real-life history, but I’m still not sure I have enough clues. And dragon? When dragon? Who dragon?

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Ebook Review Central, Samhain Publishing, August 2012

We return, not to the thrilling days of yesteryear, but to the August 2012 titles from Samhain Publishing.

And readers did find some of the titles pretty thrilling, at least according to the reviews. Others, not so much.

Let’s not talk about the stuff that no one else was talking about. It’s just getting old. In some cases, it already was old. Enough said.

The book that everyone was talking about, which made it easily swim into the number one slot in this week’s featured titles list, is Degrees of Wrong by Anna Scarlett. Degrees of Wrong is, and I am very pleased to say it, science fiction romance, in this particular case of the “futuristic medical plague and doctor needs to find a cure” school. Also while kidnapped by the future U.N. and working on a top-secret hi-tech undersea warship. The romance: the doctor is a feisty and highly intelligent woman who is pursued relentlessly by the warship’s captain. She resists that relentless pursuit for quite a while, because said captain is tied up in a politically arranged engagement. The doctor respects his upcoming vows way more than he does. The first-person perspective really put readers into the doc’s head as she battles to find a cure, figure out the true agenda behind all the research, AND protect her heart.

This week’s number two feature is all about lucky number seven. Because the book for this slot is Seven Sexy Sins by Serenity Woods. Ms. Woods has taken one of the all-time favorite themes, the friends-into-lovers story, and combined it with a trope that is hard to do in a modern context, the “sex teacher” trope, and found a way to make it work really, really fantastically. The heroine, Faith, is a writer who has to come up with an article on spicing up women’s sex lives. Her only problem is that hers, so far, has been a dud. She’s not innocent, she’s just been unlucky. That’s believable. Her circle of friends commiserate, but one of them is her brother! Now there’s a potential downer. However, Rusty, her long-time secret crush, offers to help her out. Faith agrees, as long as they keep it a secret. Faith’s got some very good reasons for this crazy idea. Rusty kissed her once, and her brother punched his lights out. And when her article is over, she needs his friendship: he’s one of her best mates. If they try to be more than friends, and fail, their whole group could fall apart in the explosion. But when their friendship adds way too much depth to their sexual explorations, neither of them is sure if they can pull away. This one is both hot and sweet, something that Serenity Woods does very, very well.

Number three for this week is hot but not sweet. More like hot and hotter, and with an extra helping of jet fuel into the bargain. Katie Porter’s Inside Bet is a story about a woman  who’s concealing a wild past behind her successful career as an accountant. Her decision to have a no-holds-barred one-night-stand with a playboy fighter pilot-jock leads to an unexpected longer term fling. Heather and Jon are two people who both thought they were too jaded to be in this thing for anything more than just sex. Instead, they find out that they are daring each other to do things they never dreamed of, including, just maybe, fall in love.

All of this week’s stories are on the steamy side of the equation. Degrees of Wrong with a side dose of futuristic thrills, Seven Sexy Sins with a helping of friends-into-lovers romance, and Inside Bet just plain sex first and love later. But steam heated every single one.

Just a little something to warm you up if Autumn is bringing a chill to the air!

Ebook Review Central will be back next week with the multi-publisher, multi-legged (in honor of Halloween) wrap-up.