Friday, July 19, 2024

Light the Spark in Elizabeth May’s To Cage a God

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To Cage A God is the first book in a romantasy duology from Elizabeth May. It’s pitched as being for fans of Fourth Wing and Shadow and Bone. Now, I haven’t read Fourth Wing, but I can definitely see the Grishaverse connections. This is an Imperial Russian-inspired setting fueled by a ruthless political system. Magic—or godpower-–is only in the hands of the ruling class. Or, it was supposed to be. The sisters at the heart of this story also have gods in their bones; literally. And they are determined to set generations of wrongs to rights.

I struggled with this one at the start. Maybe I’m just out of practice reading fantasy (it has been a while) or maybe there were some growing pains in getting all of the pieces in place. There is a lot to learn. Our sisters, Sera and Galina, start separated from each other and the main setting of the story. It takes a few chapters to not only get them together, but to get them back into the thick of things. At the same time, the reader is learning names, locations, history, religion, a magic system… all the components of a new world. This is part of fantasy, I understand, but it did make me nervous about the rest of this journey.

To Cage a God Cover
To Cage a God Cover

I didn’t need to be. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I became. Once the characters were more established and the plot was going, I was hooked. The scale is perfect. You aren’t thrown into a large, full-scale rebellion. It’s one city. One goal. At least, with our sisters it is. There are other rebels who have… other plans. And one of those rebels is very important. I said this was a romantasy, right? Enter Vitaly.

Vitaly… he’s an incredible romantic interest. Dangerous, charming, a bit of an asshole. A rebel leader with a passion for his cause, his people. And also: for one particular woman. The reader is introduced to Vitaly through Sera. Because they were together, once. This romance did not go the way I expected. At all. I really thought I had this one pegged. I assumed the tropes that were at play here. I have never been so happy to be wrong. I loved this romance. I don’t want to say any more about it, just, experience it.

Sera isn’t the only character with a romantic arc, though. Her sister Galina also finds someone of interest. Since it is in the official synopsis, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that it is the princess. It’s pretty hard to have a relationship when you’re lying about who you are. It’s even harder if you’re lying because you want to overthrow your crush’s mother. Vasilisa is a wonderful inversion of expectations. The princess, locked away. But so much more. One detail I really appreciated about her character is that May created a fantasy setting that does not erase disability. Again, I don’t want to say too much.

I really thought my fantasy era had run its course. I worried I wouldn’t be able to dive back in. But this book was exciting. It was adult, it was dark, it was compelling. I thought I knew exactly where it was going, but May did not take the easy road to drama. I can confidently say I will be reading the second book in this duology. I want to know where we go from here. I want to see this world and these relationships develop. Stick with it, it pays off.

To Cage A God arrives on shelves February 20, 2024 from DAW Books.

Photo courtesy of DAW Books 

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