Thursday, September 24, 2015

Book #Review: Caged Warrior (Dragon Kings 1) by Lindsey Piper .@LindseyPiper .@GalleryBooks

Book Title: Caged Warrior ( Dragon Kings 1)
Author:  Lindsey Piper |WebsiteTwitter| Facebook|
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series/Standalone: Series Book 1
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Cost: $5.99
Pages: 380
How I got it: NetGalley
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher
Publication Date: June 25th, 2013
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The first installment in this fierce and sensual new paranormal romance series features demonic gladiators, ruthless mafia villains, and a proud race on the brink of extinction. 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.

Don't let my exposition on the similarities between history and this story make you afraid to read it.  The author creates a world where the Dragon Kings live their lives among the humans, and we are few and far between that know of their existence.  It echoes the themes from many Dystopian novels where a King uses a people to entertain the wealthy class with more and more exotic brands and people as well.  I don't believe the author realized how much her story echoes the history of the Black and Brown, or Indigenous people of the world, nor do I believe she was attempting to write to that, it's just as a Black woman in the world I realize how much the story echoes my history, and much like someone else will read this book and find different themes to latch onto, these are the ones that stuck out to me.  It's a great book, a good paranormal mystery, an even better romance, but once again a good story about what happens to a people when they begin to go extinct.

A bit of a slow start since I went into the book blind, I didn't read the synopsis, but with a title like Dragon Kings, it's kinda hard to miss that Dragons are involved right??  I'm glad I went in blind because the story that unfolded?? So Amazing, heartbreaking, made me want to cry at moments, and yell at others, just demanded that I continued to read so I could know just what happens in the next scene.

This world is so different and so brutal and these people are operating under the guise that they are gladiators and worthy of their titles but how do you know if you're enslaved?? Raised on his beliefs Leto doesn't know that he's the best slave, a title he inherited and then worked really hard to keep, he's a Gladiator and an honorable one, but as the story progresses and as his world view is challenged who he believes he is, is tested daily by Nynn's existence and presence.  Forced to train Nynn, who he doesn't believe is who she says she is, Leto is forced to look at the privileged sphere he has lived in his whole life with a new light.  I love that they challenge his ideals, his morals, who he thought he was.

Oh my gosh Nynn, was the most amazing character I've read in a while, tested, used,abused and still resilient.  I totally fell for  Nynn and her plight.  My heart hurt when she thought about her child, her life before and for all she lost.  With no other choice but to now fight in the cages, she has to learn to become something she has never been, something she has never had.  As one of the few born without a gift from the Dragon, Nynn despite her Royal lineage is outcasted from the safe haven of her people and forced to learn to live as a human.  There she makes a life for herself and that life is one day blown to smithereens and she awakens to find herself trapped and being experimented on by the Asters. Nynn how fights not just for herself, but for revenge, she wants her freedom, her child and her husband's death avenged and she will use whoever she has to.  Pitted against and told she has to fight with Leto or her life becomes forfeit, Nynn decides to play with the narrow lines drawn for her now, but eventually she will dance across those lines. This is her motivation, and I totally felt for her when reading from her perspective.  Seeing what she had to live through, the brief flickers of thoughts of what happened in the labs, when she was helpless and considered less than human and therefore used and abused by both the lab workers and the guards, I wanted to cry.  Others would have given up, just let themselves die, but Nynn made herself fight, she refused to let this go and she became the biggest catalyst for change.

This book appealed to me on so many levels.  The mystery of how the people came to be under the thumb of the cartels, why the Dragon left his people without guidance, who betrayed Nynn and her family to the cartels, how comes Leto never knew that this wasn't the truth??  This story was amazing and encompassing and challenging to read.  The romance came later well after the characters have become people you love and care about and I loved that the romance was there but didn't immediately change the characters or drift the story away from the larger themes.

The story of their people and what happened to make them who they are it was so good.  The discussion of experimentation, and what that does to the population, the lack of morals exhibited by those doing the experimentation.  The 'othering' of the people being used, just everything about this echoes so many real life experiments where the scientist believe the science is more important that the lives of the people ( See the Tuskegee Experiment, Nazi Human Experiments and so many more on Brown and Black bodies the world over with devastating consequences). I wanted to yell and hit something and demand to know why people where so dumb they went along with hurting others for a paycheck.

The humans who had managed to gain control of such a powerful race, to me it just boggles the mind.  The asters are monsters on a level that is so evil even the devil would disown them.  They and the other cartels perpetrate psychological warfare, genetic modification, and so much more as a way to control these more powerful beings; so much is used to keep these powerful beings down and to keep so many more of them brainwashed and believing that this is how the whole world is.  I wonder if the author realizes how much this story echos the devastation of slavery and colonial imperialism  on black and brown people the world over??

I think part of why this hit me so hard,  is the fact that it echoes what happened to black and brown people everywhere, heck even to the Jews, the stripping of culture, the destruction of language or traditions, The experimentation, the belief that somehow you can't feel pain, you're not normal so therefore they aren't breaking any of the laws to do what they are doing.  The idea that people thought if they played along it would get better and the few who did try to run were punished brutality.  The loss of a people,  the people who volunteered to become gladiators because they were so deep in debt to the cartels and the idea that some others thought this was going to help their people was just too amazing.  That cycle of abuse helped to keep so many in check yet as such a larger group if they had banded together their freedom would have been guaranteed.

I want all the other books, I want all the characters stories, I want to know what happens after this; will the other cartels be challenged as well, will the dragon return?? Will they be able to save their people?? Will Leto's dream become a reality?? I'm going to definitely find out. And I suggest you do as well.
I hope you enjoy the glimpse of the Dragons and I can't wait to get to the others. Happy Reading

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