Pocket / June 25, 2013 / $7.99 print, $7.59 digital
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.
First in a new Paranormal Romance series, Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper (a.k.a. Carrie Lofty) explores a rigid society of supernatural beings hidden among and beneath our own world. A digital prequel, Silent Warrior, is also available.
The Dragon Kings are divided into clans, their divisions partially based on supernatural gifts related to their genetics (side note: they cannot turn into dragons; their gifts are things like super-fast reflexes). The clans are also competitive, with complicated politics. Coupled with low fertility throughout the Dragon King populace, this leads to considerable societal strife, which has resulted in organized crime structured around illegal reproductive laboratories. Gladiatorial matches are used to control certain of the population, and whether or not they are allowed to reproduce.
The heroine, Audrey, is of unconventional birth and suffered discrimination among the Dragon Kings as a result. She tried to flee to the human world, where she married a human and gave birth to a son, but her husband was murdered, and she was captured by evil scientist Dr. Aster. Aster holds her son’s life over her head as he experiments on both of them, then forces Audrey to be a cage fighter. Leto, who becomes the hero, is her trainer and future fighting partner, initially indifferent to her plight.
If you think this sounds like a brutal plot for a romance, you’re right. There is no instant attraction between these two, and since they each have their own desperate, possibly mutually-exclusive goals, it takes work for them to connect. What I enjoyed most about the story was how difficult it was, and in particular Audrey’s inner strength, and how she never gives up.
Look for a way out. A way to survive. The iron bars were a lost cause, but the floor was pitted concrete. With a crack in the corner. Audrey picked where moisture had worn away a small crevice. Her fingertips bled. Aching knuckles stretched shadow puppets along the wall. She wiped sweat from her forehead. Her toes gripped for balance as she scraped harder, faster. The steps echoed more…she kept clawing. Her breath became hot steam in her lungs. A piece of concrete about the size of her fist gave way. One pointed end had promise. If she could strike just the right spot on the man’s temple . . . She edged away from the bars until her spine pinched against the rock wall. After twisting her long hair, she shoved it down the back of the hospital gown. She balanced on the balls of her feet, ready to spring.
She unexpectedly discovers that she has a King power, after all, but that’s after we’ve already learned she will fight to the death for herself and her son.
She whirled on the balls of her feet. The blaze of her silvery eyes caught with his. An uncanny glow stopped him cold. Fireworks. He tried to shake away the illusion, but it remained. Intensified. Thousands of fireworks bubbled inside a concentrated circle between Nynn’s hands. Sparks. Pinging blasts of flame were trapped in a circle of energy that built and built—a balloon ready to burst. Her face contorted…The bubble burst. Leto scrambled out of its path, but even he wasn’t fast enough. Pure concussive force threw him against the mesh steel. He hit face-first and grunted… With any more force, she would’ve broken every bone in his back.
Audrey makes necessary decisions, no matter how difficult they will be to accomplish.
Regret and uncertainty were parasites digging into her mind. She was to become a Cage warrior. The decision whether to release Jack from that misery was no longer hers. Instead, she would free him and rebuild their lives. She had the power to make it so.
Fans of urban fantasy and dystopian worlds will likely appreciate this series as well as those who are looking for a new type of Paranormal Romance.
Learn more about or pre-order a copy of Caged Warrior by Lindsey Piper before its June 25 release: