Mini Review – The Gilded Cage

After the cliffhanger at the end of The Prison Healer, I really wanted to read this book. I had some trouble finding it via the library but was able to get it from Libby, which I was happy about since it was such a recent release. I’m glad I was able to find it because, for the most part, I enjoyed it.

Kiva trades one cage for another when she leaves behind a deadly prison for a deceptive palace in this dark and dangerous sequel to The Prison Healer, which Sarah J. Maas called “a must-read.”

Kiva Meridan is a survivor.

She survived not only Zalindov prison, but also the deadly Trial by Ordeal. Now Kiva’s purpose goes beyond survival to vengeance. For the past ten years, her only goal was to reunite with her family and destroy the people responsible for ruining their lives. But now that she has escaped Zalindov, her mission has become more complicated than ever.

As Kiva settles into her new life in the capital, she discovers she wasn’t the only one who suffered while she was in Zalindov—her siblings and their beliefs have changed too. Soon it’s not just her enemies she’s keeping secrets from, but her own family as well.

Outside the city walls, tensions are brewing from the rebels, along with whispers of a growing threat from the northern kingdoms. Kiva’s allegiances are more important than ever, but she’s beginning to question where they truly lie. To survive this time, she’ll have to navigate a complicated web of lies before both sides of the battle turn against her and she loses everything.

“I told you not to stab me,” he said angrily. “You had one job.”

“Sometimes the people who act like they don’t care are really the ones who care the most. They feel so much that it overwhelms them, and to keep from falling apart, they hide behind easy smiles and quick laughter, acting like nothing matters.”

“Our scars define us,” Maddis said quietly, the tip of her finger tracing the three slashed lines. “They tell a story of courage and survival. They tell of who we are at our deepest being, of the challenges we’ve faced and overcome.”

Overall, I enjoyed this book more than the first in this series. The writing was good, and I loved the way the author writes dialogue. It felt natural and was filled with fun banter that really brought the characters to life. I’m a sucker for witty banter, and I ate it up while reading this book. This book added even more depth to some of the previously established characters, especially Kiva as we got to see her struggle with conflicted loyalties and were introduced to her family. However, I did feel that her internal conflict was dragged out for dramatic effect a bit too long. It got quite repetitive, and I kept thinking that she really should have chosen a side already with all the information she had about the competing parties. The slow burn romance was still deliciously slow. Although, Jaren was almost too perfect, even more so than in the first book. I found it a bit unbelievable that he would trust Kiva so much with the important secrets he divulged during the story. There were tons of great new characters, but my favorite character of this book was Caldon, whose background and characterization was deepened considerably. He was such a good friend to Kiva when she absolutely did not deserve it, and he was just a lot of fun to read. The pace was fairly slow for most of the book because it spent a great deal of time introducing new characters, exploring the dynamics of Kiva and Jaren’s families, and building up the world outside the prison from the first book. I enjoyed these aspects of the book, the history of this world, and all the political intrigue. So, I didn’t mind the slower pace. However, the world-building was still far from flawless, and some of the holes were extremely noticeable (e.g., why were there rebels in the first place when the rulers seem to be so good?). The pace at the end was head-spinning, and there were twists I honestly never saw coming. The last few chapters landed several gut punches in a row that left my mouth hanging open, and the last page, especially, left me with chills. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens in the final book! Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.

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