Title: Caged Warrior
Author: Lindsey Piper
My Rating: A-
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Dragon Kings #1
Main Characters: Leto and Nynn/Audrey
Release Date: June 2013
Publisher: Pocket Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy
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.
I've had this print book in my TBR pile ever since it came out (did you see that gorgeous cover? Yes, that is why I bought it.) Then I received book #3 in this series for review. I honestly still didn't have time to read this book, but partway through reading that book, I was feeling slightly confused about the world. I thought if I picked up this first book in the series and read the first couple of chapters, that it would probably clear up the confusion. While that honestly never happened (yeah, I've finished both #1 and #3 and I'm still slightly confused about the world), I did get too caught up in the story line of this book. I had to finish it whether I had time to do so or not.
This is NOT a light and happy book. In fact, it's pretty dark and gritty. Nynn and her son, Jack, were kidnapped a year ago. They've spent the last year being experimented on in Dr. Aster's labs. But now Nynn has been thrown into the cages and separated from Jack. The cages are an underground gladiator-type ring. All the cage fighters are under control of the humans...basically slaves trained to fight for the monetary gains of the human cartel they fight for. They are forced to fight or die.
Leto is her trainer. They will be partners in the cage fights in three weeks, and if she fails, he fails. That isn't an option. Leto has been a cage fighter for 20 years and he's never lost. He is the premier champion for the Aster family and has enjoyed a few perks because of that. He doesn't know any other life, so Nynn, who came from the human world, is completely foreign to him. But as they begin to train together, they develop a certain trust and yes, partnership, too.
I loved how tough Nynn is. It soon becomes obvious that she's a natural to the cage. Leto is harder to like right away. He is so hard on her, but he doesn't know any better. I've heard of other readers who never warmed up to him, but when you look at his history, it's amazing that he has as much empathy as he does. I can't imagine living in that world for so long.
It is an interesting world, although I still don't feel like I understand it completely. The back of the books say that the Dragon Kings are ancient demons, but that aspect is NEVER brought up in the books. There are five clans and each has it's own special ability...manipulate minds, berserkers, channel electricity, extreme speed, and then one clan can siphon any of the powers off the other Dragon Kings. But the Dragon Kings are dying out because they have a very difficult time of conceiving and over time the humans, which are organized into cartels, have taken advantage of that to enslave the Dragon Kings...for experimentation and the cage fights.
I did thoroughly enjoy Leto and Nynn's story regardless of my confusion about the world though. I liked how their bond was a slow build and I enjoyed the character arc for both of them as they learned to adjust and change their world views. I definitely enjoyed this first book and look forward to more in the series.