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 has been 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.
At least two weeks after the events of The Prison Healer, Kiva Meridan has arrived in the capital with the Crown Prince and his family. Adjusting to life outside Zalindov prison, Kiva has two choices: remain with the royal family and pursue her passion for a medical career, or locate her lost family and join the rebellion set on seizing the throne and taking down the royals.
The Gilded Cage is a thrilling behind-enemy-lines sequel which opens up the world Noni has created, exploring the politics of the Kingdom and wider territories, and introducing new characters to love and loathe. The story moves fast, with a clear plotted direction and easy readability, toward a palpitating climax and once again a guttural cliffhanger – the cliffhanger is definitely worse than The Prison Healer!
I loved being reunited with these characters. It felt like returning home to familiar surroundings, albeit it promised chaos. We have the camaraderie from the first book happening again with heartwarming family dinners and outings, which brought a smile to my face. I particularly liked learning more about Naari’s backstory and I’m intrigued to see how her story plays out.
Although, I’d say The Gilded Cage unfortunately unfolds at Kiva’s expense. I think many readers will be left with a bad taste over what happens, because, even when you’re mad at her, you still want to love her. This instalment only works because she makes some seriously questionable decisions,
particularly when it came to her brother and sister, Torell and Zuleeka. And whilst I felt her anxiety, the more the story progressed, I began to find her lack of integrity unbearable and a little long drawn.
What balanced this out was Jaren and the royal family. We get insight The Prison Healer couldn’t give us; it’s extremely clever how Noni illustrated the royal family, to make the decision Kiva faced more horrid and heart splitting. We meet Queen Ariana who is the epitome of kindness, as is her nephew, Caldon. I’m certain Caldon will go down a treat with readers. With his flirtatious and charming demeanour, his hilarious deadpan humour and his razor sharp mind, he’s the gift that kept on giving and really is the standout addition to this story.
It was also really good to see more of the political and magical elements of the world. There’s elemental magic training, the politicking and diplomacy of a Royal Council, espionage and learning more of the history between the Corentine and Vallentis families. For better and worse, it was all so enjoyable!
And the romance! Jaren was so soft, he didn’t hold back in his affection for Kiva, all the while ensuring she wasn’t overwhelmed in adjusting to life outside Zalindov. I’d have liked the romance to have picked up more pace than it did; I wouldn’t have minded the book being longer if it added a few extra romantic chapters, but as it was, I felt it was a tad lacking on that front. However, by this point, I trust Noni will not let me down and will floor me in the finale.
After Noni pulled the mother of all twists in The Prison Healer, I spent a good majority of The Gilded Cage trying to anticipate jaw dropping plot twists. I was not underestimating the stealth again. However, Noni is clearly a master in the art of deception and misdirection. The one thing The Gilded Cage promises is what you think you know… think again. Curveballs left, right and centre, to the very last page. If you’re one of those bookworms who can’t resist reading the last page, RESIST!!
The ending left me dry mouthed, unable to breathe properly for some time and a cold horrible hollowness in my chest. It is the definition of a painful cliffhanger. So, naturally, I can quite easily say this is the best YA series of 2021.
The Gilded Cage delivers mounting tensions, with unavoidable betrayal, unbreakable family ties and an irresistible romantic pull… it’s just all happening and you won’t want to miss it. It’s pretty much guaranteed The Blood Traitor is going to be full throttle, taking the crowning spot as my most anticipated 2022 release. The wait will be excruciating…*sweats* *nervously giggles* I can’t wait! I can’t wait? *whimpers*
Thank you kindly to Hodder & Stoughton for an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.