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Tuesday, February 23, 2021

The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris



Please Note:  I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence the opinions in my review in any way.


Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Picking up right where A Longer Fall left off, this thrilling third installment follows Lizbeth Rose as she takes on one of her most dangerous missions yet: rescuing her estranged partner, Prince Eli, from the Holy Russian Empire. Once in San Diego, Lizbeth is going to have to rely upon her sister Felicia, and her growing Grigori powers to navigate her way through this strange new world of royalty and deception in order to get Eli freed from jail where he’s being held for murder.

Russian Cage continues to ramp up the momentum with more of everything Harris’ readers adore her for with romance, intrigue, and a deep dive into the mysterious Holy Russian Empire.

Review:

Charlaine Harris is best known for her Sookie Stackhouse novels that were turned into the HBO series, True Blood.   The world of The Russian Cage takes place in an alternate universe where the United States has dissolved into several countries, one of which is the Holy Russian Empire.  This is the third book in the series, and I must confess, I had to quickly read the first two books before I felt right about reading, and reviewing, this book.  I'm so glad I did.  This is a fun series that feels like a cross between a western, and a supernatural thriller.  There's a strong female lead, along with many other colorful supporting characters.  With a suspenseful plot and a touch of the supernatural, this was a page-turner.

What I Liked:

World-Building:

This takes place in an alternate universe where the United State is now made up of several countries.  Mexico has taken over a large portion of Texas and the Southwest.  There are other countries such as Dixie (you can guess where that is), and then there is the Holy Russian Empire on the west coast.  The time period is not spelled out but it seems to be set in about the 1930's.

What I liked about this universe was that it was interesting, even without the magic.  Much of the former U.S. is made up of lawless areas where people who travel need to hire "gunnies" for protection from highway bandits.  That's where Lizbeth Rose comes in.  She is a gunnie who's mother was raped by a russian. She may have some magical power, or may be useful to the HRE (Holy Russian Empire).

In the previous books, Lizbeth has only heard about the HRE.  But in The Russian Cage, Lizbeth has to walk straight into the lion's den to save a russian she is in love with.  This book shows us this world up close, with it's complicated royal etiquette, and social hierarchy.  It also explains more about the magical aspects of this world.

Characters:

Lizbeth is such a strong person, that it's hard to imagine she is only nineteen years-old.  But, given her upbringing, she is used to scrabbling for survival.  Her character finds it hard to trust people, even her russian lover, Eli.  I enjoyed how she finally forms a bond with her younger sister, Felicia, and even begins a tentative friendship with Eli's family.

One of the struggles of this character is that she is often called upon to kill people in her job.  But where does she draw the line between what is necessary and revenge?  There are no black and white answers.

I also really liked the supporting characters, particularly Eli's mother Veronika, and his friend Felix.  Veronika, at first, seems like a snobby rich aristocrat.  But because her late husband was so involved in politics, she has had to learn to maneuver carefully through treacherous social situations and royal plots.  This has made her a survivor.  Maybe that's why Veronika isn't as put off by commoner Lizbeth as I would have initially thought.

Felix is another character who is more than he seems.  The magic he specializes in is death magic.  Most people give him a wide berth.  But he has formed a deep friendship with Eli over the years.  His fierce loyalty to Eli has him taking all kinds of risk for his friend.  Over the course of the novel, Lizbeth learns to really appreciate him.

Plot:

Eli has been thrown in the HRE prison, but due to politics, no one even knows what the charges are.  Lizbeth decides she must rescue Eli. But since she doesn't know anything about the HRE, there are dangers she can't imagine.  This is a classic fish out of water story where Lizbeth must learn about this society and then figure out how to help Eli.  This plot device was perfect for the reader to discover, along with Lizbeth, the HRE.  

Lizbeth is also in danger because she secretly is part russian, and could possibly have blood that can help keep the Czar alive.  Hiding this part of herself is critical if she doesn't want to become a prisoner, herself.

Also, since the main character is a gun-slinger, there are plenty of shootouts, murder plots, and other dangers that keep this book going at a brisk pace.  This was a very entertaining book.

Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Release Date:  February 23rd, 2021

Author:  Charlaine Harris

Publisher:  Saga Press

Genre:  Fantasy

Page Length:  304 Pages

Source:  NetGalley

Format:  E-Book 

Recommendation: With plenty of action, and rich world-building, this was a highly entertaining book.  Be sure to read the first two books in the series in order to get the most from the story.



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