Genre: YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Once I realized that Of Cages and Crowns by Brianna Joy Crump was a fantasy novel where The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, I was a little skeptical. That being said, it ended up surprising me more than I expected.
Every generation ten girls are marked by the goddess and gifted with a unique ability. It is an honor coveted by many, but dreaded by Monroe, a goddess-touched girl who has lived hidden away her entire life. The ten girls are required to compete in the Culling, a competition to the death where the prize is the Prince’s hand in marriage and the title of Queen, but they have to outlast nine other girls to win.
I had mixed feelings about a good portion of this novel, but as a whole, I think if you can stick it out to the end, it’s clear that many of the aspects that are a little annoying seem to set up the ending and the next book in the series. The book felt a bit too long for me; especially the first part seemed very slow.
Furthermore, I was not thrilled at the comparison to The Bachelor, but I was excited to discover that it didn’t give off the same creepy vibes as the T.V. show. I went back and forth between loving Monroe and Prince Cohen’s relationship to hating it. There was a little bit of instant attraction on Monroe’s part, which I found odd considering her circumstances. I thought the relationship developed nicely from there though, but fizzled out, and then reignited towards the end. Overall, I wouldn’t say I was wholeheartedly invested in their relationship, but I think that is because other aspects of the novel needed to take priority.
Similarly, I thought Cohen was infuriating! He basically becomes angry with Monroe when she simply takes action to try to survive, and boy was I furious. The nerve of him to be mad at her when he was partially to blame for her circumstances to begin with, when he was not willing to do anything to change those circumstances, was appalling! However, I think the ending of the novel showed some growth in his character, and explained (but didn’t excuse) his poor behavior.
Additionally, there were a lot of elements to the story that made it more complex. For instance, Monroe’s relationships with the other goddess-touched girls, her brothers, and her trainers, really added a lot of depth to the novel. These aspects also showed an impressive growth in Monroe and the other characters in the book.
When I was planning on writing this review, I was ready to say that I saw the ending coming, but it ended up being surprisingly unexpected. Now, I wouldn’t say that it was a major plot twist or anything, but I’ll just say that I was ready for the author to leave the novel open-ended to a certain extent, and that did not happen. There are certainly still some loose ends, but not in regard to what I was expecting. I really appreciated this aspect of the book!
Overall, if you are a reader who can appreciate a book for its complexity, and who doesn’t mind a slow novel, then I think this book is for you. While I initially wasn’t planning on reading the sequel, that ending really drew me in!