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.
Lindsey Piper’s hotly anticipated debut series, The Dragon Kings, begins with a gritty, fiercely sexy tale of romance and rebirth.
The Dragon Kings, an ancient race of demons, were once worshipped as earthly gods. Centuries later and facing extinction, they fight at the whim of human cartels for the privilege of perpetuating their bloodlines.
After marrying a human, Nynn of Clan Tigony became Audrey MacLaren, banished from a life of distinction and power. But when Nynn gives birth to the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation, she and her son are kidnapped by a sadistic cartel scientist whose life mission is studying demon procreation.
Leto of Clan Garnis is a Cage warrior, using his superhuman speed and reflexes to secure the right for his sister to conceive. Within the Cages, he has no equal.
When torture unlocks Nynn’s repressed powers, she is sent to the Cages, where Leto is charged with her training. He believes her a traitor to their people, while she sees him as no better than a slave. But for the sake of her son, Nynn must learn to survive. An undeniable connection turns antagonists to allies to impassioned lovers as they learn the high price of honor in their violent underground world.
About the Author
Lindsey Piper is the alter ego of award-winning historical romance author Carrie Lofty. Readers and critics are wild for the “red-hot” (RT Book Reviews) Dragon Kings series, her unique first foray into paranormal fiction. She lives and writes in Chicago. Visit her online at LindseyPiper.com and CarrieLofty.com.
Read an Excerpt
She wasn’t in the lab. That’s all she knew. The smells were different. Fewer sterilizing cleansers and less recycled air. More body odor. Piss and sweat. Dirt. Wet rocks.
Audrey opened her eyes and blinked. She pushed up onto her hands and knees. Pain banged at her temples—the ache of still-healing blows to the skull and her own frantic pulse. Lifting her head was an effort like swimming through wet cement.
Her fuzzy vision sharpened as she got used to the dim lighting. Just a pair of bare incandescent bulbs. A humid mist hung heavy in the cavelike room. Even when her eyes worked together, focusing, that mist ebbed away at details. She couldn’t tell where the algae-covered walls began and ended.
The bars of her four-by-four cage were a prison. Solid iron. She lifted swollen hands and grasped the cold metal. Frustration ate at her insides. Rattling the cage bars, she shrieked.
“Where is my son?”
At least in the lab, she and Jack had shared a cell. No bars. Only walls painted black. Just as disorienting. But that confinement had almost felt safe. She’d held her boy, thankful the darkness concealed the worst of their wounds.
Now she had iron bars, algae, and a black pit where her heart had been.
“Where is he? Aster! You son of a bitch!”
The hair lifted on the backs of her forearms. As her heartbeat jacked, she noticed her dirty body. Her vulnerability. She wore a paper hospital gown—no underwear, no shoes. Had she been dragged straight from the lab? The last thing she remembered was being strapped to an operating table after having slipped the note to Reed. A mask had pumped anesthetic into her mouth and nose but she’d been hopeful for the first time in months.
Maybe that explained her grogginess. From surgery to a Dragon-damned cave.
Now she wore a damping collar. But why? Her powers had never manifested. Giving birth to the first natural-born Dragon King in a generation was the only remarkable thing she’d ever done.
She forced the distracting details away. Look for a way out. A way to survive. The iron bars were a lost cause, but the floor was pitted concrete.
With a crack in the corner.
Audrey picked where moisture had worn away a small crevice. Her fingertips bled. Aching knuckles stretched shadow puppets along the wall. She wiped sweat from her forehead. Her toes gripped for balance as she scraped harder, faster.
The steps echoed more loudly. Heavy. Determined. Certainly male. His footfalls hit too heavily for a lean man. A bruiser. One of the Aster cartel’s bodyguards. She didn’t stand a chance, but she kept clawing. Her breath became hot steam in her lungs.
A piece of concrete about the size of her fist gave way. One pointed end had promise. If she could strike just the right spot on the man’s temple . . .
She edged away from the bars until her spine pinched against the rock wall. After twisting her long hair, she shoved it down the back of the hospital gown. She balanced on the balls of her feet, ready to spring.
As a member of the Honorable Giva’s immediate family, she’d been instructed in martial training from an early age. She’d never wielded the powers of her kind, and she was seriously out of practice, but she was not helpless. The chunk of concrete rested in her palm. It was the difference between dying—and dying while fighting.
A flashlight’s beam penetrated the recess of the cave. Audrey narrowed her eyes. She watched through her lashes. The man had so many advantages. That realization should’ve cowed her. Should’ve turned her backbone to mud and left her weeping. But after having been a victim for more than a year—drugged, bound, helpless—she felt mighty. No manacles. No hallucinogens. Just a rock in her hand and a blaze of pure rage.
The man stepped into clear view.
Easily more than six foot, he was built for breaking bones and ripping off limbs. Brawn. Solid muscle. Powerful biceps. Plate metal covered his heart and vital organs, leaving his arms free. Calf-high boots were made of toughened leather. Bare, muscular thighs flexed with the slightest movement. But he didn’t seem the kind of man to make slight movements. Everything about him was overwhelming.
His jaw was fixed in an expression she’d learned to recognize: You will find no mercy here.
Audrey gave her flight instinct a hard shove. She pushed far into the shadows. Futile, really, when he aimed the beam directly at her face. She squinted and kept her right hand out of sight as the cage was unlocked.
“Disgusting,” he muttered.
“And you’re a traitor,” she spat in the language of the Dragon Kings. A language she hadn’t used for nearly a decade.
Since meeting Caleb, she hadn’t given much thought to the old ways. Her happiness as a human wife had been too easy. Too good to last. But long ago, the ways of the Dragon Kings had been her entire life—the ritual and the covert power.
No matter her ostracism from her clan.
Years of rage came rushing back. The coiled ferocity in her legs exploded. She leapt. The cage door swung open on hinges that squealed a rusted protest.
Not even the momentum of her leap shifted the man from his kneeling stance. He only grunted. Audrey’s quick instincts brought that chunk of concrete up, up, in a violent arc. Her aim was true. The jagged edge struck the side of his face. Another grunt.
Then Audrey was thrown across the room.
Her shoulder hit the ground, followed by her head. A cry ripped from her throat. She slid three feet. Agony stabbed down to her marrow, as if pain had always been a part of her body.
He’d simply . . . hurled her.
The big man needed only two strides to cross to where Audrey was sprawled. He stripped the chuck of concrete from her hand and tossed it down the tunnel.
“Can you hear me, lab filth?”
The old language rattled in her brain. Words passed down from the blessed Dragon. Nothing quite worked. Her lungs wouldn’t take in air. Something ground painfully in her hip socket. She nodded out of pure reflex.
“If you ever attempt to strike me again, I will snap your spine in two. Think you could recover from that? Our kind can endure a great deal—much more than humans. But we’re not immortal.”
“Where is my son?” Only a rasp now.
“He’s better off dead. Now get up.”
He yanked her up under both arms and thrust her against a wall. Shots of fire spiked her joints. She gasped as panic set in. She wanted to fight. Wanted to. Yet just as when Dr. Aster had drugged her, or when her brain short-circuited because of his torture, she could not.
That didn’t stop her from snarling and spitting.
Because he spoke the language of the Dragon Kings, he belonged to one of the sacred Five Clans. But to actually work for that madman? He was the filth. Bile surged into her mouth.
“You’ve still got some spirit.” His muscles were tense, holding her immobile, while his breathing remained calm. “I can see why Old Man Aster has plans for you. We’re going to have quite the time.”
The flashlight had rolled across the ground until it illuminated her captor’s face. Blood streamed down from where she’d gouged a ragged hole in his cheek. He was smooth-shaven, and his black hair was shorn close to his head. Eyes the color of teak were fathomless, unreadable. Dark lashes cast shadows along his sharp cheekbones. A scar on his upper lip told stories of past battles. A damping collar encircled his thick, muscular throat.
A tattoo of a serpent wrapped around the back of his head. The tongue hissed toward one temple and the tail flicked toward the other. The Aster family symbol.
Realization settled ice in her belly. He was far deadlier than a brute from the laboratory.
Part boogeyman, part myth—he was a Cage warrior.
“The Aster cartel owns you now, lab filth. But they’re done with experiments.” His scarred lip curled into a snarling smile. “You’re here to fight in the Cages.”
♦ ♦ ♦
Leto had not expected so much resistance from the woman. The prospect heated his blood. For too long he’d only found satisfaction in preparing for the annual Grievance—the ultimate prize for the most dedicated warriors.
Warriors like Leto.
Performing in monthly Cage matches was essential to keep his skills sharp. Training Dragon Kings—called neophytes until they won their first fight—for those monthly matches was a drudgery. Most were volunteers who had debts to repay. They rarely possessed the true courage that deserved combat. Some were as weak and sniveling as humans.
Yet others went on to greatness. Leto had trained such victors.
His cheek was bleeding profusely. This nasty castoff from Dr. Aster’s lab had surprising spark.
“You’re insane,” she snarled. “I’m not going in there.”
“Have you ever seen a Cage fight?”
She shuddered. “Of course not! They’re for barbarians.”
With a swift movement that had nothing to do with his Dragon-given gift, Leto spun her. “Now is the time you listen. You believe me a barbarian, then believe my threats aren’t idle. Your suffering won’t weigh on my conscience.”
“Because you have none.” With her cheek pressed against the damp cave wall, her words were muffled.
Leto loosened his grip. If he pulled any harder he would dislocate her shoulder. The goal was not to impair his charges but to ready them. Instead, he added another incentive for her to obey. With his free hand he grasped between her legs.
“No conscience,” he repeated coldly. “I will have my way.”
She stiffened. She stilled. But Leto realized his heart was beating far too fast. Need had gathered in him for three weeks. Cage warriors were permitted female flesh only after a victory—unless they chose to violate their charges, as he threatened now. Some mentors indulged too often. Their neophytes became submissive, not resilient and strong. Leto had never needed to use such crude methods. He had other means, including stores of patience.
And he never lost a match. The regular reward of satisfying his sexual needs was not something every Cage warrior could claim.
She bucked against his hold. “If you think worse wasn’t done to me in the Asters’ lab, then you have no idea what goes on there.”
“Doesn’t matter to me.” He gave her pussy a last, hard squeeze. At least this time she flinched and tried to pull away. Any reaction could be twisted to his advantage. “Maybe you’ll enjoy it. Pleasure can be another incentive.”
She slammed her head backward. Her skull smacked the bridge of his nose. Pain rocketed through his brain. The woman scrambled from his arms and ran. Leto shook his head. Part of him was dazed that she’d got the jump on him. Mostly he was amused. Where did she think she could go?
From down the short corridor that led to her cell’s gate came a feminine shriek. Pure frustration. She was certainly loud enough to use the sonic assaults that accompanied the berserker rages of Clan Pendray. They annoyed the fuck out of him. Shaking off a weeklong migraine was the price of victory over those Dragon-damned Reapers.
He took a strip of linen from beneath his chest armor and wiped his face. The gouge in his cheek was nearly a puncture. The woman continued her tirade. High-pitched bellows echoed up the corridor.
“She-devil bitch,” he muttered to himself.
Still, he was surprisingly eager to get started.
Leto set his shoulders and lifted his chin. The Aster family ran the most powerful human crime cartel in the world. His victories over their cartel rivals—the Townsends of England and the Kawashimas of Hong Kong—had earned him many privileges. First among them was the right for his sister Yeta and her husband, Dalnis, to conceive a little girl. Soon, with the Dragon’s blessing, his efforts would earn protection and care for his comatose younger sister, Pell. Up in the human world where they’d made their home, Yeta and Dalnis had taken on the burden of Pell’s care for nearly a decade.
He would win the Grievance, year after year. To keep his family safe. To ensure Clan Garnis would live on.
Confidence gave him extra swagger as he strode down the sloping corridor to retrieve his screaming neophyte. She stood with her back against the gate made of floor-to-ceiling wrought iron. Leto had no key. He was let in and out by the Asters’ human guards. Cattle prods, Tasers, and napalm bullets kept even the most powerful Dragon King in check. The collars made it so.
Leto had never fought back. Why would he? This subterranean complex had always been his place of glory and purpose, where his father had fought. Where, in service to his loved ones, his father had died.
Decapitated by a Dragon blade.
“Stay away from me!”
“I won’t.” His words were as assured as he felt.
She darted sideways. Though slender, she was wily and surprisingly strong. But she would never be his match. He caught her around the middle. Momentum threw her onto his forearm. Again he hurled her to the ground. He pinned her with his boot heel on her collar, right over her larynx.
“You’ll only hurt yourself. Save this fire. You’ll need it for the Cages.”
She cradled her elbow and glared up with pale, pale eyes—maybe blue.
“I’m to train you for your first bout in three weeks,” he continued. “Normally we’d have more time, but Old Man Aster wants you ready by then. He’ll be hosting many important people.”
He removed his boot and grabbed a fistful of hair—a honey blond shade that trailed down her back. He’d need to fix that. His actions were proof of how dangerous long hair could be in battle.
“Let go of me!”
“No.” He dragged her back to the main body of the training room. He shoved her into a crevice that had been carved by a steady trickle of water. “Wash yourself. I won’t work with garbage.”
She hissed as cold water drenched her face, sluiced down her back. The thin paper hospital gown clung to her body. Soon it would be as useless as wet tissue. He had proper armor for her to change into. Eventually. First, she needed to learn her place.
Leto crossed his arms. “What was that?”
She pinched her lips into a tight white line. That honey-colored hair darkened beneath the water’s trickle. Her arms and legs trembled. She closed into a protective ball.
If the woman didn’t ask, Leto would have a despicable chore ahead of him. On a certain level he would enjoy breaking her. Yet he craved a real opponent. She had that potential, if she proved smart enough to know when to back down.
“May I have some soap?” The effort of asking contorted her features with fury.
Slowly, he knelt before her. He’d trained enough for the Cages to know when the appearance of gentleness held greater power than aggression. She backed deeper into the crevice, but her fear was nowhere to be seen. Those pale, almost silver eyes were visible through the water dribbling down her face. Already she was cleaner. He could see more of her features. Stubborn. Every feature stubborn.
“I will not give much advice beyond techniques for fighting. But listen to me now: Save your hostility. I am not your enemy.”
She whipped wet hair back from her heart-shaped face. Her pointed chin was haughty, but her lips were delicate. Thin. Tremulous. As with every Dragon King, her skin was naturally tan. Hers was overlaid with a shimmering luster, like gold beneath a blazing light. Wide cheekbones were streaked with freckles, not the dirt he’d assumed. The water darkened her lashes and framed those nearly translucent eyes. Her gaze was canny. She assessed every detail, even through her fury.
Intelligence in a trainee was a double-edged sword.
“Become a half-dead cripple for all I care,” Leto said with a shrug. “You know it takes a great deal to kill a Dragon King. But the crowd loves when combatants bleed and scream. No one mourns.”
“My son would mourn me,” she whispered.
“He already does. Dr. Aster will have told him you’re dead.”
“I was promised my son. One year more.”
He almost pitied the woman’s naïveté. She’d be lucky to stand or talk or chew after her first match. Yes, she would heal, as all Dragon Kings did, but the process was imperfect. Amputated limbs never grew back. Minds cracked into mad pieces. Scars remained. His split lip and lashed back were a testament to that.
He masked his pessimism and long-ago pains. This was his responsibility. He had yet to fail the Old Man. He wouldn’t let this woman destroy the respect Leto had spent years acquiring.
“Learn to fight,” he said. “Or you’ll suffer as others have.”
She shuddered. The hospital gown clung to her. She tucked her legs beneath her and crossed shaky arms over her breasts. The water let her keep few secrets. “And you’re here to teach me?”
“You would’ve saved yourself a lot of abuse had you asked that question twenty minutes ago.”
“Bathatéi.” The worst curse word in the language of the Dragon Kings.
Leto only laughed. “Your name. Now.”
She lashed out with a tight fist. He caught it easily, then the next one. The only weapon she had left—one she might not have realized—was the surprise of her breasts. The soaked paper gown outlined their lithe, luscious shape. Leto forced his gaze back to her face.
“Your name,” he said with growing menace. “Unless you enjoy being called lab filth.”
“My name in exchange for soap.”
He grinned. This was going to be fun.
A swallow disappeared beneath the edge of her collar. She lifted her chin. “My name is Audrey MacLaren.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
CAGED WARRIOR is the first full length novel and second storyline in Lindsey Piper’s Dragon King paranormal/dystopian fantasy series. A word of caution: This is not a series about dragon shifters. This is a series about the descendants of the five clans of powerful beings known as the Dragon Kings. Each clan specializes in a specific power and those powers can be combined or used in various ways. Caged Warrior is Audrey (aka Nynn) and Leto’s story. The premise focuses on Audrey as she endeavors to survive the torture and ultimate fighting cages in the underground facilities of the Master known as ‘The Old Man”. Her husband murdered, her son missing and her life virtually not worth living, Audrey survives day to day in the hopes that she will be reunited with her six year old boy. But the longer she stays imprisoned, the more likely neither she nor her son will survive. Training under the hardened and collared Dragon King Leto Carnis, Audrey will discover that the powers she once believed were non existent needed a little focus and encouragement to draw forth. And in the end, Leto could very well bare the brunt of her new found ability and anger. The relationship between Audrey and Leto begins as prisoner to warden, then trainer to trainee, then cage fighting partners and eventually, friends to lovers. But the climb has been anything but easy as Leto pushes Audrey (now known by her Dragon King name Nynn) beyond her limits and expectations. Leto is a warrior, one who by duty and order, is a menace to those he considers beneath his time and Nynn is more of a burden than anything else. But if she cannot best an opponent in the cage, she will surely die or remain in pain the rest of her life. And it is with Leto’s help, faith and eventually love that Nynn will focus on her end goal and take down the people responsible for the pain and heartbreak in so many lives. Caged Warrior is a detailed and intriguing storyline that flows smoothly but there is still very little background information revealed about the history of the Dragon King Clans or their powers. This is also a story that is both graphically brutal and violent and, those in power are verbally and sexually abusive. But saying that, this is a dystopian story about a species of being who have survived because of their ability to withstand pain and suffering and years of abuse at the hands of those calling themselves superior. To downplay the violence would probably not evoke the same reaction to the story. Caged Warrior is a fascinating look into the world of the Dragon King and their struggle to survive. Lindsey Piper draws the reader into a storyline fraught with violence, sorrow and most of all love between two people who have suffered at the hands of humans and their own kind. 3.75 stars
3.5 Stars ~Reviewed by ANGELA & posted at Under the Covers Book Blog "Ms. Piper did deliver a sexy warrior " ~ Under the Covers Ms. Piper wrote a very promising start to a new series. Caged Warrior is not your typical Dragon books, in fact; there are no dragons in this book, which was a bit disappointing only because the cover and title shouted it was a dragon book. But let me assure you that even without dragon shifters, this novel is overall a good read. Let me tell you the things I liked about this book. First is the cover. Okay, I will tell you that I picked this book up just by looking at this cover. It just promised me a hot sexy warrior. Well, Ms. Piper did deliver a sexy warrior. Leto is a champion of underground cage fights, which reminds me of UFC fighters and I imagined him to be that very person on the cover. Of course, Leto is from a race with supernatural powers , and it gave this book an exciting twist. Now, what made it a bit complicated was that Leto was not a freeman but really a slave fighter and in charge of training newcomers. That's where Audrey, aka Nynn comes in. She is also of the same race but has lived in the human world to be with her husband and son. Unfortunately, in this violent, almost extinct world, her husband was murdered. Now, Audrey is slaved to fight for her and her son's freedom. Her captivity somewhat reminded me of Captive in the Dark by CJ Roberts. Not as dark but both heroine were kidnapped, abused and trained. They also both fell in love with their captors. I know they are of different genre , but I found it similar in some ways, IMO. I liked Audrey, she is a mother on a mission to save her son. Any woman who comes into a man's world and proves her self is just gets much respect from me. My heart broke for her with all her experiences in the beginning of this book. I'll tell you right now though; this heroine is strong and can fight like there's not tomorrow. The world building was overall good. It is a dark and vicious world but thriving to survive. I was a bit disappointed that Leto, the man in the cover, did not shift into a dragon , but I do like him just the same. I also would've like to read more of his background. I feel like there's more to him then what was revealed. One thing that bothered me most was the pace in the beginning of this book. I thought it was slow and the only think kept me going was the intriguing story line. It was not until half way through that the pace picked up and became more of a page turner. Overall, Caged Warrior is a good start to a new series , and I am optimistic for a good sequel. ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review
1st book I've read by this author. Sure is a diffeernt take on dragons.
I was intrigued by the Dragon King series the minute I first picked up the prequel, Silent Warrior. You have a race of beings descended from the Great Dragon, blessed with extraordinary gifts and cursed with a terrible burden. For a few of these amazing individuals they must fight...for their race, a blessing for their family, or to free themselves and their loved ones from subjugation. The thing I wished for in the prequel, more history and world-building, Caged Warrior addresses. Lindsey Piper does a great job in filling in some of the history and introducing us to the world at large. There's still a lot we don't know, but I have a feeling we're going to find out even more in the coming books. This is a much darker than most books that I've read recently. It's is a story about fighters and they are fighting for their lives. That means there's a lot of action to keep the pages turning. I ended up loving the main characters, Audrey (also known as Nynn) and Leto but at times it was a love-hate kind of thing. Audrey has been horribly abused, torn from her son and sent to the cages to fight after torture reveals an amzing well of power. Leto is her trainer and that man is a badass! He only has a few weeks to turn Audrey into a competent fighter and he does it the only way he knows how...by harsh training...and while effective (and necessary) it isn't pretty. But you catch glimpses of the Leto the man not the warrior...the one who loves and will protect what's his even if the cost is to lose them forever. There are also a wealth of secondary characters, including Hark and Silence, who I loved from Silent Warrior and we're also introduced to the mysterious Tallis who we'll learn more about in book 2. The pages will fly by with this unique series. So grab both Silent Warrior and Caged Warrior and get started soon. July 30th will bring book 2, Blood Warrior, before you know it!
Such an amazing story. I am still breathless from reading it. The story takes place in the unique world of the Dragon Kings a race of demons with immeasurable power and abilities that live in a world set apart from our own. Audrey is the ultimate heroine. Strong- willed, smart, vulnerable and yet so fierce my heart ached with watching her struggle to save herself and her son in such a violent world. The strength she shows in the face of all the pain she has suffered made for one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. Leto is far from your typical hero. In the beginning I absolutely hated him. He's cruel, brutal and heartless and yet the reasons behind his behavior are honorable. Eventually though he bashed his way into my heart. This is not your everyday romance. It is at times both ugly and beautiful but that just made me love it even more. The passion and obsession between Audrey and Leto is explosive and gripping. A story unlike anything I have read it digs its hooks into you and makes you unable to put it down. Gritty, dark and sexy this is a must read.
Audrey/Nynn witnesses the brutal murder of her beloved husband and has her son ripped from her arms by an evil cartel who studies and uses supernatural beings. She is a member of the Dragon King race and her husband was human. They had a child which is considered a rare event and the cartel wants to know how and why. Leto has been raised in the world of the cage fights, like gladiators they battle to be proven the best. He has been given Nynn to train to fight in the cages. Let the battle begin...
Not as strong as the prequel Silent Warrior, which smouldered with passion and the strength of the Dragon Kings. This veered into the dark despicable and violent depths of the Cages. The place the Dragon Kings are taken to battle against each other. After reading the extremely powerful prequel I was surprised by the direction the author took with this one. It strolled merrily along the en-vogue storyline of the (at this moment in time, especially in YA) degradation of females. Letting the apparent bad boy hero overstep the boundaries into abusive behaviour and of course the heroine just likes him even more for it. You know, because all women really want to be treated like dirt deep down inside. (Yes that was sarcastic). Subsequently also alluding to the fact that they should be submissive to males. All that hidden in the guise of training as a neophyte in the Cages. Now that could be due to the fact Piper is actually a writer of historical romance (under a different name) and those type of storylines are common in that genre. That didn't work well in this genre. It kind of takes the energy out of it, the wind out of the sails. I would like to see Piper go back to the prequel and grab that superb ball of creative idea she used and focus that intention on this series. It has the potential to be a strong captivating series. I received a free copy of this book via Edelweiss.
Imagine being stripped of your family, tortured, and then enslaved in an underground world where survival depends on how well you can fight. This nightmare has become Audrey MacLaren’s life. Audrey’s real name is Nynn, and she is a Dragon King born of the Clan Tigony. Dragon Kings are an ancient race of supernatural beings with special power endowed to them. They are proud warriors who have kept their identity a secret from most humans. Audrey is branded as a traitor and exiled from her clan when she marries a human man and later gives birth to a son. Her peaceful life is shattered when her husband is murdered, and she and her son are kidnapped by the Aster family, a human crime cartel who exploit Dragon Kings by using them for scientific experiments and confining them underground where they train as cage warriors who fight for favor and privilege. Although the reason is never fully explained, the Dragon King race is in danger of extinction because of difficulty conceiving children. Giving natural birth to a Dragon King is a rarity, and the sinister Dr. Aster keeps Audrey and her son locked away in a laboratory where he experiments on them to further his knowledge of this supernatural race. After a year of being tortured by Aster, Audrey is forced to become a cage warrior if she ever wants to see her son again. I admired Audrey’s perseverance and tenacity throughout the story. She endures endless verbal, emotional, and physical abuse that would easily break others. Despite the odds, she is willing to do whatever it takes to be reunited with her son, even though she knows that it is likely Dr. Aster will not keep his promise. Leto of Clan Garnis has the responsibility for training Audrey to fight as his partner. He is a multifaceted, dominating character with a brutal nature, which I found hard to like but could understand, since he has spent his entire life training and fighting in the cages, and violence is all he’s ever known. Leto is an undefeated fighter in the cages. He is proud that his wins have given his sister the opportunity to conceive a child with her husband and continue the family line. He believes the sacrifices he has made are honorable. His reputation has made him a favorite to the Asters, and he enjoys the respect and privileges that are given to him. Leto has never worried about his elite warrior status until he meets Audrey. He is given little time to train her, and if she doesn’t do well, that will reflect upon him and the future of his family. Leo tries to force Audrey into submission through harsh, inhumane treatment. His lack of compassion and indifference to her situation was at times hard for me to read. However, no matter how cruel Leto is, Audrey still manages to retain some form of dignity and defy his efforts to break her spirit. Even though Audrey knows she has to learn to fight for her son’s sake, she refuses to use her incredible powers of harnessing and manipulating energy since she has no control over them. She worries that by doing so, she will lose her sense of self and turn into a ruthless monster. Much of the book focuses on the dynamic nature of Audrey and Leto’s relationship. Spending so much time together creates a mounting sexual tension that becomes harder for them to ignore. A major turning point in the story occurs when Audrey and Leto become victims of Dr. Aster’s malevolence and begin to trust and work in sync with each other. I was enthralled with the second half of the book, where unexpected events arouse change in both Audrey and Leto. As Audrey embraces her warrior prowess, Leto begins to question the illusion of his life. I enjoyed watching both characters grow emotionally and physically closer once they understood each other’s plight. Piper does an excellent job with character development and shows that no matter how flawed, one can always be redeemed. The greatest drawback of the story is the lack of necessary background to help me fully understand these warriors and the challenges they face: What’s the story behind the origin and powers of the Dragon Kings? Why are Dragon Kings affiliating with human crime organizations? Is it always by choice or are they forced into it like Audrey? How exactly does Dr. Aster “help” Dragon Kings with their fertility problems? I hope the author will flesh out more of this fantasy world she has created to make the read more enjoyable. I received a copy of Caged Warrior from the publisher via Edelweiss.
It was with great relish I started reading Caged Warrior. I had read its prequel and was hoping it would be as good. But instead, it was better. The characters and plot had so much more to them I lost myself in the telling and couldn't put this book down. This raw brutal story was like riding a roller coaster in the dark. It had so many twists and turns I didn't see coming. As each element is added, I kept thinking to myself, this is it, the great finale but it wasn’t. There was so much more to come. The anticipation keeps building as each new piece is unveiled until the final explosive climax at the end. Author Lindsey Piper has an amazing talent for creating some of the best characters I have read. Audrey is a tough chick from the very beginning but as Nynn takes over she becomes even stronger. Leto is a tough, strong and oh yeah...HOT. Yet, despite how strong they both are you can't help but feel empathy for all the sacrifices and heartbreaks both have had to endure to survive. The added bonus of Silent and Hark (See Caged Warrior) making a return appearance just rounded out all the characters to perfection. There is a prequel, Silent Warrior, which is not necessary to read to follow Caged Warrior but it sure does make it more interesting. The Dragon King series is easily the best paranormal series I have read this year. Oh man, I can not WAIT for the next book. Caged Warrior is an absolute must read. Get it now! I received this book from JeepDiva in exchange for my honest review. The opinions and rating of this review are solely mine and in no way was I compensated. Stars - 5, Flames - 3
4 Stars … Sexy and Dark Alternate Underworld Exiled from her clan, Audrey MacLaren married a human and bore a natural-born Dragon King. Life had been happy and ordinary until violence bursts into her family’s home. As captives of the Aster cartel, Audrey and her child are subjected to sadistic underground science experiments until a turn of events lands her in a Cage warrior’s training. She will fight to save the life of her son. Leto Garnis followed in his father’s footsteps to become the premiere Cage Warrior. His successes in the Cage have won his siblings the gift to conceive children. His newest goal is to win long-term nursing care for his broken sister, whose mind was shattered. Leto’s goal won’t be hindered by the neophyte he’s been ordered to train for the Cage. He will hone her skills through whatever means necessary. The first full-length novel in the Dragon King series transports readers into a dark, violent gladiator-style underworld. The private wars Leto and Audrey fight are fraught will emotional pain, longing, and ferocious determination. He’s a master warrior willingly collared in service to the Aster Cartel, believing the illusion of freedom. She’s the Dragon King captive with a wealth of untapped power and grim secrets. Together they generate sizzling moments in this striking Dragon King world. This is a series where the women are as fierce as their male counterparts. It’s where exceptional powers can defeat brawn with a cunning mind. Each of the five Dragon King clans possesses extraordinary gifts. Once, they were revered as human gods, providing the foundation for ancient mythologies. With their species nearly extinct, they purposely live segregated from one another, as their people once fought bitterly with one another. Most live within their clan’s territory. There’s also a secret group finding opportunities with the drug cartels. I had thought this books underlying purpose would be unraveling the fertility problem. Instead we’re held captive with Audrey deep within the underground Cage warrior culture, which dispensed merciless fight scenes and calculated brutality. Leto is presented as the arrogant, yet fair, trainer. As the ruling champion, he takes pride in his victories, along with the benefits rewarded to his family. It’s Leto who provides the most profound transformation. Audrey’s metamorphosis has its rewards. It also seemed as though her son, Jack,easily faded into the background, especially with him in crisis. With sizzling sexual tension, this story kept me in its grip until nearly the end. I do feel as though the best of Caged Warrior took place underground. Once topside, the story lost its grittiness to clichés. Plus an ongoing series storyline seemed broad and unclear. The conclusion didn’t leave me with an overwhelming need to read the next book. Will I read the next Dragon King book? Yes. This is the first book in a dark and interesting world of cartels, paranormal beings, and humans. These fierce clans are brimming with potential. Final Grade: B - Digital RC courtesy of Pocket Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
First you have to understand, there are no dragons in the Dragon Kings series. The Dragon King are an ancient race of beings, called demons, that were once worshiped as gods. Now there are only 5 known clans left of the Dragon King and they are fighting extinction. To make matters worse a group of humans have discovered a way to limit the Dragon King power and have enslaved them into a world of cage fighting and experiments. Audrey MacLaren is a descent of the Dragon King. Living in the world of humans, she has been exiled because she took a human mate. Ten years of marriage and a small son did not protect her from the humans...they broke into her home, killed her husband and took her and her son hostage. Now Audrey must fight for her life and the life of her son. Leto Garnis has been raised as a Cage warrior. He is given the task of teaching Audrey, making her into a Cage warrior. When Audrey presents signs of great abilities with using and manipulating energy she is sent into the cages to fight. Audrey must convince Leto that there is more than Cage fighting to save her son. Leto must convince Audrey that there is great value to winning to protect his family. Both discover that even in the dire circumstances love might save them both. Caged Warrior pulls you into an extremely dark and violent world. Betrayal and deception rule. The evil, sadistic mafia like group will stop at nothing in the fight for ultimate power and wealth. This is a book that will make you cringe but you just can't look away. I was captivated from start to finish... Lindsey Piper does an outstanding job, making this new world vividly engrained in your imagination and creating a story that will have you riveted to the pages. This ARC copy of Caged Warrior was given to me by Pocket Books in exchange for a honest review. This book is set for publication on June 25, 2013.