Lilly Inkwood’s new novel, The Kingdom is a Golden Cage, is the first book in a fantasy series about the Red, Blue, and Green Kingdoms which are filled with magic, deceit, and intrigue. Heavily influenced by European folk tales and armed with a large cast of characters, the novel can feel confusing at times, and I was thankful that Inkwood chose to begin her book with a map of the Kingdoms and a description of the major players in the plot. I found myself turning back to the descriptions to help me keep track of the Game of Thrones style back-stabbing that took place throughout the story.
The novel unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Celine, a young princess who is betrothed to a man she has not chosen, and Magali, a dowager who describes herself a “wife of, daughter of, mother of dukes, but never a duchess.” Through these female perspectives, Inkwell explores how the history of inheritance law in her fantasy kingdom has excluded women, leaving them to live in golden cages with little control over their own lives. The series sets out to change this, and in her final author’s note, Inkwell promises readers a Queen to come in her sequels.
In addition to historical influences, Inkwell draws inspiration from fairy tales, most notably “Puss In Boots”. Celine, a water-twirler who has recently lost the power to command rivers and oceans, is in love with a man named Hugo, who has been transformed into a cat. She is desperate to break the spell which binds him. Magic abounds in the novel which features light-cantors (who bring forth light from the depths of the sea), fire-blazers, and shapeshifters. There is also a Fallen Court, which is a secret society that wields influence over the three kingdoms. Everyone competes for power and autonomy, and the ending of the novel, which sets up the rest of the series, offers more questions than answers.
This is a fun book for readers who like plots with secrets, twists, and turns, and for those who are willing to invest in a new fantasy series.
You can find the book here.
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.
Kelly Jarvis is the Special Projects Writer and Contributing Editor for The Fairy Tale Magazine. Her work has appeared in Eternal Haunted Summer, Blue Heron Review, Forget-Me-Not Press, Mermaids Monthly, The Chamber Magazine, and Mothers of Enchantment: New Tales of Fairy Godmothers. She teaches at Central Connecticut State University.