**Find this and other reviews @ The Demon Librarian**A deliciously dark paranormal read The world of Lindsey Piper's Dragon Kings series is a dark, dark place. Darker, even, than it was in the series prequel novella, which told the story of Hark and Silence. Whereas Hark was a charming chatterbox who cheerfully rocked the boat - and the world of his lady love, Silence - CAGED WARRIOR's Leto comes off as almost rigid in comparison, a brainwashed warrior who has bought into a rotten bill of goods. He is not the kind of hero readers will be able to easily connect with - not like Hark was - and he is guilty of saying and doing things that some may find difficult to forgive.You may be asking yourself, then, why I rated this book 4 stars. It's simple, really. Because dark stories are my cup of tea, and I have a deep and abiding love for flawed characters. I liked that Leto wasn't a classic hero, and I enjoyed peeling back his layers and discovering the man beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. Leto isn't irredeemable, he just needs a wake-up call. A reason to look around and question the system he's been part of for too long. That reason comes in the form of one of the human cartel's prisoners, a woman named Audrey.Poor Audrey. The brutality of what she goes through in the cartel's lab, the terrible deal she is forced to make....it's tough to stomach. I was so pissed off over what she was forced to endure that at times I could hardly see straight - and that, I think, was the whole point. The corruption and just plain evilness of the human cartels, and the desperate deal some of the dragon kings felt compelled to make in exchange for breeding rights, was supposed to work me up into a furious lather, and boy, did it ever! I wanted all those cartel douchebags to die slow and horrible deaths. Like the rest of the book, the romance is dark, with a gritty, almost aggressive feel to it. There are few soft and tender moments between Leto and Audrey, but then, in this world, I'm not sure how there could be. Stakes are high and the dangers are very real, and I think the romance had to reflect that.If I had one complaint about this book, it's that the setting is a bit...muddy. As with the prequel, I never got a clear sense of where things were taking place or even what the year was. Perhaps that was intentional on the author's part, her way of showing the isolation of her dragon characters and how cut off they were from the outside world. I'm really not sure. All I know is I wanted more details and didn't get them. CAGED WARRIOR's dark undercurrents may not appeal to everyone, but if you enjoy edgy paranormal reads as much as I do, this may be just the series you're looking for. The characters are strong and legitimately kickass, and the book has more than enough drama, feels and action to keep you turning the pages. Personally, I loved it, and I've already got book 2 on my reading list.**Note: If you plan to read this book, I would strongly encourage you to read the prequel novella first, as some of the things that happen in Hark and Silence's story carry over into this one.**4 Stars ★★★★ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.