The Cage of Dark Hours by Marina J. LostetterThe Cage of Dark Hours by Marina J. Lostetter
Narrator: Christopher Bonwell, Shala Nyx, Mylo Sermon
Series: The Five Penalties #2
Published by Macmillan Audio on February 14, 2023
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy
Length: 20 hrs 49 mins
Pages: 464
Format: Audiobook
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The Cage of Dark Hours is the second novel in the epic fantasy trilogy from acclaimed author Marina Lostetter, where the defeat of a serial killer back from the dead has pulled the mask off the myths and magics of a fantastical city.

Krona and her Regulators survived their encounter with Charbon, the long-dead serial killer who returned to their city, but the illusions of their world were shattered forever.

Allied with an old friend they will battle the elite who have ruled their world with deception, cold steel, and tight control of the magic that could threaten their power, while also confronting beasts from beyond the foggy barrier that binds their world.

Now they must follow every thread to uncover the truth behind the Thalo, once thought of as only a children's tale, who are the quiet, creeping puppet masters of their world.

The Cage of Dark Hours is the second book in the series, following The Helm of Midnight. Read the first before even attempting this one. The Cage of Dark Hours opens with a brief synopsis of what happened which works well as a refresher but not as a starting point.

The Cage of Dark Hours continues a few years after the events of the first book. We have a couple of returning characters, but most of the cast is new. In the first, we learned how little the people living in the valley really understand about the magics that keep them safe, about their gods, or about the creatures that terrify them. This time around Krona and her companions are trying to pull the cover all the way off, revealing what is truly going on.

The book opens with a Thalo ritual and we are introduced to Thalo Child who gives us insight into the inner workings of the Thalo order, people who have been allowed to keep their magic.

Next, we catch up with Krona. She’s overseeing a punishment for people who broke one of the five gods’ laws. This particular punishment comes from Knowledge, and it is the removal of a hand. Krona watches inside her Regulator armor, all the while knowing that she’s guilty of the exact same crime. She’s not dealing well with the death of her sister and is trying to connect with her in any way possible.

Finally, we meet Mandip, a noble. Mandip, due to his petty nature, sweeps up his cousin’s escort, who just so happens to be Thibaut, maybe my favorite character. Together, they meet Juliet, a popular opera singer. She invites them to her performance that night for the gathering of nations in Lutador’s rotunda.

Then, the First Marquise is murdered. Krona is framed and runs, trusting her fate to a woman she knows little about.

I found The Cage of Dark Hours more readable than the first. Even though it’s still a dark story, it did not have me cringing like the first. Even in the roughest moments, the characters are able to keep their humor and find comfort in each other.

The story is fascinating and engrossing. My only disappointment is that it’s not a full story in itself. The first in the series was at heart a murder mystery and there was some wrap-up at the end. I guess in a way this one is a heist book, at least toward the end, but it felt mostly like a set-up for the third. It’s the book that gets everyone in place and not quite ready for what comes next.

I listened to the audio and I like that there are three narrators. With chapters telling different characters’ pieces of the story, the readers help keep it clear. Also, it’s over 20 hours long and the different readers help keep the story moving.

About Marina J. Lostetter

The open skies and dense forests of the Pacific Northwest are ideal for growing speculative fiction authors–or, at least, Marina would like to think so. Originally from Oregon, she now resides in Arkansas with her spouse, Alex. In her spare time, she enjoys globetrotting, board games, and all things art-related. Her original short fiction has appeared in venues such as LightspeedUncanny, and Shimmer Magazine.  Her second fantasy novel, The Cage of Dark Hours, is out from Tor.

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