In the kingdom of Telfar, all princes fathered by the Sultan are forced to live a life of confinement in a section of the Sultanís palace called The Cage. One of these princes is Amir, a scholarly young man who struggles to not be noticed by anyone. Even though the Cage was meant for the protection of the numerous princes, itís more of a battle arena which none can escape, where brothers kill brothers to better their rank with the hope of being chosen heir. When the princes begin getting murdered each month on the night of the full moon, the manner of their deaths is anything but normal and speaks of the magical. While Amir has no belief in the supernatural, he knows that he must find the source of the murders. With the help of a high-ranking prince, Erik, he begins an investigation filled with intrigue and adventure, a clock running that could mean their own demise each time the full moon rises.
From the first-person perspective of Amir, readers get to view the gilded cage he lives in and are privy to all his thoughts. For the most part heís an adequate narrator, though at times his lack of trust toward those striving to be his friend can be tiresome. Many of the other characters have more charisma, such as Erik and, especially, a prince named Darius who comes across as most interesting but is given the littlest attention. Amir's love interest, Princess Eva, feels rather shallow in the way she displays interest toward others even after showing affection to Amir, making it so that her final confession of emotion toward Amir doesnít come across as genuine.
Where the characters lack, the creation of the world they live in is wholly rounded. Customs, food, clothing and history are all combined with great detail to bring life to a world that feels solid. The plot of the story is an interesting one with the murder of the princes, and makes for a work thatís just as much a mystery novel as it is a fantasy one. Sometimes a little more action is wanted in solving the mystery other than Amir and Erik simply reading old texts, stumbling upon several conversations they shouldnít be hearing, and listening the to prophetic visions of another prince (Jafer), but thereís enough to keep the pages turning.
Overall, for a debut novel, The Princes of the Golden Cage is a good start. While it struggles in some areas, it excels in others. With the promise of skillful storytelling ability that author Mallet reveals in this work, thereís much hope that the sequel, The Kingís Daughters, which will continue to follow the adventures of Amir, will bring her talent to full fruition.