A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.
When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn’t know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn’t alone.
Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora’s past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren’t from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.
As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage.
I really didn’t know what to expect with The Cage. I read 2 of Megan Shepherd’s last series and really love hear writing style but wasn’t a fan overall of the books. I was excited to see her going in such a different direction and knew I’d want to see what she’d do with a science fiction edge. I will say, The Cage was highly readable. I started it expecting to read a chapter and read about a third of the book before I knew what I’d done.
There was no hesitation to jump into the story. Shepherd plops us right into the alien habitat and we are immediately introduced to the surroundings and characters. I felt that this was a great way to start the novel and felt pretty strongly about what I was reading. I was as curious as the characters to find out where they were and why.
As the story progresses the pacing slowed down for me and I felt that a good chunk in the middle dragged. It was still easy to read but I could have done without some of the details. I did love that we got to venture out of their zoo enclosure a view times though the world outside of their ‘cage’ was very vague. Such a small amount was described I look forward to learning more.
Now, I think I’ll be one of the only people to think this book mimicked another book, The Bone Season. I saw some similarities that I couldn’t ignore. We have a Warden, alien-type characters that wear gloves and the people be treated as less (okay this is a really common theme but still). The summary suggests that the characters are part of a human zoo (ala Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five) but for me it really didn’t come across as a zoo. It felt more like experiments on humans and a way to control rather than a way for an alien species to view humans in their habitat (which is how I think of a zoo).
Now, I could take all the above about the story pretty easily. It did feel like a rework of other books and nothing felt overly original to me but with every chapter I began to loathe the characters more and more. By the end of the book I downright hated every single character in the book. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before. Not a single character stood out to me as someone I cared for or wanted to succeed. They could really all blow up and I’d be A-Okay with it. That’s awful, right?
The main character, Cora, was determined…I give her that. But determined to the point of stupidity. She was dead set on a course of action through a large part of the book-she wanted to escape. But really, if you are not even on your own planet and floating out in the universe even if you get out of the enclosure how will you get far? She didn’t seem to really care about anything other than getting out. It was somewhat frustrating for this reader though I could see why she wanted to leave. Things sorted out towards the middle and end but it was a bit too late in the game. I’d already spent a good amount of time wondering what she was thinking.
The secondary characters were so bad to me. Not even in the start did I care for them. They each were fairly shallow though there was an attempt to give them depth. I never cared about their backstories. I imagine it was given to show the reasoning for their actions in the enclosure but it didn’t work for me. As the story progresses the characters all get more and more unhinged. Things did improve for me the more awful and crazy they each became. It got a bit creepy in a few places and I highly enjoyed those bits.
For those curious about a love triangle–there was one…sort of? The main character’s feelings are pretty easy to decipher and I never felt that she truly was drawn to one of the love interests. There are two men that had feelings for Cora and I did prefer one over the other. I’ll not go into spoilers but I felt it was obvious who she was attracted to. So I’m not sure it’s a traditional triangle but it might bother some of the more triangle sensitive readers out there.
As many problems as I had with The Cage I will say that Megan Shepherd is a gifted writer and this book was able to gain my interest and keep me glued to the pages. I was never surprised of the outcome or twists but it was a fun ride. Will I read the sequel? I really don’t know. I do think that other readers will really enjoy this book especially if they are able to enjoy the characters (or at least a few of them).